Moving Forward: Gari Cave Welcomes Residents to Discover Their Los Osos Community Center

Written by Judy Salamacha

October 23, 2022

Has anyone else noticed post-COVID “new normal” events have re-emerged full force? Indeed, the Board of Directors for the Los Osos Community Center realized it was time for an on-site manager to guide a busy schedule already calendared as well as to recommend more ideas appropriately suited for their town’s event center on Palisades Road. Chaired by Matthew Fourcroy, the board selected longtime resident and retired business owner, Gari Cave. Her office hours began Monday, October 3, and she is waiting – and excited – to greet potential clients during her part-time hours of 1-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I predict it won’t be long before her hours are extended.   

“This community center is unique,” Cave explained. “It is owned by the Los Osos residents, who raised all the funds to build it. It has always operated solely on donations from generous residents and fees from activities it generates.”

Besides the day-to-day office management duties, Cave will show people considering booking an event what is available at the center. She said she would also reach out to businesses, such as bridal shops, other community organizations planning future events, and work with families who have traditionally held memorial services, anniversary parties, or a quinceanera for their daughter at the center.  

“We have the space and the resources to help produce a variety of activities,” Cave said.

Although the Los Osos Community Center has always had generous community support, it had to survive unopened and without events during the pandemic. Luckily a bequest from the late Len Saldano allowed a skeleton crew to maintain basic uses. The center also houses the operations of People Helping People (PHP), which has donated funds to enhance the facility —a large screen intended to coordinate future children’s movies with the Los Osos Library was a recent donation. Just before COVID shuttered the facility, PHP also provided for the construction of a dressing room for brides and/or “green room” for hired talent, plus a storage area for their 300-plus weekly distribution of food staples. They also support Los Osos Cares’ Wednesday evening community dinners for anyone to come and enjoy a free meal.

Why did the board decide Gari Cave was the best candidate for the job? She has a diverse list of career credits demonstrating the flexibility she will need for the job. She was the county coordinator/executive director for the Long-Term Ombudsman from 1993-99. It was during this time she and a partner realized the need for a nonprofit residential care facility for the elderly with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They purchased, remodeled, and licensed Garden House of Morro Bay. She served a board of directors as she managed the facility from 1999-2014. When she found the right person who shared her passion for the residents, she sold it and trained Kasey Watson and then transitioned to its board of directors. She also competed to serve as an advocate for seniors at the state level becoming a California Senior Legislature Assemblywoman from 2013-19.

When Cave decided to downsize from her Morro Bay home, she and her husband, Jerry, moved to Morro Shores Senior Mobile Home Park in Los Osos. They enjoyed new friends, bocce ball, playing cards, football night and especially the dog park for their favorite rescue pup. Then Jerry passed and Cave knew she needed a change. Her daughter lived on a ranch near Bakersfield that had an extra home, so Cave decided to sell and move to be near family – especially her grandchildren.  And although she loved being closer to them, she discovered home to her was truly Los Osos where she had friends her age and activities that served to enhance her lifestyle and purpose.

I asked Cave what her motivation was to seek another demanding career managing the Los Osos Community Center besides her already busy schedule at Morro Shores and her responsibilities serving San Luis Obispo families as a fiduciary manager of conservatorships and trustees. She explained, “When the special needs client I had been a fiduciary for passed on in July, I decided I needed a new plan. I also knew I would need to continue some paid employment.  I had originally been the breadwinner in the family, and now I was trying to live on Social Security and a small trust. Most of all, in these later days of my life, I wanted to contribute something else worthwhile.”

As a longtime member and volunteer for People Helping People, Cave was very familiar with the organization’s mission and the center’s resources. So when she heard the Los Osos Community Center Board was looking for a part-time manager, she knew she had the life experience and ideas to help with marketing and fund raising. This opportunity also matched her desire to work with people, which she loves to do.

She understands fundraising is a priority to keep operations flowing at the center, so her first week on the job she started working on ideas with the board’s Fundraising Committee Chair, Cherrie Katayama. They need to raise funds to replace the stage curtain. The goal is $10,000.

She was also pleased her first scheduled event would be working more closely with her friend Richard Margetson and PHP members to set up and honor three community volunteers at their annual awards Pizza Night. PHP’s next big event is the annual Needs ‘n Wishes fundraiser, which happens directly after the Christmas Parade the first Saturday of December. Last year it raised $53,000 for the Prado Homeless Center and Noor Clinic.

Cave will also be busy coordinating the Salvation Army Bell Ringers at Ralph’s Market starting the end of October through Christmas Eve. If raders have two-hours to give, contact her at (805) 704-9676. Traditionally, the community of Los Osos has been the second highest generator of funds for this effort in the county. The secret sauce is willing bell ringers that bring their smiles, teens ringing in their sports outfits or friendly dogs.  

For sure, Gari Cave has a new passion in life and most likely she won’t be taking anymore motorhome cross-country trips driving herself and friend, Jan Whiskerson, 27,000 miles to visit 17 states across America. She reported they made it home with only two “motorhome booboos,” but that’s another story you’ll need to ask her about when you meet up with her at the Los Osos Community Center Monday, Wednesday, or Friday afternoons. 

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