Leigh Block was a wealthy industrialist and art collector. He moved to the Santa Barbara area from Chicago and built a house in Montecito. The house was designed to house his art. And it was world class art. As one of our Board members said, "there were original Picassos in the bathroom." But as we all know, material wealth and great culture do not provide a barrier against mortality. Leigh's wife became ill and died. Then Leigh's daughter became ill and died. Leigh was able to provide the best care possible for them including having a physician reside at the home. After his daughter's death, Leigh decided that, after he died, his house would be sold and the proceeds given to help build the endowment for the Hospice of Santa Barbara Foundation. He told his friends that he had been able to give his loved ones the best care possible, a level of care that was well beyond what most people could afford. By freely giving this gift to Hospice of Santa Barbara, he wanted the kind of care he had given to his wife and daughter to be available to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
Years later, Leigh's vision is being realized...being realized in ways he could not have foreseen.
Leigh Block did not know that some day the average number of people we serve in a month would pass 500, as it did in recent months.
He did not know that the number of volunteer hours given in a year would exceed 4,000.
He did not know that someday there would be an "I Have a Friend®" program, and children who lost a parent would find an adult who understood what that is like and would become their dedicated friend.
He did not know that our staff would grow to more than 30, and that in 2012 Hospice of Santa Barbara would be leading regular bereavement groups in six local high schools every week.
But he did know what needed to be at the heart of our work the recognition that all people who are dying deserve companionship, care, and love. And that those who are grieving need companionship, care and love. And that the greatest companionship, care and love we can give in life is that which is not part of a commercial transaction, but freely given, from the purest part of our souls.