Community Foundation hosts ceremony for new nonprofit HQ

Leon Panetta, Anna Caballero, Robert Rivas among attendees of groundbreaking for the Epicenter, slated for completion in December 2021.

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At 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1989, the San Andreas Faultline slipped 11 miles down below Mt. Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Around San Francisco, 63 people died, 3,757 were reported injured, and 12,053 were displaced. Seventy miles away in Hollister, houses fell away from their foundations and walls cracked. The 7.1-magnitude quake also brought down the entire downtown block and nine businesses at Fourth and San Benito Streets in Hollister, more commonly known today as the 400 block.

On Sept. 22, just 24 days shy of the 31st anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake that caused some $10 billion in damage throughout the Bay Area, there was a movement of earth of a much different sort in the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Community Foundation for San Benito County’s philanthropic center that will be appropriately named the Epicenter. Construction crews began work on Sept. 5.

The building, which will house local nonprofits, is expected to be completed around Christmas 2021.

Gary Byrne, president and CEO of the foundation, spoke briefly about the future contributions of the Epicenter and then introduced speakers Marilyn Ferreira, foundation board chair; Darin Del Curto of Del Curto Brothers Construction, which will build the Epicenter; State Senator Anna Caballero, Assemblyman Robert Rivas; Hollister Councilwoman Carol Lenoir; former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta; and Rebecca Wolf, vice chair of the foundation.

Caballero said it was important to keep investments downtown, which she said is the “heart and soul of any community.” She reflected on her law practice, which was located at Sixth and Monterey Streets in 1989. She described the loss of the buildings as a tragedy.

Rivas said there was a lot to be proud of and that he is excited about the project.

“This project resonates with me, and it always has, because of its mission-based altruism,” he said, “to be a center of philanthropy and good will right here in downtown. Secondly, this mixed-use project’s housing component fills a very significant need for us.”

Panetta told of two dreams: one of the foundation and Darin Del Curto’s dream of building a mixed-use project.

“You married those two dreams together and that’s what we celebrate today,” Panetta said. “It’s the fact that those dreams now represent the rebirth of San Benito Street in Hollister. It took this entire community to make it happen,” Panetta said.

Rebecca Wolf was born and raised in San Benito County. She spoke fondly of her husband Randy and about their $5.5 million gift. 

“He has always felt very fortunate and lucky in business and in life. He has been very generous. He believes in giving back and helping others, which is the true meaning of philanthropy. From the bottom of my heart and with deep respect, thank you very much for your belief in this project and giving to our community,” she said.


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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: john[email protected]