Do not underestimate the vision, power and tenacity of grassroots community organizations. We have seen firsthand how a well-defined vision can transform a community and the lives of its residents. This month Bayview Senior Services, located in one of San Francisco’s last African American communities, celebrates the grand opening of the Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center and Residence. This beautiful new building provides first class housing for low-income seniors and access to services that support them as they age in their community with dignity, respect and honor.
It began as the vision of long-term executive director Dr. George W. Davis. An activist working for the good of the community, Dr. Davis took great care during his three decades of leadership to develop ongoing relationships with local, state and federal agencies; to forge profitable partnerships with private developers, leading corporations, and foundations. While Dr. Davis did not live to see this vision made manifest, the building is dedicated to his legacy.
It has been his widow, Cathy Davis, who has taken advantage of all available resources and made a community based vision come true. After 25 years as director of the agency’s Adult Day Health Center, Davis was selected by the board of directors to serve as executive director.
Davis had a game plan and she stayed with it, altering it when necessary, but always coming back to it. She recently shared with us, “Imagine if we didn’t have a plan! We didn’t always follow it, but it has guided us.” Everyone on the team had distinct responsibilities, and she didn’t let anyone off the hook. She was consistent, persistent and demonstrated tenacity in the face of every possible adversity including the death of her husband. She did not let go, she did not accept no. She kept everyone looking forward, focused on the endgame. She fought the battle of ideas with just about everyone in order to ensure the original community concept – and the need the project fulfills – would be respected. And she made sure that afro-centric design was included throughout the building. Today those who objected are amazed at the building’s beauty. Davis did not put all her marbles in any one basket. Every- one had a role to play, and everyone knew that all parties were interdependent. She made it very clear how important every person’s role was: everyone needed to do their part in order for the project to come to completion in a way that would benefit the community. For example, the actions of the City impacted the work of the developers; foundation support determined capital improvements. Davis managed all the details and kept everyone at the table. Most importantly, she always kept community need and the individual residents at the forefront. It has never been about her: it was always been about the seniors of the community.
The Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center and Residence is a masterful example of what “community fund development” and partnership truly means. Join us in congratulating Bayview Senior Services (www.bhpmss.org). Details about the building and the organization’s programs.
The Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center and Residence is a 26,000 square foot building that includes senior housing and a 15,000 square- foot senior center with a full range of innovative support services.
• 121 apartments
• Cafe • Dining hall
• Community center
• Memory garden
• Afrocentric design
• Beauty parlor
• Program offices
• Gift shop
Profile of the people served
• $870 average monthly income
• Age range of seniors served is 50 – 100
• Nutrition program
• Adult Day Health Center
• Money management
• Senior ex-offender program
• Bayview Senior Connections
• Health screenings
• Recreational trips
Learn more. Read our three-part series on private/pubLic partnerships that tells the story of what it took to bring the Dr. George W. Davis Senior Residence and Center to life.
• Part one: How to create a nonprofit partnership with private and public sectors
• Part two: Accountability and trust: keys to partnership
• Part three: Compromise, relationships and faith