Arcata Fire District, SoHum Health receive HAF+WRCF Emmerson Endowment grants 

Arcata Fire District and Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare Foundation have received grants totaling $1.16 million from the Orvamae Emmerson Endowment Fund, a component of the Humboldt Area Foundation+Wild Rivers Community Foundation. 

Arcata Fire District will receive $910,000 over seven years toward the purchase of a new fire engine, while SoHum Health will receive $250,000 over five years toward the building of a new hospital in Garberville. 

“This is exactly how Orvamae wanted her money to be spent,” said Edith (Edy) Vaissade, former HAF board member and close friend of Emmerson. “She’d be so happy with the impact that her endowment is having in the community.” 

The endowment fund was established in 2007 in memory and honor of the long-time Arcata resident, who passed away on December 20, 2006. Emmerson was inspired to create the fund because she once needed emergency workers in Arcata. She noted in her trust that she was especially interested in supporting the Arcata Volunteer Fire Department and the Arcata Police Department, and efforts to treat and prevent arthritis and heart disease.  

“We are grateful for the funding from the Orvamae grant and the support of HAF for believing in this project,” said Chelsea Brown, SoHum Health’s Outreach Manager & Development Director. “It will help make our dream of a new hospital a reality for the residents who often get left out.” 

Aging infrastructure and new state seismic building codes that take effect in 2030 spurred the replacement of Garberville’s current 9-bed hospital, which serves about 10,000 residents and tourists, Brown said. SoHum is currently in the design phase of the $40 million-plus project, with plans to break ground on a new site in 2026 and open the facility in 2029. The hospital will have eight emergency beds, 15 acute inpatient beds, and services such as radiology, ultrasound, mammography, and a mobile MRI unit, she said. 

Arcata Fire District will use its grant to retire a 15-year-old fire truck and make payments on a new one that costs approximately $906,000, said Fire Chief Justin McDonald. The truck, which will be delivered in about 29 months, will feature Orvamae Emmerson’s name on it, he said. 

“Two of our three fire rigs are maintenance nightmares; constantly in the shop getting repairs,” McDonald said. “The generosity and support of Orvamae and HAF is absolutely amazing. It’s nice not to have to worry as much about funding for things like this.” 

In recent years, Emmerson endowment grants have been used by the Arcata Volunteer Firefighters’ Association to remodel several fire houses, the Arcata Police Department for equipment and community programs, and Open Door Community Health Centers to help construct and operate a new community health center.

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