Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 5:36 pm | Fair 73º

Spend ‘Midday in Paris’ at Friendship Center’s Festival of Hearts

By Justine Sutton for the Friendship Center |

The Friendship Adult Day Care Center has been providing adult day services — sharing the care — since 1976.

For the past 13 years, the nonprofit organization’s main annual fundraising event has been the Festival of Hearts. Always taking place in early February, this luncheon boasts as its centerpiece an array of Heart-Art created by local artists and celebrities available at silent auction, which make perfect Valentine gifts for your sweetheart!

With a French theme, this year’s soiree, “Midday in Paris!”, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Guests will enjoy a très bon Valentine lunch amid the elegance of Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort’s Reagan Room, with Fess Parker wines and live music by the Montecito Jazz Project, who have worked up a playlist of French tunes for the occasion.

This year’s Heart-Artists include local celebrities and loyal Friendship Center supporters Jeff Bridges and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as well as many talented and generous artists from our community, including Steven Gilbar, Diane Arnold, James Dow, Sharon Morrow, Cheryl Guthrie and many more. Some guests attend every year to add to their Heart-Art collections! The hearts are currently on display at Renaissance Fine Consignment in La Arcada.

In addition, a live auction will include vacation trips to New Orleans’ French Quarter, San Francisco and Palm Springs, as well as a wine tasting excursion in the Santa Ynez Valley, a springtime lobster dinner in Friendship Center’s beautiful outdoor courtyard, lunches with Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and other elected officials, and more. As party favors, each guest can choose from beautiful hand-decorated papier-mâché hearts by art students from local high schools.

All proceeds from the event support Friendship Center’s H.E.A.R.T. (Help Elders At Risk Today) Program, which subsidizes the cost of adult day services for low-income aging and dependent adults and their families.

With approximately 70 percent of Friendship Center members qualifying as low-income, this scholarship-type program means everything to those families who would not otherwise be able to pay for these vital services. Still, participant contributions cover only about half of the organization’s operating costs, so fundraising events, grants and individual donations must make up the remainder.

Friendship Center’s day program provides a full schedule of activities and socialization, a secured and supervised environment, daily structure and nutritious meals for aging and dependent adults with memory loss and dementia, Monday through Friday, with centers in Montecito and Goleta.

As important as these services are to the participants, they also greatly benefit family caregivers, offering respite from the daily responsibilities of being a caregiver and allowing them to continue working or fulfilling other commitments.

As supplement or alternative to in-home care or residential facilities, adult day services allow aging and dependent adults to continue living at home with their families, with a focus on activities designed to enrich participants’ daily lives. Programs include live music and sing-alongs, walking and wellness, gardening, inter-generational activities, discussion groups and games for mental stimulation, and programs specifically designed for those in the early stages of memory loss.

Connections is a weekly “brain fitness” class incorporating puzzles, games, memory exercises, and a support-group component for those who are starting to experience memory loss and who want to take a proactive approach to their situation. The participants meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays in Montecito and on Wednesdays in Goleta, with lunch included. The camaraderie and laughter among the group go a long way to ease the anxiety and isolation often experienced by those with memory loss.

The benefits of adult day services to participants who attend at least twice a week are tremendous. They often come home more alert and talkative and sleep better after enjoying a day of activities and socialization. Benefits to the caregiver are immeasurable — a chance for rest, relief and peace of mind, knowing their loved one is safe and happy.

Festival of Hearts tickets are $100 per person. To purchase tickets or for more information about Friendship Center programs, click here or call 805.969.0859.

— Justine Sutton is the Friendship Center’s grants and development coordinator, and freelance contributor to various local publications, including Noozhawk.

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