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Avenidas senior center head to step down

President and CEO Lisa Hendrickson will work on Palo Alto nonprofit's expansion plans

Lisa Hendrickson, president and CEO for the past 15 years of Avenidas, the Palo Alto senior-services nonprofit, has announced she will step down as the agency's leader to focus on Avenidas' plans for the future.

Those plans include the hopeful expansion of the nonprofit's Bryant Street center in downtown Palo Alto and ensuring that the 45-year-old organization ″will meet the needs of the next generation,″ she said in an announcement.

″I'm excited that I will continue working at Avenidas, just in a different capacity,″ she stated.

During her tenure, the organization built the Avenidas Rose Kleiner Center for seniors in Mountain View, which provides both an adult day care program and a separate day health program for those needing medical and other assistance.

The center's opening in 2005, she said, was one of the highlights of her years at Avenidas.

″It was a thrill to build that special-purpose building,″ she told the Weekly.

Under her leadership, the group also launched Avenidas Village in 2007, a program that provides daily, weekly and on-call services to older adults so that they can continue living in their own homes as they age.

″We were at the forefront of the 'village' movement. We were the sixth in the country,″ she said of the service that offers everything from daily phone check-ins to transportation to skilled nursing.

Now, there are more than 100 village programs nationwide. Avenidas Village has a membership of 400 people.

Though the modernization plan is still in the concept phase, Hendrickson said, the intent is to expand the historic Bryant Street building where the nonprofit offers activities such as yoga, memoir-writing and ukulele jam sessions.

But there will be hurdles, she said. The Spanish Colonial Revival building, once the city's police station, is 87 years old and was designed by famed local architect Birge Clark.

″We need to respect the historic characteristics of the building,″ she said.

In addition, it is owned by the City of Palo Alto, not the nonprofit. Avenidas will need to secure a new and longer lease, as the current one will expire in 14 years -- not enough time to justify the investment of an expansion, she said. But the organization is dedicated to the expansion project.

″We feel compelled to pursuit it because one-third of all Palo Altans are 55 and older. We're bursting at the seams here,″ she said. The modernized space needs to be attractive to Baby Boomers, she added.

The Avenidas board of directors has hired executive search firm m/Oppenheim Associates to launch a national search for a new CEO to head the agency, which has a $4 million operating budget. She said she expected it could take up to three months to find her successor but that whoever takes over will find the organization in good shape.

″The person who comes in is going to be in a great position to take it to the next level,″ Hendrickson said, adding that part of her new job will be to mentor and train the new president and CEO.

Hendrickson, who was awarded the Chamber of Commerce's Athena Award for outstanding professional woman in 2002, is an active board member of AvidBank. She worked in banking for 21 years and retired as a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Bank in 1996, according to the announcement.

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