History – Tale of Two Villages

The Turner Foundation, formerly the Rose Garden Village Foundation, was founded in 1958 by Rev. Dr. Albert J. Turner. Thus beginning a legacy of service to those who are in need. At that time, the needs of the elderly were the organization’s primary concern. For 45 years the Rose Garden Village was a staple of ‘service to seniors’ in Riverside, CA.  At the same time, the United States government adopted Section 231 of the Federal Housing Administration (HUD), which provided for the underwriting of retirement homes for the elderly. Rev. Turner’s Rose Garden Senior Living haven was the first project in the nation under that act.

With a distinguished history of service, The Turner Foundation today owns and operates The Village at Santa Barbara, a 70-unit affordable housing complex on the west side of Santa Barbara. The Foundation seeks to care for people by providing a safe, comfortable, and affordable living environment. By providing services on-site in a village setting, that can serve the residents in unique ways, develop a sense of community, and reduce the problems and tensions often associated with an affordable housing facility. The Turner Foundation looks forward with great expectations, blessed by the sacrifice and vision of Rev. Turner.

Turner Foundation History
Rev. Turner and the “Housing for the Low-Income Elderly” Village in Riverside (1958-1987)

In 1956, Rev. Turner came to California. He joined California Baptist University in Riverside as the Director of Public Relations. He and his wife, Florence, also had the responsibility of caring for a small rest-home on the college campus. In this work, the Turners gained insight into the needs of the elderly—and decided they would spend the remainder of their lives pursuing a vision of caring for them.

By 1958, Rev. Turner had located 7 vacant acres on an adjacent parcel to California Baptist University —and he began to pray. He needed at least a down payment on the total cost of the land: $28,000. He decided to leave his work at the University, borrowed $800 from the bank to keep food on the table, and discussed his vision for the elderly with Mrs. Caroline C. Huber, the owner of the 7 acres.

He convinced Mrs. Huber to dedicate the property to caring for the needs of the elderly. He envisioned a “village” community, but the details of how it would happen were still largely unclear.

“I was doing this all by faith and her (Mrs. Huber’s) word,” he said. His philosophy was simple: “Commit yourself to Christ, then prayer and hard work.” (Source: Riverside Press-Enterprise article by Dennis Tristram, 1973).

What was Rev. Turner’s description of himself? “I’m a promoter, I guess. I was born one and I guess I’ll die one. But there’s always got to be God in it. Without Him in it I’m licked. I’m through. I can’t do anything.” (Source: Riverside Press-Enterprise article by Dennis Tristram, 1973).

Rev. Turner’s journey of faith continued when, 24 hours from foreclosure, Mrs. Marion Clark Miller (widow of Frank Miller—founder of The Mission Inn in Riverside), handed him a check for the entire $28,000 he needed. Reflecting on the eleventh-hour gift, Rev. Turner commented: “I believe that God hears and God answers prayer.”

Almost at the same time, the United States government adopted Section 231 of the Federal Housing Administration (HUD), which provided for the underwriting of retirement homes for the elderly. Turner’s Rose Garden Village was the first project in the nation under that act. As a result of the act, Turner’s $1 million, 121 unit project was now insured by the government.

As a result of the Rose Garden Village being the first Section 231 project in the nation, Rev. Turner was invited to visit former President Dwight D. Eisenhower at his home in Palm Desert. It was on Eisenhower’s watch that Section 231 came to be law.

The ground was broken and the Rose Garden Village bloomed.

In 1962, through his relationship with Mrs. Miller, he was able to host Richard Nixon at the Rose Garden Village: who dedicated the chapel. Later, Rev. Turner added “37th President of the United States” under Nixon’s name on the commemorative plaque. Rev. Turner also cultivated a good relationship with the former president’s mother, Hannah Nixon. Subsequent visitors included Nancy Reagan, who came for a tea and to discuss the project with Rev. Turner, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan.

By 1967, Rev. Turner had a new vision. He planned a $2 million addition—plans that would add 93 units—on an adjacent 2.5 acres. This new facility would subsequently be named The Royal Rose.

