Changing Lives Together: Joyce Dudley to Keynote Women’s Fund Site Visit

Joyce Dudley, courtesy photo

Joyce Dudley, courtesy photo

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara will host a Site Visit Kick-Off on Thursday, October 29 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church (21 E. Constance Ave., Santa Barbara).  This annual event features progress reports from the seven local nonprofits that received Women’s Fund grants this past spring: Children’s Resource and Referral, Community Action Commission, Conflict Solutions Center, Mental Wellness Center, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Sarah House and Transition House.

In addition to representatives from the nonprofits, for the first time there will be a keynote speaker at the event—Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

 “Joyce knows that prevention and early intervention strategies are key to changing lives,” said Women’s Fund Chair Nancy Harter.  “For more than a decade, the Women’s Fund has researched and funded local programs with those same strategies.”

 While there is a $20 fee for Women’s Fund members to help defray costs, the event is open to guests free of charge. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m.

 For more information and to register, go to the Women’s Fund website at www.womensfundsb.org

 After the October 29 Kick-Off, Women’s Fund members and guests will have the opportunity to sign up for small-group visits to the seven 2015 grantees to see first-hand how Women’s Fund grants are changing lives.  The small-group visits will be available on a first-come basis between November and February.

Donating more than $5.1 million to the local community since 2004, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is an all-volunteer collective donor group that enables women to combine their charitable dollars into significant grants focused on the critical needs of women, children and families in south Santa Barbara County.  The Women’s Fund has grown from 68 members in 2004 to nearly 700 in 2015.

 —Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on October 27, 2015

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Grants $460,000 to Seven Local Nonprofits

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded grants to seven local nonprofits represented by, front row from left, Fran Forman of the Community Action Commission, Kristine Schwarz of New Beginnings Counseling Center and Kathleen Baushke of Transition House; back row from left, Debbie McQuade of Sarah House, Michelle Graham of the Children’s Resource & Referral, Lizzie Rodriguez of Conflict Solutions Center and Annmarie Cameron of the Mental Wellness Center. Courtesy Women's Fund of SB.

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded grants to seven local nonprofits represented by, front row from left, Fran Forman of the Community Action Commission, Kristine Schwarz of New Beginnings Counseling Center and Kathleen Baushke of Transition House; back row from left, Debbie McQuade of Sarah House, Michelle Graham of the Children’s Resource & Referral, Lizzie Rodriguez of Conflict Solutions Center and Annmarie Cameron of the Mental Wellness Center. Courtesy Women’s Fund of SB.

Seven local nonprofits received a total of $460,000 in grants from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon at the Montecito Country Club, bringing the organization’s total contributions to the community, since it began in 2004, to more than $5.1 million.

“The Women’s Fund is an all-volunteer organization based on a simple, creative model — women combining our charitable donations so we can make a larger impact in the community than most of us are able to do on our own,” Women’s Fund co-chair Sallie Coughlin said. “We give large grants, frequently for programs that wouldn’t be funded by others. We are flexible — funding startups, established proven programs and capital projects — and we look for ways to leverage our investments. Our grants allow agencies to dream big and achieve those dreams.”

Local nonprofit organizations receiving awards were Children’s Resource & Referral, the Community Action Commission, the Conflict Solutions Center, the Mental Wellness Center, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Sarah House and Transition House.

Accepting the first grant of the day was Michelle Graham, executive director of Children’s Resource & Referral. The agency received $80,000 to increase the number of child-care spaces in new, women-owned family child-care businesses.

“Tragically, there is a critical shortage of child care in our community,” Graham said. “Since 2008, Santa Barbara has lost 300 child-care spaces, primarily in family-based child-care homes. Children’s Resource & Referral has an exceptional program to recruit and train providers and increase the quality of family-based child-care programs. This grant will give us the opportunity to aggressively recruit new providers. We are confident that in one year we can regain two-thirds of the spaces lost over the last seven years, which means there will be 200 new, high-quality child-care spaces for local children.”

