Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, wife give $5 million to expand East Palo Alto clinic

By Brandon Bailey/ mercurynews Updated at 2014-01-23 17:20:42 +0000


EAST PALO ALTO -- A $5 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife will help pay for a new health clinic serving families in several low-income Peninsula communities, including the East Menlo Park neighborhood where Facebook is headquartered.

"This funding is very important for us to be able to expand our services," said Luisa Buada, CEO of the Ravenswood Family Health Center, who added that the East Palo Alto clinic outgrew the building where it has operated for the last 12 years.

While it now serves about 11,000 patients a year, Buada said the clinic will double its capacity and be able to add a pharmacy and services -- including mammography, optometry and podiatry -- that the center doesn't currently provide.

The donation from Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, is the largest private gift received as part of a $29 million fundraising campaign for the new center, Buada said. The money comes from a fund the couple established by donating more than $1.5 billion in Facebook stock since 2012 to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which advises a number of wealthy individuals on philanthropic efforts.

"Investing in our local community is really important for me and Priscilla, and we're proud to support the Ravenswood Family Health Center," Zuckerberg said in a statement. "Providing high quality health care for everyone is important for building a strong community."

Chan, who has an interest in early childhood education and health, added in a statement: "As a pediatrician, I have seen great need for high quality, comprehensive health care and also the positive impact care can make on the entire family."

Zuckerberg has previously shown an interest in the Belle Haven community of neighboring East Menlo Park by teaching an entrepreneurship class for low-income students in a local school and speaking at an eighth-grade commencement ceremony.

"I know they want to make a difference in the community, and they're being very thoughtful about it," Buada said in an interview. "They're talking not just to the clinic but to lots of organizations, including the school district, to see where they can have an impact. They want to do things that will change the outcome for children growing up in the area."

Clinic backers planned a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday afternoon for the new two-story building, on East Palo Alto's Bay Road.