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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 7:29 pm | Fair 56º


Sarah House Lights Up the Western Sky in Benefit for Those Facing Darkest Times

For 25 years, facility has been providing a home and end-of-life care for people who need it most, and can least afford it

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A bright full moon was the perfect backdrop for Saturday’s Light Up the Western Sky benefit for Sarah House of Santa Barbara.

Keeping to its traditional “share the light” theme, Sarah House’s annual fundraiser was held at the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club at Rockwood in Mission Canyon. The nonprofit organization provides a home and end-of-life care for people who are very low income, and sometimes homeless, as well as providing assistance to family and friends of Sarah House residents. 

Supporters were invited to share their light during this time of year when things could be dark for those who have lost loved ones. Sarah House retains its original mission by also providing for men and women with HIV/AIDS, as envisioned by founder Alice Heath 25 years ago.

“Some of you have been with us for 25 years,” Sarah House executive director Debbie McQuade told the assembled guests. “Thank you for being here.”

Indeed, the event embodied a collective kindness and mindset of compassion and goodwill that could be felt among the attendees.

“No one needs to die alone and Sarah House is there to meet that need, no matter what a person’s circumstances are,” McQuade said. “We have helped 40 people who have died this year at Sarah House.”

“Paul” read a letter of thanks to the audience of more than 200 supporters.

“I want to recognize good deeds and acts of kindness,” he said. “I cared for my grandmother at home until I could not take care of her anymore due to her rapid decline and increasing dementia.

“I visited several places but they did not seem right. When I visited Sarah House I felt like I was among angels. The staff and volunteers at Sarah House cared for my grandmother like she was family. This was the best place for her to be during her last days. Thank you.”

The event featured many silent auction items, including original art, jewelry, wine, clothing and a trip to a New York TV set. Others committed to the event included McQuade; board president Cathie Walker and board members Hallie Anderson, Serena Carroll, Dr. John Cervantes, Jean Lange Davis, Paloma Espino, Mark Hamilton, Miyoko Kudo, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes and Thomas Stone; Dr. Stephen Jones, house manager; and assistant house manager Katrina Harnel.

Top sponsors included Eric Nivelle, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes, Dr. Steven Zelko, Michael Agenbroad and David Schumann, Jean and Dave Davis, Maude Door, Nancy and Keith Forster, and many others. American Rivera Bank volunteered to handle the silent auction checkout. Kay Bowman Catering prepared a hearty country-themed buffet dinner.

Sarah House volunteer Laurie Dalton shared her experience with Noozhawk.

“After 30 years, I returned to live in Santa Barbara,” she said. “I graduated from UCSB and had a big career in the film industry in Los Angeles. I cared for my mother in Fullerton before she passed away. It just seemed natural to continue my work in caring for those in their last days at Sarah House. 

“I didn’t expect it, but there is so much joy at Sarah House. It is a wonderful place to be.”

In 1989, Heath founded a nonprofit organization for men and women dying from HIV/AIDS. Heath House, as it was to be called, opened its doors at 18 E. Sola St. to people who were not only dying at a young age, but also dying surrounded by fear.

In the mid-1990s, Sarah Shoresman, who was well into her 80s, matched her countless hours of board service with a financial gift that enabled the organization to build its own home, which was named Sarah House.

Located on Modoc Road, Sarah House is cared for by staff and volunteers who want people to find a place of beauty in which to live out their last days. Along with eight bedrooms, one for each resident, there is a living room with a piano and comfortable chairs and sofas. The dining room has a table large enough for family and friends to join together for a meal, and the big, sunny kitchen is open around the clock. Sarah House partners with a local medical hospice organization to support the medical needs of each resident.

More recently, with the advent of powerful new medications, the mortality rate for people with AIDS dropped dramatically. Sarah House responded by expanding services to offer end-of-life care for the low-income and homeless of the Santa Barbara community

Click here for more information about Sarah House, or call 805.682.1515. Click here to make an online donation.

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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