Fran Forman, executive director of the Community Action Commission, accepted a donation of $80,000 for the Healthy Seniors Lunch program, which will serve more than 600 low-income and disabled seniors in the coming year.

“This funding will prevent senior hunger and provide a safety net to those who need it most,” Forman said. “Each day, our chefs prepare meals that are served in senior centers and directly delivered to the homes of seniors who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. Most Healthy Senior Lunch clients live on less than $16,000 per year. Without these meals, seniors report that they would need to choose between eating, paying rent or buying medicine. In most cases, for our clients at home, our drivers are the only visitor for the day.”

Lizzie Rodriguez, executive director of the Conflict Solutions Center, accepted a grant of $60,000 to launch a restorative justice program as an alternative to juvenile incarceration.

“The traditional method of addressing juvenile crime is punishment, isolation and shaming,” Rodriguez said. “Most people who move through the experience do not find it healing or satisfying. Victims often feel revictimized and their need for justice is unmet. … This method has been repeatedly proven to be unsuccessful. However, a restorative approach to addressing the harm caused by juvenile crime is profoundly impactful. A restorative approach operates from a belief that the path to justice lies in problem solving and healing rather than punitive isolation. Through a restorative process, juvenile offenders understand the impact their behaviors have on themselves, their families and their community. Young offenders are able to take responsibility for their actions and begin to understand and value their relationship with others.”

Accepting a $60,000 grant to fund the establishment of peer-to-peer support groups for families dealing with early onset teen mental illness was Annmarie Cameron, CEO of the Mental Wellness Center.

“With this generous funding from the Women’s Fund, families of teens and young adults … will have early access to a safe and compassionate community, emotional support and information about available treatment,” she said. “They will find reason to have hope about their family’s future, despite a diagnosis of mental illness in their family.”

New Beginnings Counseling Center received $80,000 to assist individuals and families living in their vehicles.

“New Beginnings serves over 2,000 families and individuals in the county of Santa Barbara,” Executive Director Kristine Schwarz said. “We serve those most fragile in our community including the homeless, people with severe and persistent mental illness, domestic violence victims, the elderly, veterans and many more. The funds that we have been awarded today will allow our Safe Parking Program to continue providing overnight shelter for families and individuals who live in their cars. In addition, your contributions will go directly towards transitioning our clients back into permanent and sustainable housing.”

Executive Director Debbie McQuade accepted a $50,000 grant for Sarah House to deliver hospice care to low-income individuals suffering terminal illnesses. The grant funds the equivalent of one caregiver position for one year in the residential care facility.

The final grant of the day went to Transition House, for $50,000 to install air conditioning and sound proofing in the family homeless shelter.

“We know we ask a lot of the families in our program,” Executive Director Kathleen Baushke said. “Over the three or four months they are with us, parents are expected to find jobs, take anti-poverty classes, and work with their case managers on creating — and sticking to — monthly budgets and savings plans. Children are encouraged to keep up with their schoolwork and do their best to behave in an unfamiliar environment. By the end of their stay, successful residents have solid employment, money saved for a security deposit, and life skills that will allow them maintain their housing long-term. We work with the children in hopes that they experience minimal negative impacts due to experiencing homelessness.

“While it is up to the parents to do the hard work of returning to permanent housing, it is our job to provide the best environment to facilitate their success. Given that shelter residents are already experiencing significant stress due to being homeless, we want to create an environment that is as low-stress as possible by reducing excessive noise and heat. With the help of the Women’s Fund, Transition House will be better able to support families in attaining permanent housing.”

Women’s Fund co-chair Nancy Harter concluded the event, stating, “What a huge moment for all Women’s Fund members and grantees — and for our guests. We come together to celebrate our year-long efforts as a community of smart and informed givers. I applaud each and every one of you for investing in the shared vision that together we have much more strength and clout as philanthropists than we do on our own.”

