|By JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
October 29, 2016 5:43 AM
In a ceremonial moment Friday in Santa Ynez, Rona Barrett grabbed the aptly gold-colored handles of oversized scissors, bellowed “uno, dos, tres,” and made the brisk cut of yellow ribbon, officially marking the opening of the Golden Inn & Village, an ambitious new affordable housing for seniors.
What began with the commencement ceremony of the project’s ground-breaking, in March 2015, is up and running — albeit with a few works-in-progress on the site — and slated for moving in new residents in November.
But this is no standard issue senior housing project. Ms. Barrett, the famed Hollywood entertainment reporter and Santa Barbara County mover-and-shaker whose philanthropic Rona Barrett Foundation was behind the concept and long-range vision, is now 80, and was inspired to devote her ample energies and networking acumen for this cause after dealing with her own aging and ailing father.
Over the course of 16 years, she worked diligently on the project, working in collaboration with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara and Surf Development among many other individuals, private donors, and organizations. She has rallied around the concept contained in the catch phrase “it takes a village to raise a village.”
“My blessed father inspired me from the very beginning,” Ms. Barrett said. 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.
“I had a dream from the time I was a little girl 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, some kind of lasting moments in this strange and crazy world that we are living in right now.
“One day, when I came home and my father didn’t recognize who I was, I knew the day had come that I had to seriously think about seniors and Alzheimer’s and other problems that seniors have.”
An impressive and attractive compound on a 7.3-acre site at Highway 246 and Refugio Road in Santa Ynez, across the street from the YMCA and catty-corner from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Golden Inn & Village is a unique project designated to help lower income seniors, and a small number of families.
As testament to the need addressed, there were some 900 applicants for the 87 available units. Phase two of the project will involve developing a related but separate project, on the adjacent lot, for assisted living, memory care, adult day care and hospice.
Before Housing Authority Executive Director Bob Havlicek presented Ms. Barrett with a large, framed golden key, she told the crowd, “I want you all to remember that this is not about me. This is about my dad, and this is really about all the people that we are bringing into this facility.”
She added that, “By 2020, we will have maybe 80 to 100 million seniors, the largest group in this country. That is a tremendous amount of people. How any of us can forget them and shove them under the carpet is beyond my comprehension. These are the very people who helped make this country what it is today and they should never be forgotten.
“This has been one of the most glorious days of my life, to see this become a reality. I hope that Harry and my mom Ida would be just as happy, because I think this is exactly what they wanted me to do.”