Bowlfuls on the Way

Health-conscious eating meets socially conscious business at Balfour’s Kitchen (balfourskitchen.com), a new plant-based-meal delivery service launching in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties later this year. Taking its name from organic food pioneer Lady Eve Balfour (1898–1990), the new venture will offer a selection of meals in a bowl—such as Cauliflower Shakshuka, Green Pea & Asparagus Soup, and French Ratatouille With Quinoa—which will arrive ready to heat and eat. They’re designed to be mixed and matched to provide what founder Danny Burgner says aims to be,

“the perfect balance of PFF—protein, fat, and fiber—and of course carbs.”
The company kicked off the test- marketing phase of its charitable model late in 2020 and early this year by donating more than 1,000 meals to Sarah House, a Santa Barbara nonprofit that provides residential housing for low- income individuals receiving hospice care, and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, which provides meals, shelter, and recovery programs to homeless and addicted individuals. And when Balfour’s Kitchen opens its doors: “For every bowl purchased,” says Burgner, “we’ll give one to a person in need or make the equivalent donation to a food-centered nonprofit.”

Originally published in the September 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Cover photo by Gary Moss. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

Active Aging in 2021: How to Live Well into Your Later Years

Santa Barbara is a great place to live no matter your age, but it takes many people a number of years — and perhaps a successful career or two — to start calling our shoreline home. That means there are plenty of people living their best later lives here, which is why we started our Active Aging Guide in 2018 to help navigate the endless options for staying healthy, striving for wellness, and living even longer.

This is the fourth annual edition of this promotional section, in which sponsors suggested trends, techniques, and talented experts from their organizations to our editorial team. Then Leslie Dinaberg took those nascent ideas, put on her reporter’s cap, and turned
them into engaging articles that cover a wide range of topics, from bone, brain, and sexual health to volunteering, nutrition, and even drum circles.

Read on, and age well.

The (Drum Circle) Beat Goes On at Vista Del Monte

Westmont Living’s Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

Step Up to Help Seniors at the Family Service Agency

Borrowing Medical Basics from VNA’s Health Loan Closet

Connect, Discuss, and Explore at Vistas Lifelong Learning

Stimulating Senses to Stimulate Wellness at Villa Alamar and Alexander Gardens

OsteoStrong Builds the Bones of Skeletal Health

Turner Medical Arts Offers Treatments for Inside and Out

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Step Up to Help Seniors at the Family Service Agency

Providing a voice to the vulnerable is the role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman representative, a volunteer program of the Family Service Agency (fsacares.org).
Through regular visits to Santa Barbara County’s 14 skilled nursing facilities and 119 assisted-living facilities for the elderly, Ombudsman representatives get to know the residents and advocate to improve their quality of life.

The program covers the entire county, from Carpinteria to Santa Maria, with more than 5,000 people under its watch. “We are the extra pair of eyes and ears who help them and advocate for them,” said Marco Quintanar, who started working in elder care as a kitchen worker in a long-term care facility 30 years ago. Today, he is a leader in senior care and advocacy as the supervisor for the Ombudsman program, visiting facilities himself as well as providing training and support to volunteers.

Retired aerospace engineer Mike Leu would be considered a “super volunteer” by any measure. “I was looking for a way to stay active and reapply my skills to something that was new and useful,” said Leu, who stumbled on a newspaper article about the program
(run by a different agency at the time) about 10 years ago and thought it looked interesting. He reached out, was trained, and jumped right in, enjoying the work so much that he now covers 23 different facilities and puts in about 70-80 hours a month in volunteer time.

But both Ombudsman superstars caution that prospective volunteers should not be intimidated by Leu’s level of work. Volunteers can commit a little time, or a lot, depending on their interest and availability. “Part of the beauty of the Ombudsman program is you can scale it up or you can scale it down pretty much as far as you want,” said Leu. “If you only want to put in a few hours a week at three or four small facilities, you can. And then, if you’re like me and you’re out of control, you put in a lot!”

Today, there are just seven volunteers covering the entire county, so Quintanar hopes to double that number at his next Ombudsman volunteer training this fall. “You have to be wanting to help other people,” said Leu of what they’re looking for in volunteers, which
also includes being self-motivated, comfortable in communicating with people, and then ready to solve problems in complex situations. “The reward in this thing is you’re demonstrably improving somebody’s quality of life.”

