A local industrial cleaning company plans to give $2 million to San Joaquin Community Hospital's new cancer center, the largest donation in the hospital's history.
The $36.2 million, 60,000-square-foot building will be christened "The AIS Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital" after donor Advanced Industrial Services. The Bakersfield company, which works primarly in the oil industry and cleans oil tanks, orignally gave $500,000 to the project but recently racheted up its gift.
The hospital was "blown away" when company leaders decided to up the donation, hospital President and CEO Robert Beehler said at a Thursday news conference.
The cancer center on Chester Avenue is slated to open in December but that won't mark the end of the hospital's campus expansion. Last month, San Joaquin announced plans to construct another building on the same block as the cancer center.
The hospital has not disclosed what purpose that facility will serve, but a city's planning department staff report lists the building as "Quest Imaging." The report also includes sketches of the buildings and a proposed 200-square-foot Starbucks kiosk on the hospital campus west of Chester Avenue.
San Joaquin bought Quest Imaging, an outpatient radiology facility, in 2010. Quest Imaging was founded in 2002 and four years later, $4 million was shelled out to open its current location at 9602 Stockdale Highway, according to the hospital's website and Californian reports.
Jarrod McNaughton, a vice president of San Joaquin Community Hospital, said there will be no changes in ownership or operation of the Stockdale Highway location. McNaughton said he could not confirm plans for the yet-to-be-built Chester Avenue facility on Thursday.
Last September, the hospital announced a $1 million donation to the cancer center from Dr. Donald Cornforth, a co-founder of Quest Imaging, and his wife, Edna. Prior to AIS' pledge, the Cornforths' gift was the largest donation to the hospital.
Beehler said a huge project like the center is "frankly fairly scary," but that the pieces are coming together. He also praised the executives leading the project.
"They've been doing a fantastic job of coordinating the thousands of details that it's gonna take to create from the site of the old Wildcat (adult) bookstore a fantastic place of healing in our community," he said.
At Thursday's announcement, AIS owners President Leslie Knox and Vice President Rowdy Dickard posed for photos in front of a banner of the new building bearing the company's name. A gaggle of AIS employees wearing pink, button-up shirts also emblazed with the company's title watched from the applauding audience.
"Too many of us here have been affected by cancer and, in some way, we are trying to do our part to help (meet) this growing need," Robert Rice, AIS project manager and spokesman, told the crowd.
The company is active in Relay for Life and also hosts an event called "Fight for Life" to raise money to aid local people who are fighting cancer, according Rice, who is Knox's brother.
Rice said Knox and Dickard don't do interviews, but he spoke of their generosity.
"Leslie would give away her last cent, that's just the way she is," he said.