Since personal tips and gifts are not to be given at Casa Dorinda, a retirement community in Montecito, residents in the mid-1990s were searching for another way to thank the employees who work with them. They came up with a couple of ideas: One was a general fund that provides staff members with bonuses around the holidays, and the other was a scholarship fund, to provide staff members the opportunity to further their educations.

This year, there were 35 recipients, and the scholarship amount totaled $68,900.

“We are always very grateful for the people who work with us,” said Jeanne Vesey, a resident of Casa Dorinda and a member of the scholarship committee. She and other, like-minded residents ran the fund on their own for a few years, then formed a partnership with the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara (SFSB) in 1998.

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara got involved with the Casa Dorinda scholarship fund after the Montecito Retirement Association, which owns and operates the retirement village, told the residents about SFSB and what they do. Colette Hadley, SFSB’s executive director, became the primary liaison when the partnership was formed. They don’t charge Casa Dorinda an administrative fee. The relationship between the two organizations seems to be a strong and friendly one; Vesey was grateful for Hadley’s work with Casa Dorinda and Hadley was impressed with the residents and what they wanted to do for the staff members.

“They are extremely encouraging of Casa employees and children of employees who want to achieve a college degree, and they understand that it is very expensive to pay college costs,” Hadley said. “Thus, the residents contribute to the scholarship fund to make it possible for these employees to become better educated. In turn, the Casa Dorinda employees are thankful and appreciative of the residents, and place a great value on staying employed at Casa Dorinda.” There are typically around 40 applicants a year, Vesey said.

Three of this year’s recipients include the children of Robin Drew, associate director of finance at Casa Dorinda. Her son, Brian Scott, is a pre-med junior at University of California, Berkeley. Her daughter, Liane Scott, is a sophomore studying psychology and business at Arizona State University. And her stepson, Michael Drew, is a freshman at Santa Barbara City College. Drew said that with three kids in college, she was “very happy” to know some of the financial burden would be lifted. Her offspring help pay their own college expenses, she said; these scholarships are a huge relief for all of them.

Hadley said that Casa Dorinda’s scholarship committee sends out donation letters in the fall, and the committee members speak to employees about the fund. All employees and members of their families are welcome to apply. In December and January, the applications are turned in, interviews are scheduled and conducted, and decisions made about what the applicants receive. Recipients are notified about their awards in May and an award ceremony is in June.

The money that a recipient gets is sent directly to the school of their choice, from SFSB, and it is all given back to Casa Dorinda if the student decides not to enroll.


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