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    To Al Baum, With Gratitude and Love

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman–

    I first met Al in 2001 when he attended Openhouse’s inaugural event. I remember how gracious Al was when Jeanette (Jeanette Gurevitch, 1948–2003) and I spoke to him about the need to build a community infrastructure of senior housing and services. He said, “I’m very interested in what you are trying to do here. Why don’t you keep me informed over the next few months and we will see where we go from there.” I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of a relationship that would last almost two decades, and would deepen into a close, loving, and cherished friendship.   

    Al wasn’t like any other philanthropic leader I had ever met. He took the time to get to know us. For Al, philanthropy wasn’t just about funding a project; it was about building meaningful and trusting relationships while working together on a community project of mutual interest and concern. 

    Once Al committed to Openhouse, he was all in and never wavered. I know, though, there were times, especially during the early years of the organization, when Al wasn’t entirely sure we could overcome some of the challenges we faced.  It takes an extraordinary, visionary, strategic, generous, and courageous community leader to take on a pivotal role with a grassroots housing and service organization with no money, no land, and no experience.

    Over the next few years, Al became Openhouse’s lead donor and ambassador at large. He encouraged the community to support us and introduced us to his friends. He attended every event and hosted a few himself. He wanted to hear all about our efforts to acquire a site for our campus; our successes and failures in navigating City Hall, the Planning Department, and neighborhood nimby politics; and our search to secure a housing developer partner. He seemed to thrive on these challenges as much as we did. When he could, he offered sage advice, but sometimes would just say, “I don’t know that I would have anything to add to that,” and would break out in that huge, warm, and joyous smile of his.   

    Al, Jeanette, and I discovered we shared much in common. The three of us were psychotherapists and lifelong advocates, and shared backgrounds of Jewish culture and values that influenced and shaped our politics and our choices in life.

    But it was only after my beloved Jeanette died in 2003 that Al and I became really close. His gentle and kind spirit was a comfort. His wisdom and humor made me laugh even when I was sad. How could I not love him?

    In 2004, Al met the love of his life, Robert. Al’s great and generous heart had finally met his equal. Together they created the most wonderful partnership. Their love and passion for life, community, and service was magical to behold and a joy to be around. For 17 years Al and Robert have been an integral part of my life and the Openhouse family.

    Al once said he didn’t want to have a building named after him. He would rather people remembered what he gave them. The next time you attend an Openhouse event or drive by the Openhouse campus, remember Al Baum and thank him for giving our community the gift of Openhouse.

    Dr. Marcy Adelman, a psychologist and LGBTQ+ longevity advocate and policy adviser, oversees the Aging in Community column. She serves on the California Commission on Aging, the Governor’s Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California, and the San Francisco Dignity Fund Oversight and Advisory Committee. She is the Co-Founder of Openhouse, the only San Francisco nonprofit exclusively focused on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ older adults.

    Published on April 8, 2021