Celebrating the Generation Before Us
At 27, Heidi Holly already knew that the elder community “was her tribe.”
In the 35 years since, Heidi has steadily led the Friendship Center, which operates two adult day centers where seniors and those experiencing memory decline and other health related conditions spend their days engaged in “joy sparking” activities that enrich their golden years.
“Every day since I have been involved in this amazing purpose and work,” Heidi, the center’s executive director, says, “I have been able to hear all these jewels and pearls of wisdom from our older aging adults, our Veterans and Individuals with disabilities.”
The centers serve more than 800 seniors and their families each year.
That second part is incredibly important. Family caregivers and adult children caring for their loved ones often struggle to manage their careers and caretaking responsibilities. The result, too often, is that the only option for those older adults is to live out their days in a long-term care setting. By providing a place for older adults to go every day, their caretakers are afforded some respite, which keeps them at home.
“A success story is someone who stays in our program until their demise,” Heidi says. “Because we are cost effective and have enabled them to live a fuller life with their family.”
The center has two locations: one in Goleta and the other at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito. At both, clients interact through exercise and games centered on keeping their brains active. As Heidi says: “You are never too old to make new friends.” And this social interaction staves off the isolation so many elders feel, which negatively impacts their emotional and physical health.
“This is a happy place and a happy time and our seniors really thrive,” Heidi says. But they are not the only ones.
One day, Heidi was hurriedly walking through the Montecito Center’s courtyard thinking only about her multitudinous tasks as executive director. One of the clients, an elderly woman, stopped her and said: “You need to slow down in your life and be mindful of your surroundings and the present.”
The woman then told Heidi that it was her intention to spend the rest of her life dancing and singing.
“We need to slow down and recognize what the generation before us contributed,” Heidi says. “We have so many lessons to learn from them. That’s what keeps me motivated.”
Friendship Center provides innovative activities and programs that honor individuality, promote socialization, and foster a compassionate community for aging adults. Caregivers receive respite support and education, enabling them to achieve balance in their lives.
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A Friend of the Center
“When asked to contribute to what I think Friendship Center is all about, I really didn’t know where to begin. My connection with the Center began in l987.
In a few words, Friendship Center is a beautiful place physically, that provides programs and safe activities for aging adults and much needed respite for their caregivers. It is the most life-affirming, and the most joyous way for aging adults, many with health conditions, like Alzheimer’s to continue to be part of their families and community. The innovative programs and activities are too many to list here, and continue to adapt when new needs arise.. When thinking of what a friend is, we think of kindness, sympathy, empathy, compassion, interest and FUN. The well- trained staff and many volunteers provide all of these to Friendship Center’s members.
On a personal level, I was the social worker at the Center for many years and saw what a difference the community and fellowship at the Center made in the member’s life (their spirit, attitude and sense of fun). and lives of their families. My mother, as aging limited her mobility, attended FC. She always came home with a big smile and feeling happy.
My husband, Steven Gilbar and I continue to support Friendship Center with regular donations, and have included them in our will.”
Take a Tour!
Friendship Center offers daily programs at reasonable rates. Donations to the agency allow it to subsidize that fee for those who need it – an invaluable service to isolated, low-income seniors. We aim to turn no one away based on financial limitations.
But donations are not the only way to help the center and aging adults.
“We want people to avail themselves of our services,” Heidi, the executive director, says. This could be support groups for adult children caring for aging parents, or programs for the older adults themselves, including virtual activities for the homebound. “Come take a tour,” Heidi adds.
Board of Directors
Joe Wheatley, President
Dana VanderMey, Secretary
Joe Holland, Chief Financial Officer
Kathy Marden, MFT, Member-at-Large
Marti Correa de Garcia
Karolyn Hanna, RN, PhD
Pamela Vander Heide
Nevill Cramer (In Memoriam)
The Rev. George Hall (In Memoriam)
Shirley Mankin (In Memoriam)
Homer Sheffield Jr.
Carnzu Clark (In Memoriam)
Thomas & Nancy Crawford
Paul & Bobbi Didier
Andy Granatelli (In Memoriam)
Robert Harbaugh, M.D.
Milt & Arlene Larsen
Selma Rubin (In Memoriam)
Eva Marie Saint
Naomi Schwartz (In Memoriam)
Sidney Smith (In Memoriam)