On August 21, about 120 guests gathered at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club (SBYC) for a cocktail reception to thank supporters of the upcoming Charity Regatta benefiting Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC). Guests included SBYC members who are loaning their boats for the day, event sponsors, celebrity skippers, and VNHC staff. Last year, the regatta netted about $130,000.
Founded in 1908, VNHC provides comprehensive home health and personal care services. It offers hospice services both in home and at Serenity House, serving about 12,000 people annually. Thanks to VNHC’s foundation and fundraising efforts such as the Charity Regatta, VNHC never has to turn away a patient for an inability to pay. Last year, VNHC provided more than $2.4 million in subsidized care and community service.
In an interview, Commodore John Koontz shared how 14 years ago, SBYC members started the annual fundraiser as a way of bringing the community closer and giving back to the community. They chose VNHC as the beneficiary the first year and have kept it every year because of the vast need in the community for VNHC’s services. Koontz emphasized how its services benefit not just the patient, but the entire family and other caregivers. Many club members have benefited, making them passionate supporters.
After an extended cocktail hour on the picturesque deck and inside the clubhouse, Koontz welcomed the crowd. Koontz’s wife, Teresa Koontz, a program coordinator for the Carpinteria Unified School District, explained that the event will honor teachers for rising to the many challenges they confronted in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow. The 101 closure caused some teachers to endure a five-hour commute and find temporary housing during the week, while others boarded buses in Ventura every morning at 6, returning to the lot at 7 pm. Some teachers had to seek temporary shelter because they lived in the evacuation zones.
They surmounted the logistical challenges so they could provide not just instruction, but also critical, multifaceted support for students who had lost family, friends, and/or their home, a challenge for which Koontz noted no teacher manual could prepare them. She also praised the community, including VNHC, for uniting and assisting teachers with valuable resources. In the regatta, teachers chosen by school superintendents will serve as celebrity skippers.
SBYC and Event Committee member Judy Rawles shared how valuable VNHC’s hospice facility, Serenity House, was for her and her late husband. Having the trained staff at Serenity House care for her husband freed her from caregiver duties, allowing her to return to her role as soulmate, which gave the couple many precious moments in the final chapter of his life.
In the aftermath of the disasters, VNHC assisted the community in many ways. Serenity House became a shelter for 14 evacuees from Casa Dorinda and VNHC’s bereavement program counseled 29 victims. The Loan Closet, which loans and gives away medical equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, provided more than 400 items to displaced residents (and a total of more than 3,600 items to all residents during the year).
The Charity Regatta, to be held on September 8, is open to everyone and is one of Santa Barbara’s most fun fundraisers. The day includes a champagne reception, sailboat racing, spectator boat rides, and a barbecue dinner. vnhcsb.org/regatta. For info about VNHC, go to vnhcsb.org. VHNC has more than 200 volunteers and welcomes new ones. The next training for hospice volunteers starts in October. For more information on the Santa Barbara Yacht Club, visit sbyc.org.
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By Gail Arnold