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Free Clinic to Dedicate Center for Family Care : Health: Philanthropist provides funds to purchase next-door building. It will house expanded non-medical services.


VENICE — The nation's largest free clinic, the Venice Family Clinic, will expand its non-medical services for families with the dedication today of the new Frederick R. Weisman Family Center.

Located next door to the clinic at 604 Rose Ave., the new center was purchased with a gift of $500,000 from Holmby Hills philanthropist and art collector Frederick R. Weisman.

According to Fern Seizer, executive director of the clinic, the new center eventually will house a wide range of services for families, including programs for infants and their parents, plus mental health and social services for teen-agers and children.

Seizer said Weisman has been a driving force in the clinic's recent development of programs to address the social and emotional needs of families. In addition to the $500,000 gift to purchase the building, Weisman has given the clinic $300,000 to operate such programs in recent years. "He's been an absolute angel to the clinic," Seizer said.

The newly acquired building will provide the clinic with about 6,000 additional square feet of space for family services. Seizer said renovation of the three-story building, including providing access for the handicapped, will cost about $350,000. Some existing clinic programs will move into the building immediately. Major renovations should be completed by the end of the year, Seizer said.

A private, community-based facility, the free clinic provides medical services for about 11,000 uninsured, low-income and homeless adults and children each year. In addition to a small staff, 2,100 volunteers provide services at the clinic, including 700 medical, mental health and social work professionals.

Norma Gonzales, president of the clinic's board of directors, said the new center reflects the clinic's growing recognition that its clientele need a broad range of services in addition to traditional health care.

"We realized the problems they brought along with them were not being addressed," Gonzales said.

Among the existing programs that will move into the new building are its ENRICH program, a federally funded comprehensive child development program designed to help 120 local families break the cycle of poverty, according to Seizer. The clinic hopes to extend the lessons it learns about successful child development through the ENRICH program to other local families, she said.

The new center eventually will provide a full range of family-oriented social and mental health services, Seizer said. Likely programs include one for infants up to age 2 and their parents; group and individual counseling for teen-agers and younger children on pregnancy, AIDS, gangs, drugs and other issues, and parenting programs that would address such parent-child issues as communication and non-abusive discipline.

Seizer said the clinic is launching a $1.75-million capital and endowment campaign to support the new center and its programs. The clinic has an operating budget of $5 million annually, more than two-thirds of which is raised privately, she said.

"Health isn't just physical health or mental health or any one thing," Seizer said. "We're talking about a vision here for helping families to be healthier."

Today's dedication ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with public tours of the clinic and the new center.

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