Wednesday, August 24 , 2016, 12:36 am | Fair 64º

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Family Service Agency Pays Special Tribute to Supporters at Honoring Families Celebration

Guests of honor include Marni and Michael Cooney, strong advocates for the Santa Barbara County organization

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A beautiful oceanfront estate on Padaro Lane provided a picturesque setting for the Family Service Agency's Honoring Families Celebration benefiting families throughout Santa Barbara County.

Guests arrived in fashionable garden attire and mingled on the expanse of greenery overlooking the ocean during the cocktail reception. The afternoon social included a special tribute to Marni and Michael Cooney, who have been strong advocates for FSA.

Marni, who has been an active member of the board and served as president and chairing FSA’s Children’s Festival, shared with Noozhawk what initially drew her to the organization that she has supported in many ways over the years.

“I first became involved because it works with all ages — it works with children, it works with families and it works with seniors,” Marni said. “And that one, that touched my heart because I feel like seniors are often forgotten.”

The afternoon presentation included speeches from board co-presidents Bob Manning and Stephanie Wilson, followed by the special tribute to the Cooneys as well as Joanne Rapp and Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

Founded in 1899, the organization strives to strengthen families and individuals of all ages and diversities as an advocate to preserve a health community. The agency services Santa Barbara County through locations in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara and two in Lompoc that ensure access to food, shelter and other basic needs.

Lisa Brabo, executive director since 2013, also spoke at the event, highlighting the agency’s goal of providing hope, strength and stability to community members in need.

Essential programs of the organization include Big Brothers Big Sisters, through which at-risk children ages 7 to 17 are matched with caring adult mentors to reach their full potential through one-on-one relationships to improve the lives of 200 youth every year in Santa Barbara County.

Senior Services include senior case management to connect seniors with community resources, counseling and support services for caregivers, and mental health services for individuals or groups.

“We provide services to caregivers as well as seniors, generally mental health services,” Brabo told Noozhawk. “And then we’re adding a new service to that starting this summer, which is the long-term care ombudsman program where we monitor the quality of the long-term care facilities. And that’s a big job — there’s a lot of facilities in Santa Barbara County.”

There are 16 skilled nursing facilities with a total capacity of 1,371 residents and 144 residential care facilities a capacity of almost 2,300 residents that provide assisted living in Santa Barbara County.

This new long-term care ombudsman program will include staff and volunteers from FSA going into the facilities from once a week to once a month, “getting to know the residents and the operations of the facilities to investigate any complaints from the residents, caregivers or staff,” Brabo said.

Family Support Services offers assistance to families facing difficulties such as financial hardship, learning disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse, and each year the Family Resource Center helps more than 3,000 families.

“We have family resource centers, we connect families with what they need. Usually it’s needy families — they might need food, they might need housing, their child might need help with their schooling,” Brabo said. “They might be having some developmental challenges — maybe they need employment. Whatever families need we connect them with these things.”

Child and family counseling, youth probation guidance and in-home therapy are offered through youth and family services helping individuals remain emotionally stable and keeping youth out of juvenile hall. School-based services also counseling available at K-12 campuses, intensive in-school programs and school social work with home visits.

“The youth are either self identified or identified by the parents,” Brabo said. “We also have social workers that work with the counselors and work with the families to help address any issues that the youth might have.”

Clinical expertise and collaboration with other agencies allows FSA to provide services at client’s homes, school campuses and community centers are where 80 percent of the services are delivered to the community.

No one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay and all services are offered free or on a sliding scale. 

FSA will host the fourth annual Daniel Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament on June 16 at the Santa Maria Country Club benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County. For more information on how to register, click here or contact Melinda Johansson at 805.965.1001 or [email protected].

For additional information on how to make an impact and make a difference, visit the website by clicking here.

Marni Cooney summed up the spirit of the afternoon and the organization, emphasizing why she became and stay involved with FSA.

“I loved the fact that they worked from a holistic viewpoint — you help one, you help them all," she said. "But also if you’re helping one and you see that more help is needed in the family then you help the whole family. So to me it’s a very healthy way to deal with helping people help themselves.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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