Sonoma Valley Hospital gets $3 million donation for emergency center

A Sonoma couple who owns one of the nation's largest independent staffing firms is donating $3 million toward construction of a new emergency center at Sonoma Valley hospital.

Gary and Marcia Nelson cited personal reasons for making the gift. When their son Justin was 3-months-old, physicians at Sonoma Valley prevented his death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Justin is now married, has a child of his own and is completing his education at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

Gary and Marcia Nelson are the founders and major shareholders of the Nelson Family of Companies, which is headquartered in Sonoma.

Gary Nelson did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

The new emergency center is part of a $39 million expansion at Sonoma Valley Hospital to bring the 83-bed facility up to state-mandated seismic standards and improve services.

Construction got underway Thursday.

The project calls for a 16,000-square-foot, two-story addition to the west wing of the existing hospital, with construction expected to be completed by summer of 2013.

The project is being financed through a combination of general obligation bonds totaling $32 million and fund-raising. The district board has approved the final project budget of $39 million and is looking to raise the remaining $7 million.

Voters in the Sonoma Valley Health Care District in March overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of the $195 parcel tax that helps support hospital operations.

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