In his 30 years, Quintanar has seen a wide range of residents and issues. “Nowadays,
because of the advances in technology and everything, people are living longer,” he said, which means caregivers have to deal not just with aging but with advanced mental illnesses, like someone living for 20 years with Alzheimer’s. “That makes things harder because … they have some behavioral challenges. It is hard on the families, and it is hard on the resident and hard on everybody who is around them. It’s not their fault, but they need care. So that’s why we are there.”

Both men agree that this work is very rewarding. “If you make a difference in the life of someone, even just listening to that person, that makes you feel very good,” said Quintanar. “And you don’t need anybody to say thank you.”

To learn more about becoming a Certified Ombudsman volunteer, or other ways to support Family Service Agency’s programs for seniors, call Marco Quintanar at (805) 922-1236 or visit volunteer4seniors.org.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

The (Drum Circle) Beat Goes On at Vista Del Monte

People of all ages benefit from music therapy, with especially positive changes for people with autism; visual, motor, emotional, hearing, or cognitive disabilities; or high stress levels. With these benefits in mind, the residents and staff at Summer House —which is the memory-care unit at Vista del Monte retirement care community (vistadelmonte.org)
— regularly participate in drum circles.

“The sound waves and the sound of the drums and the feel of the drums are very
powerful for those who have cognitive issues,” said Helene Hellstern, the life
enrichment director for Vista del Monte, where residents gather in a common area called The Alcove every Tuesday and Thursday. “When we tell people we are doing a drum circle, they are very willing to come to that activity, and we typically have at least a dozen
people if not more.”

First are exercises to warm up their hands and get energized. Then Hellstern uses a 70-inch computer screen to broadcast images of nature or from a particular country or culture that’s especially stimulating. “Then we start the drumming,” she said, explaining that groups are typically led by Karen Rojas. “We’ll just do different rhythms, and we’ll have the residents repeat those. And we always incorporate having the residents do their own little rhythm, and so it’s just one person doing their rhythm, and we all repeat it.”

The music, the exposure to community, and the physical activity are all beneficial. “A lot of our residents have mobility issues or are non-ambulatory, so we tend to just use hand movements — although if people want to tap their feet, that’s definitely encouraged,” said Hellstern. “The movement of the arms or the drumming itself is a really good movement. It energizes the whole body and the sound waves, because the drum is on their body—they really feel it as well as hear it.”

And there’s science as to how this helps people with memory issues. “They have
determined that music in particular sets off most areas of the brain,” she said. “And not just drumming, but other music often triggers their long-term memory.”

The drums have become a therapy tool beyond the circles as well. “Sometimes, we will just get the drums out if whatever we have planned isn’t quite working — everyone responds really well to that,” she said. “A truly holistic healing approach, group drumming breaks down social barriers, promotes freedom of expression, nonverbal communication,
unity, and cooperation.”

See vistadelmonte.org.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Borrowing Medical Basics from VNA’s Health Loan Closet

The concept of helping patients get the services, assistance, and equipment they need during an illness or injury is so simple. But as anyone who’s ever navigated our health-care system can tell you, the reality can be incredibly complex and frustrating.

The Loan Closet — owned and operated by VNA Health (vna.health) and serving Santa Barbara County since 1908 — is the exact opposite of most health-care hassles. Staffed
by David Moorman and Megan Cameron, with support from VNA’s COO Dusty Keegan and administrative assistant Susi Torres-Cruz, this warm and welcoming crew serves more than 4,000 residents each year with free short-term loans of basic medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, knee scooters, walkers, shower seats, and more.

While appointments are preferred, Moorman explained, “We welcome walk-ins. You never
know when trauma is going to occur. We never turn anyone away. If someone shows up with a broken ankle, we try to help them. We take care of everyone. The benefit of an appointment is that we can make sure we have the equipment that they’re looking for
and have it ready for them.”

Getting things ready includes sanitizing and repairing an impressive array of equipment to make sure it’s all in tip-top shape to be ready to loan out. “We really try to make sure that when people get equipment that it’s up to snuff,” said Moorman, who does most of the
repairs himself. “They’re not just feeling like they’re coming down here and getting something for free and it’s junky. We actually take time and put a lot of money into our supplies to make sure that the things are refurbished.”

Fitting the equipment and training people on how to use it — including sending them home with written instructions — is also an important part of the service, which is
completely supported through private donations and contributions.

In fact, people don’t always know exactly what they need until they come in, like understanding the difference between wheelchairs and transport chairs. “You can
be pushed in either, but wheelchairs are for people that are strong enough to be independently mobile and are much heavier to move in and out of cars,” said Cameron. “It’s 20 pounds versus 50 pounds.”

