New Beginnings Counseling Center board president Jacqueline Kurta.
New Beginnings Counseling Center board president Jacqueline Kurta staffs the information table and raffle prizes at the organization’s annual fundraiser, held this year at the West Wind Drive-In. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)
  • New Beginnings Counseling Center board president Jacqueline Kurta staffs the information table and raffle prizes at the organization’s annual fundraiser, held this year at the West Wind Drive-In.
  • New Beginnings Counseling Center volunteer Shabina Dalidd, left, Executive Director Kristine Schwarz and development manager Michael Berton.
  • Supporters Sayre Macneal and Debbie Mackie enjoy a tailgate dinner at the drive-in.
  • Sponsor Susan Rose, left, Julie Weiner, Suzanne Peck and Abe Peck.
  • Emily Allen purchases two tubs of popcorn for a carload of attendees.
  • The projection building at the drive-in was the hub of the movie action.
  • Balloons coordinate with New Beginnings’ blue and silver colors.
  • The scene at the West Wind Drive-In for the New Beginnings benefit event.

iSociety: Rochelle Rose

New Beginnings Counseling Center of Santa Barbara held its annual fundraiser on Thursday at Goleta’s West Wind Drive-In.

Board president Jacqueline Kurta, MFT, Psy.D, noted in her opening video remarks that the benefit event had been scheduled as an in-person fundraiser at the Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara but was changed to the drive-in format and location because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The major film presented was the 1991 comedy-drama “The Fisher King” starring Santa Barbara celebrity actor, musician and philanthropist Jeff Bridges, along with Robin Williams and Mercedes Ruehl (who won an Oscar for the movie). The plot chronicles a radio shock jock as he finds redemption by helping a man whose life he inadvertently shatters. The film conveys the compassion and hope that align with the work of New Beginnings and helps demonstrate how trauma and mental illness affect many people.

Through counseling and group therapy classes, New Beginnings’ supportive services are provided to people experiencing homelessness or struggling to remain stable in their housing, as well as primary and behavioral health care outreach. The nonprofit organization helps build a stable and healthy community with wraparound services to ensure that vulnerable individuals are able to meet their basic physical and emotional needs.

Proceeds from the event will directly benefit New Beginnings' programs.

Before the film, an interview created especially for the event featured lead actress Ruehl (“Big,” “Married to the Mob” and “Lost in Yonkers”) and the film's screenwriter, Richard LaGravenese. The interview was conducted by IndieWire editor-at-large Anne Thompson. There were also two short films screened, “Hair Love” and “French Roast.”

In addition, a video was shown that featured several of New Beginnings’ clinical staff as well as Executive Director Kristine Schwarz, MA, MFT, LPCC.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we changed the way we worked beginning in March when we went to a video platform,” Clinical Director Crystal Ramirez Ph.D., MFT, said. “There were some benefits to this. We were able to serve clients who live far away and don’t have transportation. We reached underserved areas like Lompoc and Guadalupe. We have a lot more requests for services for depression as people are so isolated. We are bringing on new counselors, and the agency is expanding.”

Nearly 90 cars were spaced appropriately in rows to view the screenings. Sponsors were provided catered dinners, while other guests brought their own food or headed to the concession stand in the drive-in’s rotunda.

Sponsors included the Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, the Lehrer family, Lloyd and Richard Dallett, Deirdre and Will Arntz, Glenn and Amy Bacheller, Cottage Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Lalla and Rinaldo Brutoco, Bryant & Sons Jewelers, Edhat Santa Barbara, Jackie and Paul Kurta, Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, Noozhawk, the Omega Point Institute, Pine Mountain Club, Santa Barbara Venture Partners, and Charlie and Eileen White Read. Development manager Michael Berton and Judi Weisbart were listed as the event production team.

Click here for more information about New Beginnings Counseling Center, or contact Michael Berton at 805.963.7777 x112 or

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.