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Molly Eldredge

Molly Eldredge


Living to Give

By Ann Wycoff

Photography by Becca Batista


Five philanthropists making a difference in San Diego

Project Concern International (PCI)

Inspired by her teenage daughters’ life-altering experiences in India with Project Concern International and The Bishop School, Molly Eldredge found herself traveling with venerable philanthropist and PCI ambassador Anne Otterson to learn about the organization’s work in India. With a mission to enhance health, end hunger and overcome hardship worldwide, PCI helps more than 10 million people each year in 16 different countries. “I met some of the children my own children had bonded with and saw the transformational work PCI does in regard to street orphans, shelters and maternal health programs in remote villages.” An across-the-border trip with Dr. Jim Turpin, who founded PCI 61 years ago when he saved two children dying of pneumonia in a Tijuana clinic, further engaged Eldredge, who became an active PCI Ambassador. She channels her passion into PCI’s Healthy Start program for mothers and children and the anti-trafficking initiatives in the San Diego/Tijuana border region. “PCI has partnered with several government, private and public agencies to educate, raise awareness and prevent trafficking. It’s an $800 million annual industry right here in our backyard.” Recognized for her dedication to PCI, she received the first Anne Otterson Community Connector Award at the Hands Across Borders gala this month. “I was so humbled and honored. Anne was such an incredible woman, friend and mentor to me—the epitome of grace and grit and the first to roll up her sleeves. She left all of us with a beautiful legacy.” Eldredge carries on this legacy by fostering the philanthropic spirit in her own children and the next generation. “I am a huge advocate for any of our children to get outside of their comfort zones and experience the real world, to see how much need there is. There’s so much to do right here in San Diego, it doesn’t mean having to go across the globe.” 

Tommy Gomes

Tommy Gomes

Collaboration Kitchen

One of the most beloved figures in the local seafood and fishing community, Tommy Gomes hails from five generations of fishermen who came from Portugal to San Diego in the late 1800s. Not only has he fished around the globe and captained local fleets, he represents San Diego’s rich fishing history both past and present. He’s also been a significant force in building the reputation and success of Catalina Offshore Products, San Diego’s largest seafood purveyor whose humble roots started with fisherman Dave Rudie diving for sea urchins and seaweed in the kelp beds off Catalina Island. Gomes, a self-proclaimed fishmonger, also serves as the face of the company, educating consumers about ocean preservation, sustainability and safe consumption. His passion project, Collaboration Kitchen, stands out as San Diego’s longest-running pop-up. During the unpretentious semimonthly event, Catalina Offshore, partnering with Specialty Produce, invites local guest chefs to prepare seafood before a live interactive audience, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofits focused on children or education. Boatloads of money have been raised for programs such as Friends of Voices for Children; Art FORM; San Diego Youth Services; Blessed Sacrament Parish School; and Urban Surf 4 Kids. 

When he’s not hosting Collaboration Kitchen, searing scallops at a charitable gala or casting a line himself, Gomes mentors youth and helps others in the world of addiction. “I know what it’s like to need help and either not know how to ask for it or be too scared to do so. There are people out there who love and care about you that you haven’t even met yet. Don’t deny them the opportunity.”

Dia de Alegria/Ronald McDonald House

Born in San Diego and raised on both sides of the border, Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade is a bilingual, bicultural dynamo, who’s been an interpreter and media liaison for visits by Mexican presidents, Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel Laureates; and producer of countless events and fundraisers. Close to her heart are organizations that support those in need within the Hispanic community—and her tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed. The San Diego Padres recently recognized her as a recipient of the sixth annual Comunidad Awards for her work in youth health advocacy and mentorship with groups like San Ysidro Health Center, as well as Club de Niños y Niñas and Fundación Internacional de la Comunidad. She has served as an ambassador to Día de Alegría (Day of Joy), a fundraiser that bridges the Latina charitable community with Ronald McDonald House, to sustain families with critically ill or injured children. “Día de Alegría is extremely important to me, as a way to raise awareness and educate our very generous Latino community. On a daily basis 1,200 families are provided overnight care by the Ronald McDonald House and another 15,000 have access to this emotional and physical sanctuary each year; 46 percent of the families are from Hispanic communities,” she says. Now in its fifth year, Día de Alegría has raised more than $100,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. “It’s truly a day of joy,” adds Walther-Meade, “and a way to bring an additional level of solace and comfort to families in need.” 

Henry Schubach

Henry Schubach

Schubach Aviation Donation Per Mile Program

His phone number can be found on the speed dial of industry and community leaders, he believes in business by handshake and is admired for the client-centric culture he’s created. What started with a single Cheyenne II aircraft back in 1992 has grown into San Diego’s largest fleet of charter aircraft, Schubach Aviation, flying to destinations from Aspen and Big Sky to exotic locales like Morocco and the Galapagos Islands. At the company’s heart stands founder/president Henry Schubach, known for his candor and philanthropic spirit. “Giving back to this community has long been a core tenet at Schubach Aviation. It is our responsibility and privilege,” he says. Each year, Schubach Aviation makes a donation for every mile flown to different charities. In 2018, Schubach’s philanthropy partner will be the Immunotherapy Foundation, a San Diego nonprofit founded by longtime Schubach client and activist investor Ralph Whitworth, who passed away from cancer last year. “Ralph Whitworth was one of my first airplane charter customers over 20 years ago. I flew him for many years and we had the privilege of flying him and his family during his precious final years. I’m honored to have this opportunity to support his legacy and the important work the Immunotherapy Foundation is enabling,” he says. His donations will fund pioneering cancer research at UCSD and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, whose work focuses on using a patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue unharmed.

Museum of Contemporary Art—San Diego (MCASD)

Fueled by the New York art scene in the late ’80s during their college days, John Ippolito and his future wife, Natasha, returned to California in love with the world of performing and visual arts and museum culture, so much so, they held their wedding reception at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla in 1992—the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. John, president of Northern Trust – San Diego and a MCASD board trustee since 2011, along with Natasha, an English and drama teacher at The Preuss School UCSD for low-income students, are part of the International Collectors Circle and creatively chaired MCASD’s annual Monte Carlo fundraiser with an unforgettable “jetsetter” travel theme. “In the contemporary art world, the best art has not necessarily already been created. We are constantly looking for young artists and ways to support them. Increasingly, budgets have been cut to next to nothing in schools. The Qualcomm Foundation made it possible for anyone under 25 to get into both of our museums for free. And that’s pretty powerful.”

More than 140,000 young people have strolled the exhibit halls in both museums thanks to the grant. “Art forces us to look at the world differently,” he says. “It challenges us. It shouldn’t be an elitist enterprise, but rather an inclusive one.”