Through the years, Rev. Turner’s son-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Wilson, began assisting Rev. Turner in his ministry among the residents. He began in 1962 as a dish washer, then a bus boy, and then was promoted to be a cook in the Village Restaurant. Rev Turner’s daughter Patty and Jon met and began to date while she also served as a Waitress.

Rev. Turner liked Jon’s “I’ll do whatever it takes” attitude. And he generally did what ever needed to be done on the Village grounds, from digging ditches to cleaning apartments, to cleaning toilets to locking things down at night. It was at that time that Rev Turner identified Jon’s servant heart, his trustworthiness, his gifts for ministry, and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done to take care of the needs of the under-served elderly.

Jon and Patty were married in July 1967 by Rev. Turner–with the reception being held in the Village Center. (Jon and Patty are the only under-60 newlyweds to ever honeymoon in a village apartment). Jon preached his first sermon at the Village Chapel in August 1967 and entered Seminary. Patty and Jon both continued their ministry among the elderly over the years.

While in Seminary preparing for ministry, Jon practiced for ministry by being available to meet the needs of the elderly as an assistant to Rev Turner. He did counseling in times of death, performed funerals, lead Chapel services and Bible Studies, helped with banquets and community meetings, and after his Ordination in 1971, he began performing marriages.

Rev. Turner was known for walking around the Rose Garden Village campus—hugging the adoring residents, ministering and consoling in their times of loss or suffering. They affectionately called him “Dr. Turner,” out of their respect for his vision which became a reality and blessed their lives. Speaking about those he served, Rev. Turner had a simple outlook: “Anything I can do for them, I want to do it.”

Rev. Dr. Albert J. Turner, the promoter, the evangelist, the pastor, the friend of the elderly, passed away in 1987.

II. Dr. Wilson and the move to Santa Barbara’s “House of the Lost” -Casa Perdido (1987-2005)

Upon the passing of Rev. Turner, Mrs. Turner asked her son-in-law, Dr. Jonathan H. Wilson, to increase his involvement with both the Rose Garden Village Foundation and Royal Rose Foundation.

Dr. Wilson, also an ordained pastor, had spent many years involved with the Foundations—whether it be in the form of preaching in the chapel, counseling, or leading various Bible study groups. Now, in the wake of the loss of Rev. Turner, his role would be increased.

At the time of Mrs. Turner’s passing in 1991, Dr. Wilson became the President of the Boards of both the Rose Garden Village and Royal Rose foundations.

Over the past 15 years, Dr. Wilson and his wife Patty have become friends of the residents, leading chapel services, hosting events and parties, writing newsletters, counseling residents, overseeing the staff, and shepherding the vision for the foundations going forward. Dr. Wilson has developed important relationships in the community of Riverside, thus insuring the future of the foundations.

Under Dr. Wilson’s leadership at the Rose Garden Village, the grounds were significantly upgraded, including a new patio area, fresh paint, updated landscaping, benches, and a re-modeling of the Center Building. In addition, the security of the property was enhanced.

In 2002, Dr. Wilson asked his middle son, Mr. Dean Wilson, to assist him in the development of the Foundations. Mr. Wilson’s first task was to put a Board of Directors in place: a Board which would bring the experience, vision, and commitment to the future of The Turner Foundation in the same manner in which Rev. Turner brought in the past.

In 2003, the new Board was established. In the ensuing years, Mr. Wilson engineered a re-development study with the Board. After two years of analysis and consideration, the decision was made by the Board of Directors to sell the properties in Riverside. Fortyseven years after Rev. Turner departed from California Baptist University, the properties were sold to CBU as part of the university’s development plans.

III. Dr. Wilson and the new “Village of Santa Barbara’s” for “At Risk Families” (2005-Present)

The Foundation Board elected to purchase a 70-unit run down, unsafe, drug-infested housing complex on the West Side of Santa Barbara, California, and to re-locate the Foundation to Santa Barbara as well. Dr. Wilson continues as President of the Board, and the Board named Mr. Dean Wilson as the Foundation’s Executive Director who served from 2005-2009. Mr. Dean Wilson played a role in the development of the 70-unit apartment complex that is now known as the Village at Santa Barbara. He also brought Mr. Todd Wilson on as the first On-Site Manager to begin to excuse some of the more volatile, rule-defying Residents and introduce a more family friendly atmosphere to the community.

