Healthy Community thrives on Obici’s vision

Published 8:38 pm Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It strikes me that in spite of the economic downturn of the past two years, the landscape in downtown Suffolk continues to emerge and evolve.

The new location of the Obici Healthcare Foundation offices caught my attention recently as a landmark and fitting tribute to the legacy and innovation of Suffolk’s most famous entrepreneur, Amedeo Obici.

Without a doubt, Obici was an astute businessman in founding Planters Peanuts. But his greatest legacy may be the vision he imparted of future possibilities that continues to inspire us. In many ways, I think of Obici as having as much focus on the “business of life” as he did on the business of Planters’ Peanuts.

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Beyond caring for the medical health of his community by establishing the trust that built Louise Obici Memorial Hospital, now Sentara Obici Hospital, he created a destination for his employees and their families to enjoy at leisure—the Planter’s Club in North Suffolk. This scenic location on the Nansemond River provided both respite and relaxation for employees of Planters Peanuts — an early model of work-life balance and dealing with the business of life.

Now, the Obici Healthcare Foundation has become the steward of his legacy and vision. In nurturing some of the key elements of Obici’s vision, OHF continues to support activities of local non-profits that improve the lives of Suffolk residents and, in that process, fund activities and programs that foster a healthier community.

The Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community has been a beneficiary of that vision.

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic was established when the Partnership, through focus groups, heard that accessible health care for Western Tidewater’s vulnerable uninsured was a prime need. With the tremendous financial support of OHF and others, the clinic is now a standalone not-for-profit with its own independent board of directors.

Now, with continuing Obici Healthcare Foundation support, the Partnership has launched two new important initiatives:

The first is a community inventory of the assets across Suffolk that contributes toward optimal health for all residents. While there are too many to detail here, we discovered that awareness of this valuable information was lacking in the community. Another dimension of the inventory identified perceived barriers to achieving optimal personal health and living an active lifestyle.

Outcomes of that study, coupled with creative ideas from people across our city, are shaping the second initiative, called “Suffolk on the Move.” A kick-off event for this initiative is planned for June, 2010 in downtown Suffolk and will engage people of every age, at every level of health, and with varied interests in reaching for a higher level of personal health.

Details about “Suffolk on the Move” event date will be announced shortly.

Decades later, Obici’s focus on the “business of life” continues to impact lives of all Suffolkians through the philanthropic work of the Obici Healthcare Foundation. For this I believe we owe the Obici Healthcare Foundation and its leadership a large measure of thanks!