On October 27, about 200 supporters of Sarah House converged on the scenic Singleton Pavilion at Elings Park for its annual fundraiser, this year dubbed the Bayou Boogie. Sarah House operates, “with extraordinary kindness,” an 8-bed home off Modoc Road for low-income individuals on hospice. It partners with hospice providers for medical care, enabling residents to receive that care while in the comfort of a compassionate home setting.
At this unstructured, casual event, guests mingled, perused silent auction items, listened to upbeat music by Ulysses Jasz, and enjoyed at their leisure scrumptious Cajun food from the Big Easy Catering Company, including jambalaya, gumbo, and fried catfish, as well as wine, beer, and spirit offerings from area purveyors.
During the short program, Board President Mark Hamilton welcomed guests and talked about Sarah House’s motto of extraordinary kindness and how the individuals Sarah House serves are residents, not patients. He introduced House Manager Paloma Espino as the heart and soul of Sarah House, who embodies the organization’s motto. Espino shared how Sarah House is a home of community and thanked the many supporters who make that community possible. She explained how the wonderful staff members, who become friends of the residents, are present to serve 24 hours a day and view their service as a privilege and a joy.
Sarah House and the former Heath House began by serving those with HIV/AIDs, but when the mortality rate for this group dropped significantly due to new medications, Sarah House broadened its scope to low-income and homeless individuals with a life expectancy of less than six months. Now, those with HIV/AIDs make up a very small percentage of those served. Last year, Sarah House served 70 residents, most from south Santa Barbara County. There is always a waitlist.
It bills itself, quite fittingly, as a home, not an institution. Each of the eight residents has his or her own room, which staff thoughtfully decorates on move-in day with pictures and other mementos. The living room has comfy chairs and sofas and even a piano. Residents have the option of taking their home-cooked meals in their rooms or in the dining room around a large, communal table. The kitchen never closes. Staff from hospice organizations tend to the medical needs of residents on a daily basis.
Recently, Sarah House sadly had to say goodbye to its beloved cat, Buster, who had wandered into the home 14 years ago. Buster showered residents with unconditional love, allowing them to hold him during the day and cuddling with them at night. Sarah House has begun a search for an appropriate mature dog to comfort residents.
Since Sarah House is a non-medical facility, it does not qualify for government funding. It asks residents to contribute 80 percent of their income, but since residents are low-income, these contributions amount to a fraction of Sarah House’s costs. Fundraisers like this event are critical. Sarah House welcomes the public to visit by appointment. 805 563 9990.
For more info, go to sarahhousesb.org.
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By Gail Arnold