From 2005-2008, Dr. Wilson focused on the rehabilitation of the Casa Perdido property (House of the Lost). It was renamed “The Village of Santa Barbara” and developed ever-evolving need-based programs. Facilities improvements included tearing out all of the landscaping and replacing it with lush Hawaiian-like foliage, fresh paint, new doors, revamping of every vacant apartment, new laundry facilities, a new community garden, new indoor and outdoor lighting, new appliances in existing apartments and much more.

Two 3 bedroom apartments were converted to a “Community Center” and an “Education and Tutoring Center”. New programs included after school Tutoring, music lessons, professional and pastoral counseling, swim lessons, and community development.

Dr. Wilson, along with Turner Foundation partners and staff, moved forward on a broader vision for The Turner Foundation. In the original Articles of Incorporation, the Foundation was charged with assisting the elderly with housing, facilities, and services—including meeting the religious needs of those being served.

Dr. Wilson and the Board of Directors’ vision included serving those in need, the elderly and the disabled (as the Foundation has since 1958), and those with significant financial needs. The Foundation also places a high priority on supporting the community by praying for the leaders of the community as the leaders are in positions to serve the poor and sick in the community as well.

From 2008 – 2012 Dr. Wilson spearheaded many projects that were fundamental in improving the lives of tenants and individuals on the west side of Santa Barbara as a whole.  Key staff members such as Alexis Cade (now Alexis Wilson) and Jeff Shaffer were added to the staff to bring a depth to the programs that were available to the Villagers. Under the direction of Dr. Wilson the Foundation also began its ‘Internship’ program with Westmont College students. Many interns have spent entire summers serving the kids of the Village in exchange for school credit.  The Summer Reading Club (SRC) began as well as a tutoring/mentoring program out of which a book of poetry, written by the Residents, is published.  Other successful programs include: youth groups where Residents kids are mentored by older individuals throughout the community.  A periodic Cooking Class, a Residents program in which the basics of cooking are taught and enjoyed. Due to Dr. Wilson’s involvement with the local Rotary Club International, more than twenty violins have been donated which led the way to free music classes for individuals at the Village.  It was also during this period that our new tenant playground was built and named the Village PLAY PLACE.  The playground project was spearheaded by Mr. Todd Wilson and paid for completely through the generosity of foundation donors.

Today the Village is the pride of the westside neighborhood.  Dr. Wilson remains the Executive Director of the Turner Foundation. He oversees both the vision and the day to day operations of the Foundation and apartment complex.  Hundreds in the Village of Santa Barbara are now enjoying the ‘fruits’ of the Vision and labor of many who have selflessly given of themselves out of a sense of gratitude.  The Mission of the Turner Foundation is to provide safe, affordable housing, as well as programs and services that will improve the quality of life for the Village Residents and the surrounding under-served in the greater Santa Barbara Community.

The Turner Foundation looks forward expectantly, blessed by the sacrifice and vision of Rev. Turner and inspired by his simple motto about those he served: “Anything I can do for them, I want to do it.” We want to continue to build a sense of community and reconciliation by caring for the under-served in the greater Santa Barbara Community.

IV. Dr. Wilson and the new addition of “The Lighthouse” for “At Risk Families” (2014-Present)

The Foundation purchased their second apartment complex in Santa Barbara’s west side in 2014 – just a mile from “The Village of Santa Barbara”

Under their guidance of Dr. Wilson, the 45-unit former San Pascual Apartments is being transformed into “The Lighthouse,” an apt name representing what will be another beacon of hope for some in the community whose circumstances don’t often provide for the best accommodations or the diverse opportunities that many take for granted.

Dr. Wilson plans to gradually transform the complex starting with much-needed interior and exterior improvements to the living spaces, eventually leading to a new playground and an on-site community center. Free services will be offered to resident families and children including music and dance classes, professional counseling and after-school tutoring programs provided by students in the Kids Helping Kids program at San Marcos High School and Community Friends of the Turner Foundation.

Some residents may even benefit from lowered rents through Section 8 designation, and the community will open its doors to more families in the future as space becomes available.

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