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Sunset Soiree Shines Light on Hillside House’s Efforts for ‘Opening Doors to Tomorrow’

John Tilson is recognized with the Person of Purpose award for his longtime support of the Santa Barbara organization


Santa Barbara’s Hillside House hosted its 15th annual benefit June 9 at the gardens of El Mirador Estate in Montecito. Proceeds benefited the 59 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live at Hillside House.

This year’s Sunset Soiree boasted the theme “Opening Doors to Tomorrow.” Although Executive Director Craig Olson could not attend because of illness, Hillside House Development Director Michael Padden-Rubin took the stage to describe how this year’s theme refers to the organization’s community plan to build a new mixed abilities campus at its Veronica Springs Road location.

Padden-Rubin especially credited Lolita “Tita” Mitchell Lanning, who has donated her El Mirador Estate and gardens for the location of the Sunset Soiree benefit for several years. The mansion was built in the 1880s by horticulturalist Frederick Easton, who collected plants for the garden from all over the world. Lanning's grandparents gifted the property to their daughter on her 21st birthday. Eventually, she retained 25.5 acres. Buildings were added along the way, and the estate eventually was divided by Lanning and her brother. The estate and expansive gardens were unscathed by the recent Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide.

After an outdoor social hour and silent auction on the lawn, a four-course dinner prepared by Lorraine Lim Catering was enjoyed with pairings with premium wines donated by Au Bon Climat. Menu items included Parmesan risotto with pan-seared shrimp and snow peas and lemon, portabella mushroom ravioli, tenderloin of beef, roasted red potato, seasonal vegetables, and a dessert of organic fruit cup with whipped cream. Background Dixieland music was provided by the Satchmo Jazz Trio.

Event attendees were treated to the wines selected by presenter and narrator Jim Clendenen, winemaker and owner of Au Bon Climat. Clendenen was accompanied by his daughter, Isabelle, who also works at the winery.

“How lucky I was to meet tonight’s honoree when I just got started in the wine business," Clendenen said. "I am grateful to be here tonight.”

Hillside House
Marcia Wolfe with Person of Purpose honoree John Tilson. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

Following tradition, the 2017 Person of Purpose honoree Norris Goss presented the 2018 award to John Tilson. Tilson was feted for his longtime support of Hillside House. With Tilson’s renown and experience as a wine expert and collector, he has been instrumental in transforming the Sunset Soiree into a premiere food and wine affair that benefits Hillside House. Tilson is the founder and managing editor of The Underground Wineletter.

An inspiring part of the program featured remarks by Lisa Wilcox, a parent of a Hillside House resident. She described how Hillside House was the perfect solution and place for her son, who was born disabled.

"Life is so good now that our son has been settled at Hillside for the past three years," she said. "The staff changed his diet, which helped to stop his seizures.”

Top sponsors included Au Bon Climat, Tita Lanning, Norris and Barry Goss, MarBorg Industries, Montecito Bank & Trust, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Edward McKinley and Kathleen Lavidge, Jim and Marcia Wolfe, and many others. All was made possible by the soiree committee of Cynthia Ardell, Susan Chapman, Norris Goss, Wendi Hunter, Marlene Riemer, Pam Flynt Tambo, Nancy Werner, Lisa Wilcox, Jim Wolfe and many others. Bryant & Sons Jewelers provided invitations for the 15th straight year.

Hillside House is a nonprofit residential facility providing care for adults with developmental disabilities since 1945. Hillside House provides a caring home, therapeutic learning community, medical care and enrichment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities so that they can live healthy, rewarding lives.

Click here for more information, or contact Padden-Rubin at 805.687.0788 or [email protected].

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose 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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