Eileen Bunning and Dr. James Tamborello, DDS, MS, were honored for their dedication to assisting the lives of others within the community Oct. 2 in front of a large gathering of admiring supporters at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.
“Heroes are very important people to us, and we all have heroes in our life who call us to a higher place just by us watching them and how they live their lives,” said Cynder Sinclair, chief executive officer of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. “Eileen and James are shining beacons lighting the way to positive outcomes in our community.”
A cocktail reception that began promptly at 6 p.m. on the Coral Casino’s seaside terrace quickly filled to capacity with dignitaries, health-care professionals, supporters, friends and family members.
By twilight, the assemblage of attendees clad in cocktail attire was directed to tables designed by the mother-daughter team of Colette and Kaitlin Lopez of La Fete, who added a romantic yet modern touch to the already elegant La Pacifica Ballroom.
Beautiful floral centerpieces made of chrysanthemum, hydrangea and peach roses were topped with white feathers inside aqua vases surrounded by coal and ivory candles atop black and silver crackled linen and tablecloths that nicely complemented the silver leaf and coral wallpaper around the room.
Sinclair and emcee Bonnie Campbell, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinic’s chief operations officer, welcomed guests and acknowledged elected representatives, media, sponsors and past Heroes in attendance for the continued support of SBNC.
“Our mission is to provide formal, comprehensive health care to all people, regardless of their ability to pay, and that’s a big mission,” said Campbell. “You’re here tonight to help us continue to serve our mission in our 41st year in Santa Barbara.”
Next, Campbell asked previous Heroes recipients to stand, and she explained the history behind the beautifully embroidered and handmade silk Health Care Heroes Capes by Sharon Landecker and Grant House Sewing Machines.
“The idea behind Health Care Heroes is to recognize two individuals in our community who give back above and beyond the average, whether it be philanthropy or their chosen profession, to help those who are underserved,” said Campbell. “So we honor them with hero capes.”
Since the 1999 inception of the annual merit ceremony, 31 individuals and three organizations have been bestowed with prestigious Health Care Heroes awards.
After Campbell’s speech, the house lights dimmed for a film premiere directed by Jennie Reinish from Tidepool Pictures with key SBNC personnel explaining the history and progression of the clinics.
Established in 1998, the combined clinics of SBNC have served 17,000 low-income, uninsured patients a year. And, with public and private grants, donations and fundraising events in 2010, SBNC was accountable for 75,000 patient and health education visits.
During the film, diners enjoyed a delicious meal, starting with an organic salad of blue cheese, Asian pears, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette that was followed by a main course of roasted chicken stuffed with ricotta, spinach, caramelized onions, potato and bell pepper smothered in a sherry wine sauce.
Later, Melinda Staveley, vice president of Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, introduced Bunning, the first 2011 Health Care Heroes recipient. She praised her efforts in the health-care community as president and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care from 2001-2010, and as an SBNC board member since 2008.
Staveley also noted Bunning’s fundraising efforts that helped procure an anonymous gift of $34 million for VNHC and funds for the new residential hospice-care facility Serenity House.
During her acceptance speech Bunning, a registered nurse and psychology major, stressed the challenge and importance of providing personal attention to patients and inquiring about a patient’s family, hopes, fears and work status.
“How could it be better if everyone who came in touch with a person or patient seeking health care saw them as the full person they are?” Bunning asked. “Could it be different if we took the time to really access if they really understood what was happening to them and to their bodies?”
“Is there more that can be done to help them empower themselves to achieve wellness and wouldn’t we do this in spite of what we get reimbursed?” Bunning asked. “We should write the rules. We can’t and should not be bound by the revenue strains. I know you agree that in the long run if we don’t look at the whole picture, at the whole person, it will only cost the system more.”
“We must challenge ourselves to think outside the box and we need to be thinking together,” said Bunning.
Next, Dr. Bill Arnett, DDS, presented the 2011 Health Care Heroes award to his friend and former colleague Tamborello as the first provider representing dentistry to receive the award.
Tamborello practiced dentistry in Santa Barbara for more than 40 years until his 2009 retirement, and he retains medical staff privileges at the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara and Cottage Health System.
“This is really weird,” Tamborello shrugged as he pulled on his cape. “If I had a dream that I was standing in a beautiful ballroom filled with distinguished guests like this, and someone came up and tied a cape around me and told me to make a speech, I’d wake up hyper ventilating and in a cold sweat. But I’m awake!”
The room erupted with laughter and applause until Tamborello continued to express his gratitude to the audience.
“It’s actually much more comfortable wearing this cape then I thought it would be,” said Tamborello. “Because I’m wearing it on behalf of the dedicated staff of SBNC who are the real heroes.”
The evening concluded with the ever-popular Hearts Auction as an array of rainbow-colored paper hearts were placed on tables by volunteers. The hearts were inscribed with an array of sponsorship opportunities toward a specific cause or program.
Items for bid ranged from a $400 diabetic care, treatment and counseling for a college student to a sponsorship for five low-income families to cover health-care enrollment and education costs for $300.
As in previous years the 13th annual event was expected to raise an estimated $100,000 for SBNC.
Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics thanks the sponsors of the 13th Annual Health Care Heroes:
» Event Sponsors: Sansum Clinic, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, CenCal Health, Venoco Inc., Pacific Diagnostic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, The Green Well, MarBorg Industries and the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara.