A new health center is transforming part of Chollas View into a “corner of hope” for neighborhood families, and who better to extol the benefits of staying healthy than San Diego’s own Meb Keflezighi, the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon.
The international running icon lent words of advice to the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday for the Diamond Neighborhoods Family Health Center, where his sister served as its first physician.
“As an athlete or someone like you, being healthy is the success to life. If you’re not healthy, you can’t work the double shift or I can’t run a marathon,” said Keflezighi.
The celebration served a trifold purpose: a welcome for the neighborhood, a health fair and a back-to-school event.
The nonprofit center has grown from a small storefront in a poor area to new, 23,000-square foot facility aimed at improving the health of its community – and not just medically. On top of 40 booths offering health information and activities Saturday, organizers gave families free school backpacks to encourage learning in the neighborhood.
“My goal is one or ten of these kids will be here working at this hospital or expanding it. That’s hopefully the goal because education is the key to life,” Keflezighi told NBC 7.
Keflezighi believes it takes a village to raise a child, and the center’s Chief of Security Willie Newton is a testament to that.
He shared his story with the crowd Saturday, describing how a liquor store once occupied the corner of 47th and Market streets where the Diamond Center now sits. His mother was a frequent patron of the store, getting drunk and passing out on the front steps.
As he walked home from school in his teenage years, Newton would pick his mom up and carry her home. Years later, when the liquor store was demolished, he applied to work in security for the health center that took its place.
“They were going to turn a corner of hopelessness into a corner of hope to help my friends and neighbors and all the kids like me who are just trying to get by,” Newton said.
Now, the Chollas View facility works to give healthcare to uninsured, low income and medically underserved patients. The Diamond Center is part of the Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD), which hosts clinics and programs from El Cajon to Mission Beach.
The $13 million cost of this project, which technically opened in March, was paid for by a grant authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal New Market Tax Credit program and the FHCSD. Other foundation grants went toward providing equipment for the Diamond Center.