Laurie Tumbler and Christine Riesenfeld were the research committee co-chairs for 2014-15, and Stina Hans chaired the event.

Click here for more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.

Originally published on Noozhawk on May 6, 2015.

A walk with Art Walk’s Founder Kerrie-Kilpatrick Weinberg

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, founder of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, found of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

“Through positive self-expression the doors of opportunity will open,” is the mission statement for the nonprofit Art Walk for Kids/Adults. It could also be the motto for the life of Art Walk’s founder, Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Art Walk has opened so many doors for me in Santa Barbara, friendships, the areas I work. It’s amazing how things flow into one another when you’re on that right path,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who trained as a set designer in England before developing Art Walk in Santa Barbara in 2000. The program–which is suitable for all but designed for at risk and special needs students–uses the creation of art projects to teach students other academic skills like math, problem solving, reading and understanding directions.

Working around the schedules of her two sons, Ben (now 15) and Sam (now 10), Kilpatrick-Weinberg–who was then a single mother and met her husband Henry Weinberg through Art Walk–began the program as an informal art camp in her backyard. From there she segued into working with the home schooling community, then Devereux’s developmentally disabled students.

She credits her brother Nigel, who was autistic, for inspiring her work. “The hyperactive, the kids with ADHD, the kids who some people call special needs, I just call creative,” she says. “I’ve always done art with any kid that has a learning difference. That seems to be my area, my gift. I don’t find it challenging, I find it really my normal comfort zone because of Nigel.”

With a full art program soon in place at Devereux, Kilpatrick-Weinberg set her sights on expanding to the Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential correctional/treatment facility for teens.

With the support of the County Arts Commission and the County Education Office, and some funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began her journey into what she calls “the golden triangle,” of Los Prietos Boys Camp, Juvenile Hall and El Puente School, which serves students who have been expelled or imprisoned and are transitioning back to school.

“I would develop this relationship with a kid in Juvenile Hall, then I would see them at Los Prietos for six months, then if things went well they went back to school and they went back to El Puente, so I would have another relationship with them,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Some of those kids I knew two years, from beginning to end. It was great to see how well they were doing because a lot of them had given up on themselves, and I’m not saying it was just Art Walk, but the whole process … was immensely life changing for them.”

That continuity of relationships is important. “A lot of the people we work with don’t like too much change,” she says. When Devereux announced closure of its residential program, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began Chagall House so that her autistic adult students could continue to create art. They meet every Wednesday night, have showings of their work around town, and get together for dinner regularly at the Weinberg house, where they catch up socially and discuss and critique their art. Henry, Ben and Sam all take part.

“These are my friends, they’re not just people I create with. They’ve become part of our family,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

Another important part of the Art Walk family is Brandon Sonntag, an artist and teacher who has been collaborating with Kilpatrick-Weinberg since 2001. “It’s just the two of us. There’s something very nice about having two people who get along, who know how to bring out the best in our clients,” she says.

In addition groups already mentioned Art Walk collaborates with a host of other organizations, including local elementary schools, Hillside House, Patricia Henley Foundation, United Nations, Summit for Danny, United Way, Red Cross, Cancer Hope Foundation, Camp Reach for the Stars, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Symphony, Lobero Theatre, and I Madonnari, among others.

One would think her volunteer plate was overflowing from Art Walk, but Kilpatrick-Weinberg still finds time to help at her sons’ schools, and serve on the board of Sarah House, where she and Henry have hosted an annual Oscar Party benefit for the past three years. For the second year, she is also chairing Sarah House’s annual holiday fundraiser–“Light Up the Night: The Artizan’s Ball”–on December 8 at the Santa Barbara Women’s Club.

But Art Walk has opened the door to so many other things for Kilpatrick-Weinberg–including Sarah House, where she first became involved by creating an Art Walk art tree that was auctioned for “Light Up the Night”– that it’s Art Walk that’s closest to her heart.

