Eldergivers began in 1985 as the San Francisco Ministry to Nursing Homes, a faith-based effort to lessen the isolation of nursing home residents, with Brent Nettle as the Executive Director.

Led by the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and soon joined by other Episcopal parishes, members began visiting nursing homes in the city San Francisco. A board of directors was formed and the IRS aprroved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 1989. Between 1991 and 1995 the Ministry became interfaith, growing to include 30 Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist congregations with each fielding their own volunteer visitor teams.

Realizing the tremendous need for the visiting program, in the mid-90s the board agreed to make the organization community-based and began recruiting volunteers from corporations, public and private schools and affinity groups, in addition to faith congregations.

Realizing the vast potential of the visual arts as a tool to address the challenges of aging, Brent Nettle in 1991 created and implemented a second program, Art With Elders. This development remains a crucial turning point for the organization. The art classes met each week and engaged residents in a way that simple visits could not. The classes were small enough for individual attention but large enough to become a place where residents found a new sense of community.

The classes were soon supplemented with opportunities for residents to exhibit artworks. From 1996 to the present, Art With Elders has gained prominence in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene with high profile exhibitions at the de Young Museum, San Francisco International Airport, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Main Library and the Di Rosa Preserve in Napa.

A second art program was added in 1999 – Elder Arts Celebrations – to exhibit the artworks of students, faculty and alumni over the age of 65 from Bay Area art schools. In 2001, an intergenerational initiative was launched to link schools with nearby senior residential sites. Life Stories – an oral history program collecting the biographical narratives of selected nursing home residents into a series of books – was introduced in 2002. By this time the Ministry had also begun offering its various programs in residential care and assisted living facilities.

At this point, the board realized that although the organization’s mission had remained substantially the same since its founding in 1985, the name no longer accurately reflected it’s geographic and programmatic reach. In 2002 the name was changed to Eldergivers.

Art With Elders doubled in size from 2000 to 2006 now offering classes in four Bay Area counties. By 2008 the board became concerned that the organization was spreading its resources too thin and refocused the organization on the Art With Elders program. Also in 2008, Eldergivers reiterated its commitment to lessening the isolation of the elderly but stated the mission in a more positive form – connecting the generations through programs that celebrate the wisdom, talents and creativity of older adults.

Under the leadership of Brent Nettle through almost three decades, Eldergivers has created programs that have successfully fulfilled its mission and it has been generously supported by an expanding cast of friends and supporters. Thousands of seniors have benefited from initiatives that celebrate their unique experience and their substantial gifts, and, in turn, the community is benefiting tremendously from their continued active presence.

In 2013, Brent Nettle retired from the organization and Mark Campbell was named the new Executive Director.

There is a new understanding in our society of the value of engaging in art. Research shows that participating in creative arts has many benefits for older adults, including fewer falls, less need for medication, fewer doctor visits, and decreases in loneliness and depression. Engaging in the arts helps to build community, increase social connections and dramatically improve quality of life. This is particularly important for older adults in long-term care environments, as one of the greatest challenges is a feeling of loss of community, family, and home, and growing feelings of isolation.

Art With Elders provides more than 1,500 art classes throughout the Bay Area each year. The goal of our leadership is to continue to expand the number of facilities that host our program and to provide more older adults the opportunity to benefit from participating in the arts.

We hope you’ll be part of our future.