By Drew Esnard
The project to provide safe and affordable housing to the growing population of low-income seniors was conceptualized by Rona Barrett and made a reality at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Golden Inn & Village (GIV) on Friday, October 28. The campus is now a new senior-citizen residential complex on Highway 246 at Refugio Road in Santa Ynez.
“My blessed father who so inspired me as a child.” said Barrett. He always said, “‘Rona, if you have an extra 5 cents, give it to someone else. If you don’t need it, pay it forward.’”
The project was a large effort by Barrett, executive director and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation (RBF), and further supported through partnerships with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara (HACSB) and the Surf Development Company.
Golden Inn & Village currently features 60 independent living units for low-income seniors alongside 27 affordable rental apartments for employees and families, a senior community center, small shops and services, and a professional kitchen cheekily coined “The Seasoned and Saucy Senior Kitchen.” Initial move-in’s will begin the first week of November and continue throughout the month.
“As we start to house individuals, I hope it’s just the beginning of the community involvement with the residents,” Bob Havlicek, executive director of the (HACSB) said.
Just prior to ceremoniously cutting that symbolic, golden ribbon Barrett took to the podium.
“I dreamt from the time I was young that, someday, I would try to make something of myself so that maybe one day, I would be able to do something that would have some meaning,” Barrett said.
Her father’s spirit of giving was not merely philosophical, he fully inhabited the generosity he’d hoped to foster in his young daughter. Barrett recollected regularly watching her father write checks to the Red Cross and other non-profit humanitarian foundations, and one day asked her father to whom he was sending money when she saw a name she didn’t recognize. “Someone told me we have a relative who finally made it to Israel,” her fathered answered, simply.
After her mother’s death in 1994, Barrett became her father’s main care provider while he struggled with Alzheimers. Again, he proved to be a catalyst for her inspiration.
“(It was then) I began to think about what happens to all of the other people who reach 65, the fastest-growing segment of our population, and who live on low, fixed incomes and don’t have the money to hire care providers on a daily basis. What about those seniors who have been disenfranchised and unable to afford the high cost of living and medical expenses?” Barrett said in an interview with the SYV Star, which was the August cover story.
At night she laid on her bed with a yellow lined note pad and wrote across the top “Golden Inn & Village.” She wanted to build a campus, a place where seniors could live safely and affordably and not have to worry about their future. If they became ill, they could go to the assisted-living portion of the project or to the Alzheimer’s center on the campus and never have to worry again about moving.
The assisted-living and memory care units are a part of what Barrett considers “Phase II” of the GIV – a plan to further develop an unused 2.8 acres bordering GIV – and graciously reminded her supporters that their fight is not over to meet the needs of the aging population.
For more information or to contribute to the Golden Inn & Village, visit ronabarrettfoundation.org, call 688-8887, or mail the Rona Barrett Foundation, PO Box 1559, Santa Ynez, CA 93460.
Pamela Dozois contributed to this story.