“Art Walk is a healing program in many ways, it isn’t just about at risk or special needs; it’s about anybody who wants to create. It’s art walk for kids and adults. What it probably should be is art walk for everyone because that’s what it is,” she says.

==

For more information about Art Walk for Kids/Adults visit http://www.artwalkforkids.org.

Originally published in Coastal Woman, 2007

With Open Arms: Sarah House

Sarah House (courtesy photo)

Sarah House (courtesy photo)

While the image of a residential care facility for people who are sick and dying doesn’t exactly conjure uplifting images, a visit to Sarah House is more inspiring than depressing.

“Sarah House is a place where you live your life until the last breath. It’s a celebration of your life,” says Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, board member of the nonprofit, which opened in 1994 as a home for people with AIDS, and has expanded its mission in recent years to focus on end-of-life care. “You have your family and the things that mean so much to you around. This is important and sometimes gets overlooked when you’re in a larger setting such as a hospital.”

According to executive director Randy Sunday, throughout the past year, 85 percent of Sarah House’s occupancy was for hospice care and only 15 percent for people with AIDS. While anyone designated as “low income” (making less than $27,000 per year) is eligible for care, about 40 percent of the people who live there were previously living on the streets, with no income at all. “These numbers have picked up because awareness has increased in the community,” he says. People often ask if there are conflicts with having formerly homeless people living alongside low-income people, but Sunday says “when you’re sitting in the living room in pajamas, it doesn’t arise; there’s a great quality about that.” He describes the atmosphere at Sarah House as, “not a luxury bed and breakfast, but there are always muffins or fresh granola. For the homeless, it might be the home that they never had. For everyone else, it’s just inspiring. The element of hospitality is something we always want to keep. The unit of care isn’t just the residents, it’s their families and friends as well.”

Working closely with the other end-of-life care agencies in town–such as Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara, Doctors Without Walls, Hospice of Santa Barbara, and Cottage Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit–who provide referrals, medical services and counseling, Sarah House offers a warm home for people to live out their days in a caring, extended family atmosphere. Named for the late Sarah Shoresman–her daughter, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes, remains active on the board of directors–Sarah House offers the highest level of medical care in an intimate, eight-bed setting, rather than a sterile hospital environment. “There’s such a need. It’s a special place, and we’re able to offer something to a group of people that may otherwise be forgotten,” says board president Jay Albert.

“We are committed to teaching people to see this as a natural journey, and this is a place to take that journey along with your friends and loved ones,” says board member Nancy Lynn. Part of that community education involves participating in special course on caring for those approaching death. “A lot of people come to the class, it’s not just caregivers but folks who think they might become caregivers at some point and people who have lost someone and want to understand more,” says Sunday.

Sarah House, which doesn’t receive funding from Medicare or Medi-Cal, raises about half a million dollars each year from private sources, individuals, foundations, and special events in order to provide all of its services at low or no cost to residents. The annual events–which include Light Up the Night, an annual holiday party where gorgeous holiday trees designed by local artists and celebrities are auctioned off; an Oscar Party, which celebrates the Academy Awards; and Second Seating Dinner Parties, where members of the community are invited to Sarah House to sit among the residents and learn about the program, among others–are designed not only to raise money but also to help educate people about the organization. “You have to have fun,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg. “And it’s not making light of the situation. Sarah House is not about dying, it’s about celebrating and living your life right to the very end.”

For Sarah House’s annual holiday fundraiser–“Light Up The Night: The Artizan’s Ball”–on December 8 at the Santa Barbara Women’s Club, dress as your favorite artist or work of art and enjoying live music and special cocktails such as Cosmo Van Gogh. The Oak Group artists will be creating paintings on the spot, to be auctioned off, and many other unique works of art will be available for purchase, along with the traditional holiday trees, designed by local artists and celebrities. Tickets: $100 suggested donation. For more information, call 882-1192 or visit sarahhousesb.org.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine on December 1, 2007.

