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Sharp Health News

A legacy from lemons

Aug. 13, 2018

A legacy from lemons

The Helm family helped make Chula Vista “the lemon capitol of the world.” Photo courtesy of the Helm family.

In 2019, Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center will celebrate more than 70 years of compassionate care for San Diego's binational region. The new hospital will continue providing the South Bay community the best that health care has to offer for decades to come.

Sharp Chula Vista's service and growth along with the region would not be possible without the longtime partnership of local residents who share the hospital's deep connection to this community. Two residents who played an important role in the development of Sharp Chula Vista were Jack and Dotty Helm.

The Helm family's roots in Chula Vista date back well over a century, beginning with an investment in a single lemon orchard that quickly multiplied to 40 acres and — along with revenue from farms throughout the city — helped sustain the community during the Great Depression. Jack Helm and his wife, Dotty, took over the family business in the late 1940s and began giving back soon thereafter.

Dotty was especially active in the community and giving of her time and leadership. She devotedly supported Girl Scouts and the Salvation Army, and even developed a curriculum for children with orthopedic challenges, adopted by the Chula Vista School District.

At Sharp Chula Vista, Dotty made a difference in countless projects and patients' lives as a board member and volunteer. She served as president of the hospital's board and was a member of the Sharp HealthCare Foundation board of directors, as well as on community advisory committees for the expansion of the ICU and emergency department.

A legacy from lemons - Jack and Dotty Helm with Dr. Watrous
Jack and Dotty Helm with Dr. Ansel Watrous. Photo courtesy of the Sharp HealthCare Foundation.

Her commitment to the Sharp Chula Vista Auxiliary was remarkable. A charter member and volunteer for more than 45 years, Dotty contributed over 2,600 volunteer hours, many at Birch Patrick Convalescent Center. In 2013, the Auxiliary established an endowment through a gift to the hospital in honor of Dotty's service. Named the Dotty Helm Endowment for the Advancement of Health Care, the fund supports programs, projects and equipment that continue the advancement of health care at Sharp Chula Vista.

Jack and Dotty were also extraordinarily generous in their personal support of Sharp Chula Vista's growth and transformation. Their 22 years of charitable giving — including arranging for property to be donated to the hospital upon their passing through a planned gift — totaled nearly $2.2 million, making them the largest individual benefactors to Sharp Chula Vista. The enhancements to care that their philanthropy has enabled include robotic surgery technology, nursing education, Sharp's South Bay hospice home, and even the next-generation hospital under construction today.

Jack passed away in 2015 and Dotty in 2014, but their mark will be felt on the Sharp Chula Vista campus and throughout the South Bay community forever. It was astounding even to them that a single lemon orchard would grow fruitful enough to impact care for an entire region.

Jack and Dotty Helm supported not-for-profit Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center through cash, stock and planned gifts. To learn more about ways to give to the Sharp entity that means the most to you, visit To learn more about the new hospital tower at Sharp Chula Vista and its philanthropic campaign, visit

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