Immediate past board president Leigh Cashman, Executive Director Lindsey Leonard, and Event Host Leslie Cane Schneiderman | Credit: Gail Arnold

To raise funds for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, volunteer Leslie Cane Schneiderman hosted a fun Game Day at La Cumbre Country Club on June 24. She invited friends and friends of friends, and quickly sold out the 64 slots, which was the capacity of the Pacific Grill, where guests dined between morning and afternoon sessions of bridge and mahjong.

With Schneiderman underwriting all expenses, the seven-hour-long event raised $16,000, which will help fund the California Central Coast Chapter’s operations. The chapter provides free support groups and educational programs, small grants to caregivers, information, and referrals. Last year, the chapter served 2,800 individuals in the tri-county area. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 6.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s in 2021, and it is the sixth leading cause of death for adults.

This event was one of many DIY fundraisers organized throughout the year by volunteers across the country as part of the Longest Day initiative. Many of the events, such as this one, are concentrated around the actual longest day of the year. Volunteers raise awareness of Alzheimer’s on the day with the most light through an activity they enjoy.

During the luncheon program, Schneiderman emphasized the importance of exercising our brains, enriching our souls, and spreading the word about healthy habits in the fight against dementia. 

The chapter’s executive director, Lindsey Leonard, gave an overview of the national nonprofit’s work, which includes advocacy work at the federal and state level and research worldwide. Alzheimer’s Association is the largest funder of Alzheimer’s research after the U.S. and Chinese governments, with $235 million invested in 650 current research projects in 39 countries. Its national hotline, staffed by master level clinicians, fields at least 4,000 calls per week.

Immediate past board chair Leigh Cashman, a longtime volunteer and boardmember, discussed her advocacy work in Washington and Sacramento and encouraged guests to volunteer with advocacy and other types of work. Leonard listed a range of volunteer options, including in the office (when it reopens), with fundraising, and with facilitating support groups.

The chapter’s educational programming went virtual at the start of COVID, and plans are to slowly reintroduce live programming, but continue with the virtual as well. Support groups also went virtual, but there are now some live groups, more are planned, and virtual will remain too. According to Leonard, many caregivers now have become comfortable with the virtual alternative and prefer it because of the convenience factor, which can be considerable for those caring for Alzheimer’s patients.

Leonard related how COVID has been especially hard on Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers. The isolation and fear have caused or worsened the depression of many. Also, job losses by family members providing financial support to patients and caregivers has caused financial hardship.

The chapter offers Respite Care Grants to low-income family caregivers, which enable caregivers to take a break from their duties. Last year, grants of $600 or $900 were made to 30 individuals in the tri-county area. 

Last month, the chapter provided dementia training over a two-day period for Santa Barbara Police Department patrol officers to assist them in dealing with service calls from dementia patients. The program provided officers with a deeper understanding of the disease and best practices for specific situations. It also sought to identify collaborative opportunities to better serve patients and caregivers. A second training segment will be held later this year.

Because of COVID, the chapter’s Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative’s Annual Luncheon will not be held this year, but the Walks to End Alzheimer’s will be — October 2 in Santa Maria and November 6 in Santa Barbara.

The chapter, with a $2+ million operating budget, is headquartered in Santa Barbara and has offices in Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura. All donations to the CA Central Coast Chapter remain here, except for a 7 percent allocation to the national organization’s research efforts.

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Betsy Moller, Sharon Bradford, and Diane Sullivan | Credit: Gail Arnold
Caroline Thompson, Inken Gerlach, and Sarah Stokes | Credit: Gail Arnold

Director of Programs Kathryn Cherkas, Executive Assistant and Office Coordinator Nathan Bero, and Director of Development Sonya Branco | Credit: Gail Arnold
Guests enjoy lunch. | Credit: Gail Arnold


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