Sarah House Lights Up The Night with “The Artizans’Ball”

Sarah House Artizans Ball 2010

Sarah House Artizans Ball 2010

Noted artists Hank Pitcher, Rick Schloss, Matti Berglund, Jane Sun, Brad Nack, Michael Drury, Tom Henderson, Kathleen Elsey, Anthony Ocone, Larry Iwerks and Barnaby Conrad are but a few of the more than 100 artists who have donated their work to assist Sarah House and AIDS Housing Santa Barbara at their annual holiday Light Up The Night benefit at the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club on Saturday, December 8, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Sarah House is the only “social model” home in the nation offering hospice care for low-income or homeless individuals who are in need of a place to die with appropriate care and dignity. Named for the late Sarah Shoresman, whose daughter, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes, remains active on the board of directors, Sarah House does not receive government funding, but relies instead on donations to keep the facility open for those in need.

This year’s fundraiser theme is “The Artizans’ Ball,” which centers on the silent auction of works of art and tabletop holiday trees and wreaths, as well as spectacular vacations in Tuscany, Hawaii, and Careyes, Mexico. This is a different twist for the 16th annual Light up the Night, which has traditionally auctioned off holiday trees designed by local artists and supporters.

“We feel like it’s always good to reinvent yourself,” says chair Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who is herself an artist and the founder of Artwalk for Kids. “We’ve done Light up the Night for several years and there’s other people doing trees now, so what this will be is a ball, music, lovely food and drinks, but more importantly art everywhere…It’s very much an auction centered around art energy in Santa Barbara, with the artistic community donating to Sarah House.

The only thing that will be silent will be the auction. The evening includes entertainment by Cats’ N’ Dogs with Lois Mahalia, Tom & Gabe Lackner; the national award-winning San Marcos Madrigals choir; the Living Muses, Buddy Winston, and a surprise or two. Food will be from New West caterers, with local wines from Buttonwood Farm Winery and Alma Rosa Winery and a special bar featuring original concoctions by the Wildcat Lounge, such as a Cosmo Van Gogh and Warhol-on-the-Rocks.

Costumes are optional but everyone is encouraged to come dressed as their favorite artist or in something inspired by a work of art. Tickets are $100 suggested donation. To purchase tickets call 882.1192 or visit www.Sarahhousesb.org

Originally published in Noozhawk

Lionesses of Winter

They Take Pride in Giving Back

It takes passion, money and a lot of hard work for Santa Barbara’s most treasured nonprofit organizations to thrive. This community tradition of giving back by supporting education, caring for those in need, and sharing a love for nature and the arts has an incredibly generous cast of leading ladies at its helm. Not content to simply be the torchbearers, they are also keeping an eye toward the next generation of the philanthropic community.

“I’m trying to spread the circle,” says Shirley Ann Hurley. “I’ve brought young women into my life who care passionately about these sorts of things that I do and they stimulate me and …I love the excitement that is getting to know all of these wonderful people.”

Let’s meet a few of the women who help keep the community alive and well.

The Leading Ladies

Betty Hatch

La Belle Foundation, Granada Theatre, Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., Hospice, CAMA, Cottage Hospital, Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the Arts Fund, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Art Association, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Ballet

“My life has been dedicated to the teaching of self-esteem,” says Hatch, founder of La Belle Modeling Agency (1963-1991), and now executive director of the La Belle Foundation, which offers young women free training in self-esteem, self-development and personal and social responsibility.”

“Giving to the community is just a pleasure; it’s a demonstration of our gratitude and our love for everybody here.”

Shirley Ann Hurley
Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, Family Service Agency, Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation, CALM, Anti-Defamation League, Santa Barbara Foundation

“The things I’ve wanted to spend my time on are the things that help children and young people become the best that they can be, which means to live up to their full potential … The organization that I have probably put the most years into and time is the Family Service Agency. The concept that we could intervene early in a child’s life and with that child’s family and help them raise a more secure child was what hooked me.”

