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Judy Foreman: Friendship, Philanthropy Behind Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Benefit

Shared experiences unite, energize Pamela Dillman Haskell and Jodi Fishman-Osti on behalf of annual Mother’s Day Luncheon

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Tina Fey and Amy Poehler may have received more notoriety for hosting the Golden Globe Awards, but Montecito has its own dynamic duo when it comes to a cause making a big difference here in our community. For the second year in a row, Pamela Dillman Haskell and Jodi Fishman-Osti are co-chairing Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Mother’s Day Luncheon.

Both women are deeply committed to Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care and to its unique annual benefit, now in its 13th year. This year’s luncheon honoring and remembering mothers will be held May 9 at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club.

Dillman Haskell and Fishman-Osti met at Montecito Union School when their children were entering kindergarten. While taking a campus tour in 2007, they started chatting about kids and Dillman Haskell’s sunglasses. Yes, a “girlfriend compliment” is often a way of connecting — and something clicked. Fishman-Osti followed up with a call about getting together for coffee and asking, by the way, where she could get “the black cat-eye sunglasses” that her new friend was wearing. In addition to having children of similar ages who became BFFs, they found they both had strong ties to local nonprofit organizations.

A mom of two, Fishman-Osti was a part-owner and president of a family business in the premium gift and ad specialty industry for 23 years, spent time as a director of sales for Players Club International, and had prior experience in retail and fashion merchandising. She’s a former board member of the Channel Islands YMCA and serves on the Dream Foundation’s advisory board. She also has worked on committees for VNHC and the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, and is well known for her remarkable skill set with silent and live auctions.

Dillman Haskell’s background is in the entertainment industry as a former professional actress in film and television, and as an acting teacher, and she even has credits in two Broadway shows. Today, she works as a narrator and voice-over artist. She’s also a full-time mom of five and nonprofit volunteer with strength in event planning, such as programs, themes and décor.

The duo found they made a balanced team and could have fun together while pooling their connections for an important cause.

Dillman Haskell learned firsthand about the work of VNHC when her stepmother, iconic model and actress Suzy Parker Dillman, was ill. Parker Dillman received in-home home health care for several months, and then was in hospice care at home until she died in 2003 at age 69.

“The nurses in attendance were angels of mercy,” Dillman Haskell told me when we sat down for coffee recently. “You don’t know there are such people — angels who dedicate themselves to the peaceful passage of our last months in the world — until you have need for such care.”

Fishman-Osti had a similar experience with VNHC and her own family’s medical needs. That shared relationship inspired Dillman Haskell to step up and help her friend with fundraising efforts for the organization.

At its Mother’s Day Luncheon, VNHC honors two mothers — one living and one in memory — and celebrates their lives and acknowledges their contributions to the community. This year’s honorees are Jill Levinson, a well-known community leader, and Thomas Rollerson, the dynamic founder and president of the Dream Foundation.

Levinson is board president of the nascent Santa Barbara Children’s Museum, and her husband, Neil, is a VNHC board member. She is the daughter of Montecito residents Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, and the entire family has been a stalwart supporter of VNHC over the years.

Rollerson, whose Dream Foundation grants wishes for terminally ill adults, will be honoring his late mother, Barbara Ward Rollerson.

A month before the Mother’s Day Luncheon, a men’s-only fundraiser is held to underwrite it. The benefit was the brainchild of the late Peter Murphy, who formed a “Men for Moms” group to rally what he called his “tennis mafia” friends behind the cause. Murphy died in 2012, and the event is now named in his honor and memory. This year, the event will be co-hosted by Tom Dain and Neil Levinson.

For the first time, the 2014 Mother’s Day luncheon will include an exciting fashion show featuring local boutiques and models, in addition to valuable and unique silent and live auction packages. Raffle tickets will be offered for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate from participating boutiques. KEYT News anchor Shirin Rajaee will be the announcer for the fashion show, and Andrew Firestone, senior vice president of West Coast Asset Management, will emcee the luncheon.

As with all top-notch organizations, the power behind them is the volunteer committee members. In addition to Dillman Haskell and Fishman-Osti, the 2014 luncheon committee includes Gwat Bhattacharjie, Sandy Bongard, Theresa Borgatello-Carlson, Janice Caesar, Jennifer Caesar, Verna Carter, Cynthia De Leon, Keiko Dunham, Sasa Feldman, Nicole Green, Teri Green, Jane Habermann, Victoria Hines, Toni Holdren, Nancy Kimsey, Barbara Kummer, Chris Levine, Janet Lew, Krista Morley-Vega, Judy Murphy, Robyn O’Hearn, Robbin Rimmer-Behrens, Bobbi Rosenblatt, Marie-Ann Strait and Nana Talevi.

Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care brings comfort and health to families at challenging times. The organization serves 14,000 people annually, helping them maintain health and independence, recover from surgery, and make the transition at the end of life with dignity and comfort. Professional medical care teams — doctors, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, bereavement counselors, social workers — provide compassionate in-home care as well as hospice services at Serenity House, an 18-bed, in-patient facility on the backside of the Mesa, overlooking downtown Santa Barbara.

For more than 100 years, Visiting Nurses have been serving Santa Barbara. VNHC cares for all community members “regardless of their ability to pay,” by providing subsidized care and supportive services.

Click here for more information about Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, or contact Rebecca Benard at [email protected] or 805.690.6215. Connect with Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care on Facebook.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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