Excerpted from NorthBay biz Magazine‘s January 2016 article by Jean Saylor Doppenberg featuring The Gasser Foundation:
“The residents of the city of Napa have a special friend in the Gasser Foundation. Pete and Vernice “Pat” Gasser were lifelong Napa residents and community boosters who built a multimillion-dollar business empire. Pete got his start in banking, then moved into used car sales, eventually opening a Dodge dealership called Gasser Motors that he ran for 30 years before selling the business in 1965.
Gasser went on to become president of the Napa Chamber of Commerce and a force to be reckoned with, known for having a big personality and bringing city leaders together to improve the community. He invested in Napa real estate and was a cheerleader for numerous civic projects. Pete died in 1982, and Pat passed away in 1989. After her death, income from properties owned by the Gassers, who were childless, funded the foundation. It amounted to about $16 million at the time.
“Almost all of our assets are what was left by the Gasser family for creation of the foundation,” explains its President, Joseph Peatman. The Gasser Foundation awards numerous grants every year, along with thousands of dollars in scholarships. Since its inception, it’s contributed more than $31 million to local causes aimed at improving the quality of life for Napa residents and helping the underserved. Its many beneficiaries include Queen of the Valley Medical Center, St. Helena Hospital, Justin Siena High School, Boys and Girls Club of Napa, New Technology High School, Napa Valley Hospice, Napa Food Bank, Live Healthy Napa County and Napa Salvation Army, among others.
“All our grant recipients have to be charitable organizations that benefit the people of Napa,” says Peatman. The foundation also donated land over the years, most visibly for the Hartle Court Apartments project, which opened in 2013 to house previously low-income, mentally disabled, and homeless people. The apartment complex is located on Gasser Drive near the Gasser Foundation-owned South Napa Marketplace and next door to the South Napa Shelter, a respite for homeless people located on land also donated by the foundation.
Last year, the foundation donated land in the same vicinity, along Gasser Drive, where a new medical office building will go up to house Ole Health, formerly known as Clinic Ole. A dramatic increase in patient volume has put a squeeze on Ole Health’s current north Napa facility. The new Gasser Drive location, expected to open in 2017, will provide an additional 30,000 square feet of patient care space.
In 2007, the Gasser Foundation launched an initiative to assist local nonprofits conserve energy and water so their financial resources could go toward helping clients, not paying high utility bills. That initiative soon developed into Sustainable Napa County (SNC), a private nonprofit “dedicated to economic vitality, environmental health and community engagement,” says Peatman. SNC’s efforts include finding methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and use locally generated renewable energy.