That means asking the right questions. “There’s not one cookie-cutter answer for everyone, so we try to nail that down and get to the bottom of it,” said Moorman. Added
Cameron, “Often we have them try out what’s going to work at home, and they can see all the different shower chairs and benches and work with the walker and be able to figure out what really works before they purchase it later on.”

As a free community service, the Loan Closet is open for anyone. “We get Hope Ranch; we get Montecito; we get the Eastside; we get the Westside; we get the entire community,” said Moorman. “We try to take care of everyone to the best of our ability.”
See vna.health.

Fun Facts about the Loan Closet

Most commonly borrowed items: commodes, shower seats, and walkers

Most surprisingly useful items: grabbers, sock aids, and leg lifters

Hardest to come by and often requested item: “Bed rails are gold.”

Unusual items: Hoyer Lifts, which help those with mobility challenges get out of bed or the bath without the assistance of another person; and U-Step walking stabilizers, which are designed to prevent falls for neurological conditions like Parkinson’s

Surprising item that’s always needed: tennis balls, to put on the bottoms of walkers.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Connect, Discuss, and Explore at Vistas Lifelong Learning

Learning new things and maintaining a vibrant social life are two of the key pillars that experts say will keep our brains sharp and healthy. This is exactly what the nonprofit Vistas Lifelong Learning (vistaslifelonglearning.org) offers to the community.

This volunteer-run organization, which started in 1999, is dedicated to keeping aging brains nimble with ongoing educational programs on a wide variety of topics. Recent
courses included Foods That Changed the World (exploring foods that have changed the world in profound and delicious social, political, and economic ways); Unpacking
the Dementia Epidemic (current thinking about the causes of dementias, dementia management, and how to stay on top of new developments); and Politics and
Religion in Verdi’s Operas (with audio and video extracts from modern performances of the operas).

The depth and variety of the programming is impressive, but the social component of Vistas is equally important to its success. “I think of all the connections that people find through Vistas,” said President Jim Hemmer. “There are two book clubs; there’s a short story class; there are memoir writing classes. And in our in-person programs — which moved to Zoom during the pandemic and will resume in the fall — there’s always a 20-minute coffee break in the middle so people can socialize and see old friends and meet other similarly situated people.”

For Hemmer, who retired from a career as an attorney in Chicago and moved to Santa Barbara with his wife, Francine, in January 2017, becoming part of Vistas has been a great way to engage his brain and find a community. Though it’s not a requirement, many of the Vistas presenters are members as well.

A longtime history buff, Hemmer found his way to the organization through a presentation on the Silk Road that he made to a luncheon group called The Cosmopolitan Club (sbcosmo.com). A Vistas member suggested he present to that group, and the response was so positive that Hemmer ended up teaching three different courses on the journey of the historical Silk Roads through China’s current efforts to reinvigorate them today.

“Vistas really attempts to satisfy this desire to learn things, and being a presenter is a wonderful way of doing that,” said Hemmer. “Taking other people’s classes is also great. I find that because I’m busy preparing presentations, I don’t have time to take all the classes I’d like to. I’ve been very busy during the pandemic, and it’s just great.”

Vistas is a small group, explained Hemmer, fluctuating between 300 and 400 members, and is not affiliated with any college or other institution. Programs are open to the public for a small fee, and the fees are less for members. (Annual membership fees are $40 per person for email-only communications and $50 for snail mail, with individual classes averaging $9 per session for members and $14 for nonmembers.)

“It’s a really varied and interesting group of people,” Hemmer says. The mostly retired members come from very diverse careers, ranging from former judges, teachers, and
docents to social workers, librarians, and secretaries, just to name a few.

Upcoming programs in the fall include a reprise of the Silk Road series; the short history of cryptography; the writer James Baldwin; climate change and the impact on the Great American Waterways; criminal procedure; economic issues; and the social safety net in the U.S., with additional courses and details still being finalized.

“We have a very, very wide palette. There’s somebody for everybody,” said Hemmer. “It’s a wide variety of programs on science, history, current events, music and fine arts, and so on.” Research suggests that humans learn better in social environments. “The brain is triggered more through discussion and questions than from solitary activities such as
independent reading,” said Hemmer.

“So it turns out that Vistas’ cooperative spirit that we’re all in it together and we get our ideas from other members is particularly beneficial in the case of seniors.”

See vistaslifelonglearning.org.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

GET IMMERSED IN A BOOK

Book face photos by Erik Mendez, Santa Barbara Public Library.