“People keep saying what do you do for fun. I said everything. All of this is fun. And it is. It’s work, but it’s fun. There’s nothing I like better than working with a group of deeply caring people. It is so exciting. And the fact that you know that together you can make a difference in somebody’s lives and your community is just such a reward.”

Gerd Jordano
Cottage Hospital Building Campaign, Westmont College Foundation, CALM

“Board members are ambassadors for those organizations. They are sort of cheerleaders and are able to sort of talk and share what that organization is and what it’s all about. It’s really an opportunity to educate people about that organization and that gives me great joy to share my passion and my knowledge about that particular organization.”

“I’m a former cheerleader so I continue that same passion, only I’m just not jumping up and down anymore (laughs). But I do get very passionate about what I get involved with and it just brings me a lot of joy.”

Carol Palladini
Santa Barbara Women’s Fund

“The concept of the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund (which will have given away more than $1 million by the end of the year) is making your time and money most effectively used by a lot of women writing checks and putting them together and doing direct fundraising, so that you’re not spending a lot of money to make money… Our umbrella is giving in support of the greater Santa Barbara area; it has to be local, to benefit unmet needs for women, children and families.”

“A lot of the work that I’ve done in the past, on and off boards, has some Heartache mixed in with the joy of it. This has been a pleasure from the beginning.”

Joanne Rapp
Santa Barbara Foundation, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, CALM, Cottage Hospital, Botanic Gardens, Laguna Cottages, Montecito Community Foundation

“I have enjoyed working with organizations that are targeted at helping youth with their educational goals, in particular the Scholarship Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation student loan program. Everything that you work on and within the nonprofit community enhances the quality of life and the effectiveness of our community, but helping the students transfers anywhere. … It will strengthen the fabric of whatever community that they land in.”

The Next Generation

Tiffany Foster
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, Howard School, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Lotusland, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families

“When I arrived in Santa Barbara four years ago … it seemed that every fabulous, intelligent person I met was volunteering for either Storyteller or Lotusland. Before I knew it I was in the center of a vibrant group of caring women and men who dedicated their energy, financial resources, and business acumen to help make a difference in our local community.”

“Storyteller Children’s Center provides daycare and preschool to homeless toddlers in Santa Barbara as well as support services for their families. Young children deserve security, safety and a stable environment. … It is difficult to find a more worthy cause.”

Kisa Heyer
Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, Crane Country Day School, Storyteller, Lobero Theatre, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, CAMA

“Even after being involved with Lotusland for so long, I’m still amazed by it–not only with its collections, design, architecture, and programs–but also with the story behind the garden. Madame Ganna Walska’s wonderland is such a benefit to our community. It’s magical to see joy that children (all 4th graders visit) and adults express after visiting the garden, and no surprise, really, that we are becoming world-renowned as a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Jill Levinson
Lotusland, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of SB, Storyteller, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Lobero Theatre, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families.

“I think everyone has a need for hospice care for themselves or their loved ones at some point in their life. I just feel like it’s very important to support these organizations because they’re necessary. If they disappeared that would be a travesty for our community. Our community is so fortunate to have so much to offer everyone. I think that’s part of what’s really special about Santa Barbara, it tries to take care of people.”

Laura Shelburne
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Stanford University, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ I spent a number of years practicing corporate law, working around the clock during the Silicon Valley boom, and I always regretted that I didn’t have enough time to do worthwhile pro bono work. While I was one of those oxymoronic happy lawyers, I have to say that now it is wonderful to be able to choose my own “clients” based on causes I believe in and use my skills and experience to help non-profits. I also feel strongly that I should set an example for my children by doing things for others and for institutions that will outlast us and continue to benefit future generations.

