More than 100 members and guests of The Cecilia Fund gathered at the Santa Barbara Club on January 26 for the 125th Annual Tea and Membership Meeting. Founded in 1892 as the St. Cecilia Club, The Cecilia Fund (TCF) is, and always has been, a secular organization. A small nonprofit with no paid staff and little overhead, TCF pays for critical medical and dental care for low-income residents of Santa Barbara County, with most grants going to residents of the south county.
After a reception, guests were seated at tables for tea, finger sandwiches and sweets. Co-president Susan Johnson welcomed the guests and introduced author and historian Erin Graffy who gave a fascinating talk about life in Santa Barbara at the time of the founding of the St. Cecilia Club. Dr. Domenic Caluori, Chief Dental Officer at Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC), gave an interesting presentation on health care and the critical role played by SBNC, a nonprofit health center with four medical clinics and two dental clinics. He stated that he was “in awe” of The Cecilia Fund, the organization SBNC turns to when it has no other options. Caluori thanked TCF’s longtime case investigator Nikki Rickard, calling her “superwoman” and noting how she spends hundreds of hours poring over treatment plans and “knows so much about dentistry she should get an honorary dental degree.”
Clients are referred to TCF through many area healthcare providers and agencies such as The Cancer Center, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, and Catholic Charities. The population served is the working poor, the unemployed, the disabled, and low-income seniors. Funds are raised through annual membership dues (membership is open to anyone), donations, bequests, and grants. TCF does its own review of financial need and allocates its limited funds accordingly, paying providers directly. According to Rikkard, TCF tries to treat as many people as possible with limited resources so sometimes it has to turn down requests because the amounts requested are too large. Rikkard is a skillful negotiator, who shared that “sometimes you just have to beg.” She typically obtains significant discounts, thereby immensely stretching TCF’s donors’ funds.
Much of TCF’s funding is for dental care, which is often required before other medical treatment can occur. Last year, TCF made grants totaling a bit more than $100,000. This year has started with a strong demand, with requests for funding in January totaling more than $47,000. For more information, go to ceciliafund.org.
Gail Arnold is a former boardmember and volunteer grant writer for The Cecilia Fund.
Send invites to Gail at email@example.com.