Volunteers & Ambassadors
Volunteer Spotlight! Sharon Ware
“I’m neck up 75 but neck down NOT 75!”
“I am an ‘ageless person.’ I know when people talk about older people, I never categorize myself in any age group because my spirit is ageless – THAT’S WHAT COUNTS!”
This tireless spirit is what makes, Sharon Ware, so valued by the Rona Barrett Foundation and the undeserved seniors she helps at the Golden Inn & Village (GIV), Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable independent living residency.
Actually, Sharon (and sometimes her husband, Jim, who Sharon involves in her RBF volunteering) is an incredibly giving and dependable volunteer. She was hostess for our “Spring High Tea” Donor Event, she led the way in coordinating Hospitality for our “Big Band Ball Gala” last Fall and presently, you will consistently find her driving patients to medical appointments, helping them grocery shop, picking up their medications, she is our “Girl Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday and FRIDAY!”
Sharon acquired her love of people, her optimism and work ethic from her dear Mom, Wanda. As Sharon fondly recollects, “My Mom has always been my hero and role-model. She was the only person in her family who had a high school education and she went to work when I was in high school. She was the epitome of a ‘Working Mom’ when it wasn’t fashionable back in the day! She never learned to drive until her 40’s. And, getting behind the literal wheel was the way she figuratively tackled life – she just jumped in! She in fact was the Food Service Manager for the entire Cal Poly School Systems.”
Since moving to Santa Ynez, Ware’s weekdays are overflowing with volunteering throughout the Santa Ynez Valley! This pattern is nothing new in that her background includes stints in veterinary medicine; being an airline stewardess; working for the County of Los Angeles Social Security Administration and concurrent employment as a part-timer at Mervyn’s. She also led bike tours and loves driving a 19-foot trailer for vacation excursions.
“I understand how it feels to be on the other side as a ‘voiceless senior’ – it changed my life! When I worked at the Social Security Administration Office, there was a very special couple who would regularly need my help. The husband was a Gangbanger and when his wife passed away, he was literally helpless because she did everything for him. He would always wait in line at my window to ask for help. His kind words, ‘you are so nice to me’ have even more meaning for me today because I realize that everyone needs a helping hand – especially senior citizens! Volunteering at the GIV allows me to GIVE BACK!”
Her favorite type of movies, theatre-going and music appreciation run the full gamut, “I am all over the place from westerns, romance movies and music I love includes jazz, 50’s, 60’s, the Old Standards. I especially love Bruno Mars, Wynton Marsalis, kd Lang, Lady Gaga – the spectrum is wide!”
With regard to her volunteering at the Golden Inn & Village, “I found a niche which allows me to make a difference for people and be positive about it! I love the people who live there! They are smart, they have done a lot during their lifetimes. I love the fact that I can contribute to a cause and be a part of it!”
Little did she know that when she swam with Rona at YMCA Classes back in 2012 – 5 years ago – that one day she would be working as a volunteer for Santa Ynez Valley’s most enriching community for at-risk and vulnerable seniors – Rona’s “gray advocacy project” – the GIV! Life has truly come full circle for Sharon, a beloved, dedicated, creative, tireless and loving Ambassador Volunteer!
Volunteer Spotlight! Susie Harrison
“I am a country girl at heart,” says Susie Harrison, as she recounts her big-city route to Solvang - from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach and the San Fernando Valley.
Susie grew up in southern California during “The Golden Age of Hollywood” where her father was a cameraman for over 35 years at 20th Century Fox Studios.
So, it made perfect sense that when a movie opened, the family would skip the local movie theater, jump in the car and head to Hollywood to the spectacular Grauman’s Chinese Theater, The Cinerama Dome or the Hollywood Egyptian Theater. It’s no surprise that Susie is passionate about movies: “My favorites are Casablanca – love Bogie and Bergman! And, How the West Was Won – great epic with an all-star cast!”
Rona Barrett Foundation Volunteer Ambassador
Susie Harrison at the June Volunteer Luncheon.
“I have great memories of my childhood,” Susie fondly reflects on a joyful youth with her family including a sister and two brothers. “We had a swimming pool in the backyard so our house was the place where all the neighborhood kids congregated. “
She met her husband in “SoCal” and enjoyed life there until he transplanted her to the Santa Ynez Valley (he is the Harrison of Harrison Hardware). “I was here when there was one gas station and two markets and you could always count on someone being there to help you should your car break down,” says Susie. “I loved it and it immediately became home for me!”
Super at 66
“I don’t mind anyone knowing my age because age is just a number.”
“Susie is proud of being 66 years old. “I don’t mind anyone knowing my age because age is just a number. And I’m in good health, I’m still learning every day.”
In fact, at the age of 56, Susie returned to college and received her Bachelor of Science from Cal State Northridge in Interior Design. She didn’t mind being the only student out of their late teens or early 20s; in fact, she loved being the oldest in her class. “Whenever my history professor would talk about wars like Vietnam or the Korean, he would look at me as a point-of-reference because we talked the same language. As a result, I shared a great bond with my teacher.”
But Susie’s energy and talents don’t stop there; she is also a 2nd Soprano for the Santa Ynez Valley Master Choral under the direction of renowned master conductor Chris Bowman. The group performs at major community events, and Choral members also regularly give mini-concerts for Friendship House and Atterdag Village residents. The group realizes that these special concerts brighten the seniors’ perspectives on life, especially those who may be home bound. “You just see it in their faces,” says Susie.
Susie remembers seeing Rona and her dad about town. While she never approached the two of them at the time, the image of a loving daughter and father was sealed in her memory. So, when the Rona Barrett Foundation began seeking volunteers, Susie realized that all paths led to this “calling.” (Another Foundation connection – Susie is also currently #76 on the housing “waiting list” for the soon-to-open Golden Inn & Village.)
Susie most recently pitched in as a hostess for our “Donor Appreciation High Tea.” With her big heart, hard-working, can-do attitude – and abounding compassion, Susie is such a valuable asset to the Foundation.
Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Widling
"I look forward to being around these people every time I visit! It just makes my day!"
Michael Widling may only be 23-years-old, but he is an old soul: he knows the value of doing the right thing. And, one way in which he honors that creed is by volunteering at the Golden Inn & Village. He can often be seen on site lending a helping hand on behalf of the senior residents.
He’s become a master of Bingo! Day, as well as leading the Virtual Reality Therapy program that was launched in 2017.
Michael has also been a true asset when it comes to Brown Bag Day – those mornings when the local Food Bank delivers pallets of food and supplies that have to be packaged and delivered to the senior residents.
“I just love being around these special people! Their life stories and experiences are so inspiring to hear,” he said. “Too, they know some pretty funny jokes too!”
The Rona Barrett Foundation
P.O. Box 1559
Santa Ynez, California 93460
The Rona Barrett Foundation
(805) 688.8887, email@example.com
The Rona Barrett Foundation
(805) 688.8887, firstname.lastname@example.org