Hundreds of community members — including former staff, volunteers and friends of the landmark St. Francis Medical Center — are expected to attend a very special celebration of the former hospital and those who contributed to the “Spirit of St. Francis.”

The St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara will host the event from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 10 on the grounds of the hospital, about a week before its slated April 19 demolition.

The former medical center campus will be the future site of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation’s work-force housing program to create affordable homes for Cottage Hospital employees.

The event will include an awards program honoring individuals and groups who have shown exceptional support of the St. Francis Medical Center and St. Francis Foundation missions, including the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart who founded the hospital in 1908, physicians M. Dean Vogel and Bowdre L. Carswell, registered nurse Lynn Menicucci, St. Francis Foundation’s newest honorary board members, Arthur Barron and Dennis Reilly, and St. Francis Foundation grant recipient organization SEE International.

“While it can be easy to get lost in the incredible history and nostalgia of the hospital, we want to remind the community to cherish these memories while looking forward to the future,” said Andrew Ochsner, board president of the St. Francis Foundation in Santa Barbara. “We felt this moment should be marked as a beginning — not an end — as St. Francis Foundation carries on the spirit and compassion to the most vulnerable in our community.”

Although the medical center closed its doors permanently in 2003, the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara has continued to promote and support health and healing, with particular attention to those most in need. The St. Francis Foundation is the major funder of the Parish Nursing Community Outreach Program, operated by Cottage Health System, making it possible for parish nurses to meet the health-care needs for thousands of individuals and families in Santa Barbara’s culturally diverse community each year.

From July 2008 to June 2009, the parish nurses reached 14,489 people in need in the Santa Barbara community.

“The spirit of St. Francis is alive and well in Santa Barbara,” Ochsner said. “It lives on through the St. Francis Foundation and the foundation’s support of programs with Cottage Hospital and many other organizations in our community.”

The April 10 event will include a buffet and valet parking. Space will be limited. RSVPs are required by March 31 to 805.563.4702, or click here to register online.

— Daniella Elghanayan is a publicist.