Foundation opens new building

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An elegant new space befitting a organization devoted to the legacy of a man with elegant tastes and lavish generosity was dedicated and opened for public tours on Wednesday.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation opened its new headquarters building at 106 W. Finney Ave. on Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, tours and a public open house.

“As you can tell, our Foundation board has endeavored to create a functional and efficient facility that will serve our mission, serve our healthcare grantees, be a community resource and a fitting tribute to Suffolk’s greatest philanthropist,” board Chairman George Birdsong told a crowd of invited officials and friends at the morning dedication ceremony.

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The Foundation was created in 2006 with proceeds from the sale of Obici Memorial Hospital to Sentara Healthcare and money from the estate of the hospital’s namesake.

But the Foundation’s story goes back to the first half of the 20th century, when Amedeo Obici, an Italian immigrant who made his fortune as the founder of Planters Peanuts, decided to build a hospital as a legacy to his wife, Louise Musante, who had died in 1938.

The Obici Foundation was conceived in 1985 to oversee the funds that Amedeo Obici had left to benefit the hospital after his death. That Foundation, according to a history published on the Web site, began the tradition of funding small community outreach projects that were designed to improve health care for those who could not afford it.

In 2002, the Obici Foundation built a new hospital on Godwin Boulevard, and in 2006 that facility was sold to Sentara, and the assets were transferred to the Obici Healthcare Foundation, whose mission, Birdsong said Wednesday, is to “continue in perpetuity to serve the health care needs of our community.”

Since its inception, the new Foundation has awarded more than $13.7 million in health-related grants for projects serving Western Tidewater and Gates County.

“And our efforts have really just begun,” Birdsong added, noting that the new building would serve to help the Foundation complete its mission.

“We felt that we needed a location that would be convenient to serve our health care grantees, be highly visible to the public and thus remind the community of the significance of Mr. Obici’s contribution, the importance of philanthropy and hopefully encourage others to contribute to charitable community needs,” he said.

As a tribute to the Obicis’ memory, the building features a number of works of art that originally hung in Obici House, the Bay Point farm where Amedeo and Louise Obici lived in Suffolk. The small conference room utilizes the Obicis’ dining room table. And many of the building’s interior architectural features were copied from the old mansion.

Entering the building, Mayor Linda Johnson said, “You will feel the heart of Suffolk.”

“This is a really special ribbon-cutting,” she added, “because this is about our citizens. This is about people helping people.”