A Starry Night Benefitting a Humanitarian Giant
Community members gather outside on DAP Health’s campus to honor late megadonor Annette Bloch and to pave the way toward healthcare and housing for all
By Daniel Vaillancourt
On the crisp, clear evening of Thursday, February 24, some 300 invited guests gathered under heaters in the courtyard of DAP Health’s campus for a very special event. The occasion was threefold.
First, it was a memorial in honor of major donor Annette Bloch, widow of H&R Block co-founder Richard Bloch and an instrumental DAP donor who contributed more than five million dollars to the internationally known nonprofit over the last decade. Bloch passed away from cancer at the age of 94 in her hometown of Kansas City last year.
The soirée also served to officially dedicate DAP’s newest structure, which neighbors chief headquarters the Barbara Keller LOVE Building, as the Annette Bloch CARE Building.
Finally, it marked the ceremonial groundbreaking of Vista Sunrise II, DAP’s future on-campus affordable housing complex, its second such development of single-dwelling units, to number 60 in all.
With cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres generously provided by Jerry Keller’s award-winning Lulu Catering & Events — Keller is a longtime benefactor of DAP; his late wife Barbara was the organization’s first female board of directors’ president — attendees were regaled by an enviable roster of speakers.
Longtime, universally respected DAP CEO David Brinkman opened the night, speaking of how good it felt to be assembled, and of how Bloch valued togetherness. He also mentioned how important the expansion of DAP’s campus was to the late humanitarian. “I can see this community housing the homeless, providing medical care to those who cannot afford the cost of today’s healthcare system,” he said. “We are decreasing mortality and morbidity, improving the health of our community members, and decreasing healthcare costs. When Annette and I dreamt of achieving this in the Coachella Valley, she’d always say, ‘David, you’re going to replicate this model throughout our country.’ And I could just imagine what a driving force she was in her own family’s attainment of their dreams.”
Bloch’s youngest daughter, Linda Lyon, then took to the podium, making the audience laugh with memories of her mother’s youth and young adulthood. She’d also brought along priceless images to accompany her speech. Lyon admitted she wasn’t sure how her mother would fare following her father’s 2004 death. “But she really came into her own,” she continued. “She loved life, she loved people, she lived large, but she always remembered something [my grandmother] said … ‘to those who have plenty, there’s a responsibility to give back.’” Lyon closed by saying she was channeling her mother, announcing the family foundation’s surprise gift of $1 million to fund DAP’s further campus amplification, which will culminate in a more than 50 percent increase in the number of clients it can serve annually, from some 10,000 to more than 25,000.
Close friends of Annette, past DAP board member Terri Ketover and Mark Adams, spoke briefly about their personal connection to Bloch — Ketover referring to herself the late doyenne’s “faux sister” while Adams confessed his cherished memories of Bloch will “reside safely with me forever.” The pair then acknowledged the role former Desert Regional Medical Center CEO and DAP board member Carolyn Caldwell, alongside Supervisor V. Manuel Perez of Riverside County’s Fourth District, had in making the Annette Bloch CARE Building a reality. They then urged the crowd to raise their glass in recognition of the new building’s naming.
Perez was next, speaking not only of his own pride in facilitating DAP’s purchase of the edifice formerly owned by the county, but of his admiration of community members who rose to the occasion to enable the funding and construction of Vista Sunrise II. “Together, you have done something quite profound through your support of DAP Health,” said Perez. “You’ve made it clear you understand that lack of affordable housing is one of the biggest factors that keeps people out of care, that prevents them from getting well and living their best life. And you removed those barriers.”
Perez yielded the spotlight to longtime DAP client, Vista Sunrise I resident, and PromoHomoTV host and executive producer Nicholas Snow, who put a charming, human face on the importance a roof over one’s head has in the overall health of someone living with HIV/AIDS. He spoke of being in dire need of DAP’s assistance more than 10 years ago. “On the edge of homelessness, with no healthcare, very little money, no car, and very few possessions, I stepped into that building looking for help, a way to survive, a way to rediscover my reasons for living,” Snow said, noting he was speaking on the 21st anniversary of his sobriety. “Thank you for my home, thank you for my life.”
Pedro S.G. Rodriguez, the executive director of DAP’s Vista Sunrise II building partner the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition appeared next. “All of us at CVHC are supremely dedicated to our mission because access to affordable housing is one of California’s — and particularly one of the Coachella Valley’s — greatest needs,” he stressed. “When the opportunity to partner with DAP Health on Vista Sunrise II arose, and we came to truly understand the organization’s campus model, we knew future residents were going to enjoy a quality of life that very few people in disenfranchised communities in America are fortunate enough to experience.” After acknowledging not only a few of his board members in attendance but invaluable partners such as the city of Palm Springs, the Riverside County Behavioral Health and the state of California No Place Like Home Funds, and Wells-Fargo Bank, Rodriguez said, “I think all that’s left for us to do is raise a glass in honor of the 60 future residents of Vista Sunrise II.”
One of the Coachella Valley’s own, Oscar- and Grammy-nominated — and Tony Award-winning — lyricist, director, and producer David Zippel closed out the night, joking that participation order must have been determined alphabetically. He spoke of Bloch’s unquenchable joie de vivre and generosity, vowing, “She is sorely missed tonight, of course, and will be until each of our respective flames has been extinguished. But she will live on forever through her massive contributions to DAP, and for that I know we are all eternally grateful.” Zippel then led a moment of silence before the evening formally concluded, leaving guests to visit with one another and reminisce about Bloch and the importance of her legacy.
“We could not have asked for a more perfect night,” says Brinkman. “From the weather and the stunning backdrop of our majestic mountains to the spirit of kinship and quality of the speeches, it was a remembrance worthy of Annette that catapulted all of us at DAP and in this community on the next step toward making her dreams a reality.”