Bringing book covers to life scores volumes on social media via #BookfaceFridays on the
Santa Barbara Public Library Instagram account (@sbplibrary). A popular meme in the
book-loving community for quite some time, Bookface photos—images in which a person
is strategically lined up with a book cover so that life and art appear to meld—are a great
way to showcase literature from the library’s collections, according to library marketing
specialist Erick Mendez.

“We get a lot of positive feedback and a lot of reposts,” says Mendez. “It’s great to see the
community of books and libraries sharing and getting inspiration from one another. It’s
never about competing to see who can do the best one, it’s always about showcasing books we love and finding a way to promote literature through covers.”

Originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Cover photo by Gary Moss. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

New Nature to Nurture

New Nature to Nurture, originally published in 805 Living Magazine, May 2021. Photo by @VisitVentura.

Getting back to nature in the 805 area recently got even easier with the establishment of Harmon Canyon (venturalandtrust.org), a new 2,100-plus-acre preserve owned by the
Ventura Land Trust.

“Harmon Canyon offers beautiful scenery, spectacular views, and a trail system for both hiking and biking found nowhere else,” says Ventura Land Trust executive director Derek Poultney. “And it’s available to the public for free in Ventura.”

State grants combined with a generous donation from the previous landowners funded the purchase of the Walker-Hearne Ranch for the preserve, which features hills and canyons, oak groves, streams, and vistas of the coastline and Channel Islands National Park.

“Community contributions allow the Ventura Land Trust to manage and provide public access to the property, restore wildlife habitat, and support our popular environmental education programs: Ventura Wild and Once Upon a Watershed,” says Poultney.

Dogs on leashes are also welcome.

805 Living Cover, May 2021, photo by Gary Moss.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

UCSB Arts & Lectures Patron Spotlight: Audrey & Timothy O. Fisher

Event sponsors and A&L Council member Tim & Audrey Fisher with Joe Biden. Photo: UCSB Arts & Lectures.

For a town of its size, the cultural life of Santa Barbara is impressively full, say patrons Tim and Audrey Fisher. The couple have been involved with UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) since they bought a home in Montecito in 2000, and attended their first performance at Campbell Hall shortly afterward.

Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta Billeci and her team introduced themselves at intermission and the rest, as they say, is history. “We’ve been great friends ever since – we just love them,” says Audrey, a fashion designer and the retired president of a custom couture clothing business.

Tim was part of the creation of the Arts & Lectures Council in 2013. “We raised 25 million over three years and that really financially created a much better environment for A&L,” said the longtime businessman and philanthropist, who recently retired after more than 45 years of leadership in The Hillman Company. As a Council member, Tim guided the establishment of A&L’s legacy giving program and advocated enthusiastically for planned giving.

Audrey is a big fan of A&L’s expansive dance programs, as well as “the variety and the fact that they bring in just about every student, all ages. I like the educational aspect of it and exposing these kids to absolutely world-renowned performers and having it be a part of their everyday lives. … The cultural life is so enriched here.”

As for Tim’s favorite A&L memories, he says, “There have been so many over the years, but I would say most recently Joe Biden was really outstanding. He was very generous with his time and he did a Q&A and interacted with the students. I think it was really special.”

The Fishers recently made a generous donation to the endowment fund, which is important for arts funding, as Tim explains. “The reason nonprofits are called nonprofits is they don’t make money. What an endowment does is it creates a strong capital base. For instance, during this shutdown period A&L would really be struggling financially without the resources of the endowment. Endowments provide financial stability and they are also important because you don’t want the executive directors of nonprofits spending all their time raising money.”

Adds Audrey, “One reason that my foundation decided to support the endowment is because it’s the least appealing gift option for many contributors. It’s the hardest money to raise because people traditionally want to see what they are paying for. While we enjoy sponsoring performances, which we do every year, I think the endowments are kind of a lonely lost child in the family (laughs) and they really need support. I think when people become educated about their merits they do support endowments because there is a security factor.”

Supporting A&L is a family affair for the Fishers. As chair and a trustee of the Audrey Hillman Fisher Foundation, Audrey has given generously to A&L. Their son Matthew has sponsored musical performances and Tim and Audrey have supported a variety of events over the years, ranging from Joe Biden to the Vienna Philharmonic.

The Fisher family also sponsored the Forces of Nature environmental series in 2019-2020, in memory of their son Brooks, who was very good friends with filmmaker and environmentalist James Balog. “They used to go on these incredible exploits together,” says Audrey. Tim adds, “He was a friend of our son, who was an ardent conservationist. I think that for A&L cleaning up the environment is such a strong theme as it is in this country and globally. It’s a very worthy cause to support.”