Lisa Wolf
Santa Barbara Ballet, CAMA, Storyteller, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Zoo, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, French Heritage Society, Laguna Blanca

“We started a group at the art museum because we had a feeling that the art museum was reaching out really effectively to kids in town, elementary school students and underprivileged kids and it was also a great resource for very very serious art collectors, but there was nothing in the middle. … So we created this group called SMART families (and it’s Santa Barbara Museum of Art, not that we think we’re especially bright) but a really wonderful group.”

“When you know that you’ve helped make it possible for somebody to attend a program or for somebody to be exposed to opera or some great cultural moment, or to just alleviate human suffering, it’s a great privilege to be able to do it.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine, 2007

Home for the dying provides living inspiration

Sarah House (courtesy photo)

Sarah House (courtesy photo)

Sarah House opens its doors even wider for those in need

A residential care facility for people who are sick and dying doesn’t exactly conjure up uplifting images. But a visit to Sarah House — which has provided a home, medical care and often end-of-life care for more than 250 individuals living with AIDS — is more inspiring than depressing.

Nancy Lynn recounted what a wonderful time she and her son, and later her granddaughter, had volunteering in the Sarah House kitchen.

“It was a great experience,” said Lynn, who has since become a Sarah House board member. “It’s such a loving, homelike atmosphere, with an opportunity for families to be supportive.”

“Most people come in, and as they are walking out they say this is not at all what I expected,” said executive director Randy Sunday, who successfully navigated through the Legislature recently to expand Sarah House’s services to provide holistic hospice care for the dying poor who are not HIV-positive.

Aiming to be “the next best thing to home,” the inspiration for the facility was to provide a loving, caring place for people in the final days of their lives.

It’s heartbreaking work, but it’s also beautiful work and important work, said house manager Debbie McQuade, who has worked with AIDS Housing Santa Barbara since it began in 1991, with Heath House. Sarah House opened on the Westside in 1994 and it has eight residential care beds and three two-bedroom apartments on the site. AIDS Housing Santa Barbara also serves approximately 25 other individuals who live in independent apartments.

The good news is that fewer people are dying of AIDS, and more are able to move into off-site or “scattered site” housing. The bad news is that facilities like Sarah House are closing in other places, leaving needy people with nowhere to go.

The Santa Barbara community put so much into the creation of Sarah House — named for the late Sarah Shoresman, whose daughter, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes, remains active on the board of directors — that they were determined to find a way to keep it open.

“In order to honor our contract with the public, (we thought) why don’t we try to care for people who are dying and non-HIV,” Sunday said.

The team worked with former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to shepherd legislation that would ultimately allow Sarah House to become what Sunday termed the “first social (as opposed to medical) model hospice,” meaning it can be staffed by personnel other than registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses.

The social model allows for more staffing flexibility (for example, nurses aren’t allowed to help cook or clean) and significant cost savings.

Sunday said it costs Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital more than $4,000 a day to care for patients, while it costs Sarah House $250 a day to care for its residents.

The other difference with a social model, which is difficult to quantify, is the “next best thing to being at home” atmosphere.

“You go into a hospital, the first smell that might hit you is something slightly antiseptic. You come in here it’s going to be chicken soup or chile rellenos,” Sunday said. “And as we’re learning or seeing, hospice care is not just care for the dying resident, it’s caring for the loved ones, friends and family around them.”

“I’m so grateful we were able to get mom into such a nice place,” said Jeanette Aroldi-Schall, whose mother, Anne Arnoldi, was cared for at Sarah House before she died last month.

“Really we’re providing a great service, I feel,” said Lynn, adding that the board is working hard to get the message out that Sarah House has now opened its doors wider, to serve all needy members of the community, and that it is also seeking support in the form of monetary donations and volunteers.

For more information visit www.sarahhousesb.org, call 882.1192 or e-mail office@aidshousingsb.org.st.com.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon