Santa Barbara Magazine
The Dream Team
Contributing to a Healthier Cottage Hospital
By Marcia Meier
They call them “The Dream Team,” but perhaps “Dream-Fulfillers” is a more accurate description. If anyone can raise $100 million in coming months to help rebuild Cottage Hospital, this dynamic quartet can. They are Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, who with her husband, Lord Paul Ridley-Tree, gave Cottage its lead campaign gift of $10 million in March, retired City College President Peter MacDougall; Montecito Bank and Trust President Michael Towbes; and Palmer Jackson, president of Alisal Properties and longtime philanthropist.
The campaign will help fund the nearly $400 million reconstruction of Cottage, which must be rebuilt by 2013 to meet state seismic standards. The campaign is believed to be the largest fund-raising effort Santa Barbara has ever seen.
“What would this community be without Cottage Hospital?” asks Lady Ridley-Tree. “It is the womb of the community. It is the safety net,” she explains.
A hospital is key to a healthy community, agrees Jackson. “It impacts our family, our friends. We can’t really go through life without the hospital.”
How true. We come into the world in a hospital (at least most of us do), and we may seek the services of a hospital for any number of reasons as we go through life. Some of us will spend out last days there.
“The quality of the hospital has a great deal to do with the quality of life in Santa Barbara,” Towbes explains.
Cottage is acknowledged as one of the finest teaching hospitals in the country for a community of Santa Barbara’s size. In addition, the hospital is the only trauma II facility between San Jose and Los Angeles; it is equipped to handle the most challenging and serious emergency cases. It also boasts the only neonatal intensive care unit between the two major cities. As the designated “county” hospital, it treats and cares for those among us who are least able to care for themselves.
A private, nonprofit facility, Cottage is overseen by an unpaid, volunteer community board that must raise money each year to cover an ever-increasing funding gap. Reconstruction is an additional need.
The hospital at Bath and Pueblo streets in Santa Barbara will be rebuilt in the spirit of the original founders, who in the 1880s envisioned a series of warm, cottage-like facilities – thus Cottage Hospital. The hospital will spread over Castillo Street to cover the block west of the current facility. A new entrance at Castillo and Pueblo streets will welcome visitors. Low-rise nursing pavilions will boast private rooms around earth-toned, welcoming courtyards which will feature a meandering brook – “a river of life,” as Lady Ridley-tree describes it. Once complete, Cottage will offer state-of-the-art care in a warm, healing environment.
“The quality of the hospital in the future has to stand out,” explains MacDougall, the campaign chair. “There’s going to have to be a broad base of people working together to make it happen.” In fact, there are 24 other community leaders in the campaign cabinet.
The Dream Team faces a challenge, but it’s up to the task.
“I pray a lot that we can find the answer to open up people’s hearts to give,” Lady Ridley-Tree says. “But I know we will. I know we will.”
Marcia Meier is a writer and executive director/owner of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.