Legacy of Care Lives On

By Giving List Staff   |   October 29, 2021

Caring for our communities has been at the core of VNA Health for more than a century. Six generations have expressed their profound gratitude for the care that helped them live independently and enjoy the highest quality of life even in their final days.

In 1908, Marian Watts – one of our country’s original visiting nurses – recruited a group of Santa Barbara women she described as “public spirited and farsighted” to build an organization with a philanthropic mission to serve the community. Their goal was ambitious but simple: provide everyone with quality healthcare, including those with limited or no financial resources.

At 113 years and vibrant as ever, the VNA Health organization  (formerly known as Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care) built by Watts and those pioneering women has outlasted every conceivable crisis: floods, fires, earthquakes, two world wars, and pandemics. Through the years, VNA Health continues to be a community trailblazer and has developed healthcare programs to meet the evolving needs. Many clinics and programs across Santa Barbara today – from the first urgent care service to women and baby wellness clinics to nursing education programs – have had their start with VNA Health.

Community collaboration remains vital to the VNA Health mission with as many as 50 affiliations, including Cottage Health, Sansum Clinic, CenCal Health, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, and a number of community-based organizations such as the Family Service Agency, Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s Association, and American Heart Association.

“Trusted and compassionate care in the home is what VNA Health has always done – care that even COVID-19 couldn’t stop,” says Foundation Executive Director Rebecca Benard. “While much of life as we knew it shut down due to the pandemic, VNA Health knew exactly what to do: keep people safe at home.” Through nursing and rehabilitative therapies to get people back on their feet or end-of-life comfort care, VNA Health’s promise to help people live their best life has never wavered. 

VNA Health is the only home healthcare agency committed to Santa Barbara families through a charitable mission that provides Serenity House, the Loan Closet, subsidized healthcare, and a variety of community programs. “The longevity of VNA Health is a testament to its leadership, its collaboration, and its generous community that understands the importance of caring for one another,” says Benard.

Today, VNA Health is as vital to the health and well-being of our communities as it was over a century ago. The founding “public spirited and far-sighted” Santa Barbara women would be proud to see that their trailblazing legacy lives on today.


VNA Health — Serenity House

Donate now!

(805) 690-6218
Director of the Foundation: Lailan McGrath


Caring for our community with compassion and integrity.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

The memories of Serenity House are not sad ones, they’re really wonderful, sweet, and treasured. I think once going there … it was like the perfect place for us. When we were at Serenity House, I asked Kevin, ‘Could we have done anything differently?’ He just wrote, ‘No regrets.’ We were able to have closure …so that’s pretty special.
Angel Speier

For the Good of the Community There Will be a Loan Closet

Founded in 1908, “for the good of the community and out of compassion for the less fortunate,” the VNA Health founders planned that “there will be a Loan Closet” to provide bed linens, night clothes, and other nursing supplies. In 1948, Thomas M. Storke, then editor and publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, helped expand the Loan Closet to provide short-term loans of durable medical equipment.

Today, the VNA Health Loan Closet is the only community resource in Santa Barbara County offering free loans of basic medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches, knee scooters, walkers, and shower seats to community residents.

The VNA Health Loan Closet serves more than 4,000 clients each year and is completely supported through private donations and contributions. VNA Health depends on its friends, family, and neighbors. Please join us today by making a donation to continue the Loan Closet legacy and to ensure it is available to support every generation of the next family in need.

Key Supporters

Board of Directors
Mark Mattingly, Chair
Ken Kraus, Vice Chair
Karen Handy, Secretary
Kieran Shah, CHPCA, President & CEO
Michael Bordofsky, MD
Laura Canfield, DNP, RN, CNS,
Alex W. Craigie, Esq.
Eusebio Cordova, Jr.
Pamela Dillman Haskell
Paul Jaconette, MPH
Frederic C. Kass, MD
Neil Levinson, Esq.
Ben Phillips
Suzi Schomer
Christopher Thrash, MD
Directors Emeriti
Ed Brady
Stan Fishman
Herb Geary, RN
Jane Habermann
Christopher Jones, Esq.
Steve Lew
Michelle Martinich, CPA
Chris McNamara
Judy Murphy
Elna Scheinfeld
James Stovesand
Ted Thoreson, MD