Connie Codding was ticked off.
Opponents of a plan to convert the former Warrack Hospital in Santa Rosa into a “Dream Center” serving foster youth were airing a litany of concerns about the project. But Codding, who used to live in the Bennett Valley neighborhood where the center is proposed, thought those concerns overblown.
“C’mon people!” Codding said to herself. “This used to be a hospital. Did you think it was going to be boarded up and not used forever?”
Codding is one of Sonoma County’s most notable community benefactors, and at 80, she has lost none of her passion for supporting local causes through the Codding Foundation, which she and her late husband, Hugh, established decades ago.
When Matt Martin, executive director of Social Advocates for Youth, contacted Codding to ask for her help with the Dream Center, she readily agreed by signing on as co-chair of the center’s capital campaign. She also donated $500,000.
Codding called the amount “unusual,” even by her own standards.
“Had it not been for that controversy, I probably wouldn’t have been so enthused about it (the center),” Codding said. “I thought that I had to speak out about it.”
The Codding Foundation has supported a range of programs over the years, including the 4-H Club, Memorial Hospital, the Sonoma County Museum, Southwest Community Health Clinic, the Earle Baum Center of the Blind, Santa Rosa Boys & Girls Club, the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation, the Sonoma County Community Foundation and the Children’s Health Network.
Codding said she doesn’t have a specific calculus for determining which organizations to support. Most are focused on helping children.
“It’s just common sense,” she said. “The earlier you can intervene, and perhaps lend a helping hand, the better things are hopefully going to turn out.”
Codding said the more she learned about SAY, the more she came to support its mission.
The organization was founded in 1971 by attorney Tadini Bacigalupi, Judge John Moskowitz, Chief Probation Officer William Mulligan, philanthropist Henry Trione and high school teacher Andy Wallstrum.
Today, SAY serves more than 2,500 youths and young adults annually, making it one of the largest of its kind in Sonoma County. The agency operates Tamayo Village affordable housing for youth on Yulupa Avenue and a six-bed drop-in facility on Ripley Street for homeless youth.
The Dream Center would be on a different scale, housing up to 63 residents, many of whom have aged out of the state’s foster care system. There would be 51 beds of transitional housing where people can stay for up to two years and 12 emergency shelter beds with a three-month maximum stay. A variety of counseling and health services, education and job-skills classes and SAY administration offices also will be located on site.
Codding said the young people who would be served by the center need all the help they can get.
“How in the world do you find yourself as a young adult with no family support, no money and not too many skills?” she said. “How do you make it in this world?”
Codding said SAY has raised about $7.25 million toward the fundraising goal of $9 million.
“What comes around goes around,” she said. “It gives you so much pleasure to know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. It’s wonderful.”