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Julie Kessler Solomon, Alex Smariga Named Co-Chairs of Inaugural Jonathan Awards

Julie Kessler Solomon
Alex Smariga

Crescend Health, which transformed from Phoenix of Santa Barbara Feb. 14, 2016, has announced Julie Kessler Solomon and Alex Smariga as the co-chairs for Hope & Laughter, an inaugural event celebrating the legacy of humorist and artist Jonathan Winters by honoring three local mental health advocates with a Jonathan Award May 11 in the Riviera Ballroom of the El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara. 

The Jonathan Award recipients are Lillian Lovelace, philanthropist; Suzanne Riordan, Family Advocate; and Dr. Zev Nathan, community psychiatrist.

The Hope & Laughter evening will feature a silent and live auction, including five pieces of artwork by Winters donated by his daughter Lucinda. A gifted comic actor and artist, Winters is also well known for turning his significant psychiatric challenges into a triumphant life. 

Kessler Solomon is a familiar face in local philanthropic and advocacy circles. She is chairperson of the Santa Barbara County Human Services Commission and a member of the Santa Barbara County Mental Health Commission representing the Third District.

She has served on the boards of Women’s Economic Ventures and Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund, is as a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a certified Family-to-Family instructor, and was appointed to the City of Goleta’s first Planning Commission, where she  served for over seven years and saw the approval of the city’s General Plan.

Prior to serving in these roles, she enjoyed a long, successful career in marketing and advertising working for some of the country’s most recognizable brands. She also founded the firm Idea Engineering. 

In addition to serving for six years on the board of directors of Crescend Health, Smariga was on the Nonprofit Support Center board in the capacity of vice president and on many committees over a period of five years.

Additionally, he was president of Santa Barbara Pacific Pride’s board of directors for two years of his seven-year tenure.

Before retiring to Santa Barbara in 2001 after a booming career in the burgeoning IT industry in Los Angeles, Smariga, a mathematician and software engineer, served on the board of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Service Center for 10 years and served as board president for two years. 

Tickets and sponsorships are now available for the Hope & Laughter event. The price is $150 per person.

For more information, visit or email [email protected].

Jennifer Goddard Combs is a publicist representing Crescend Health.


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