A colleague of mine claimed he’s talked me down off the ledge so many times in the past couple of years that I should stay there. “At least,” he joked, “We would know where to find you!”

Hey, I had my ledge. George Bailey had his bridge. We all have our own toes-over-the edge times when we look into the abyss of self-doubt.

I say this because seeing It’s A wonderful Life — once again — made me realize how many George Bailey moments I had during the 13-year adventure of completing the Golden Inn & Village.

But with the doors to the Golden Inn & Village now open and the residents moving in, I can look back at those 13 years — from the day when the original concept for an affordable-living campus for low-income seniors in our Valley was sketched on a proverbial napkin (then a yellow pad at home) — and can honestly say it ranks as one of the most difficult, challenging, emotionally wrenching accomplishments of my life.

But you know what? It is a wonderful strife.

As intensely challenging as it’s been, seeing Phase One finally completed brings me an intense feeling of pride and satisfaction unequaled by any other accomplishment in my life. It’s A Wonderful Life is really about what motivates me to keep going.

“You’re a quitter, Rona!” my dad yelled at me after I explained that my very first and infuriated boss of just a few days fired me on the spot. That’s because in a 40-page report (on a manual typewriter) I had one typo.

“You’re a quitter, Rona!” cut me to the core — and stayed there. I vowed I’d prove him wrong.

But just like George, during these past 13 years, I battled fiercely with myself to continue. Just as George had people counting on him, my team had a long list of deserving seniors counting on us.

And just as George had help from an angel, we’ve had help — from countless angels.

When we were so fortunate to receive just the right size check — guaranteeing GIV would be a reality — I stood in the middle of the room, held the check high, looked up and said, “This is for you Daddy.”

George Bailey was given the gift of seeing what his family’s life and his community would be like had he not existed.

I, too, have been given a gift — a glimpse into the lives of some of GIV’s new residents. The dire financial conditions and insecure living conditions they left behind reminds me again and again that it is all worth it — it is wonderful strife.

And our story is far from over. There will be a sequel: Phase II of GIV — one of the first affordable (we hope) memory care and assisted living units in the nation.

It will be called Harry’s House at the Golden Inn & Village, after my dad.

Did I just hear a bell ring?

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at info@ronabarrettfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are her own.