The Fishers split their time between Santa Barbara and their hometown of Pittsburgh, and the cultural offerings of A&L make it easier for them to go from a bigger place to a smaller place. “In the early ’70s Jack Heinz created the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust which is a really big arts organization. Their budget is over 50 million and they have five theaters and they own a lot of downtown real estate. It’s a big operation, but I would say that we probably attend more events per year in Santa Barbara,” says Tim. “The cultural life here is every bit as full, in large part thanks to A&L.”

This story was originally published by UCSB Arts & Lectures. To see it as it originally appeared, please click here.

The Bridge to Somewhere

Admiring Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library's Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

Pivoting, but still paving the way to knowledge, despite budget cuts and so many services shut down during the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Education Programs have found creative ways to provide service during the past year. I recently joined the City Library Advisory Board and was impressed with all of the free programs they still offer, despite their physical doors being closed to the public.

Headed by Devon Cahill, an adult education librarian and former volunteer tutor, the Adult Literacy Program trains volunteers to work one-to-one with learners to help them achieve language literacy and other adult education goals. Prior to the pandemic, the tutor-learner pairs would meet up at the library to work on their language skills together. Since last spring, they’ve switched to 100 percent remote and have about 50 tutor-learner pairs
working together.

Though it’s challenging, Cahill said that pandemic learning has been a success. Grants provided funding for Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots for those that needed them. “Our success rate normally is over 90 percent with learners reaching the literacy goals that they have set,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’re working with fewer learners and tutors, but our success rate has gone almost up to 100 percent—it was at 98 percent last quarter.”

Rachel Altman, a retired grant writer, has been a tutor for the past four years, working the entire time with Cecilia, a native Spanish speaker. Part of Cecilia’s motivation is that she works as a housecleaner and her employers want to be able to leave her written instructions. In addition, she is in her fifties and would like to be able to find less physically demanding work eventually, explained Altman, who was partially motivated to volunteer because her own parents were immigrants who learned English as a second language.

The two women meet for about an hour twice a week (one hour a week is the minimum requirement). They are currently meeting by phone, which is a bit more challenging than in person or on Zoom, but Cecilia is not computer savvy. Rather than read side-by-side, Altman mails materials to Cecilia from the variety of resources the library offers. “She’s very interested in history and current events,” Altman said.

While being apart isn’t ideal, there are some upsides. “I think the biggest advantage to the phone is we talk more … and she needs to practice more conversational English,” said Altman. “It seems like the phone allows for that a little more, rather than just going right to the book.”

Improving her conversational English was also one of the reasons Sebnem Vural joined the program about a year ago. “I have always struggled with my English pronunciation in the past, so I decided that it would be a good idea to obtain an environment where I could hear the language more often,” said the native Turkish speaker. “I’ve had tons of people supporting me and encouraging me all throughout my journey. I can’t explain how helpful
this program was.”

The tutors go through eight hours of initial training, with an emphasis on a learner-centered peer tutor approach, patience, cultural competency, and empathy. The nuts and bolts of how to help a learner achieve their goals depend on the person and what they want from the program. Learners’ goals run the gamut, Cahill explained, from being able to read a story to their children or help with homework to passing a citizenship test or getting a GED or driver’s license to shopping at a retail store, improving digital literacy, or being able to read and write in graduate school in a second language.

Being able to read to kids or talk to their teachers is a common goal, said Cahill. Malena Mackinlay, whose first language is Spanish, joined the program about four months ago. “I’ve always found motivation in wanting to be able to communicate in English, but my one-year-old granddaughter inspired me to continue learning,” she said. “My experience has been amazing. I got the best tutor, and I’m finally able to enjoy each of my lessons.”

Working remotely has been a plus in some cases, Cahill said. He’s been able to record his Zoom tutor trainings, so if someone isn’t able to attend, they can make it up later. In addition, “Sometimes that one hour a week that the tutor and learner meet is the only hour
that that learner has to work on their English because they’re so busy working multiple jobs or caring for kids,” he said. “This really frees up all that extra time it would take for the tutor or the learner to get back and forth to the library.”

He anticipates they will continue to offer a hybrid option for training and tutoring sessions when the pandemic is over.

Library technicians also run weekly English and Spanish conversation groups, which are open to all learners, with no registration required.

To learn more, call (805) 564-5619 (English) or (805) 962-7653 #3 (Spanish), email literacy@santabarbaraca.gov, or visit santabarbaraca.gov.

Santa Barbara Independent Cover, March 18, 2021Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.