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Little Known South Coast Non-Profit Has Been Helping People With Major Medical Issues For 125 Years

Emilee Garfield is one of the people helped by the Cecilia Fund, a 125 year old Santa Barbara based non-profit which provides financial assistance for those dealing with serious medical issues

It was a nightmare for a Santa Barbara County woman. In 2014, she noticed she wasn’t feeling well, and was having severe stomach cramping. Emilee Garfield’s doctor ended up going to a series of specialists in LA, and the Bay Area, and the news was bad.

It was cancer.

Even worse, they couldn’t determine exactly what type of cancer. Finally, a doctor who did a second biopsy was able to determine the type of cancer Garfield was facing. She says the good news was they had a plan to treat it. The bad news is it was Stage Three uterine cancer, which is incurable.

She started going though a series of operations, as well as chemotherapy.

Some of her treatments were at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. One day, she found out a non-profit Santa Barbara group which had heard about her medical, and financial issues wanted to help, The group was The Cecelia Fund.

It’s a little known Santa Barbara based non-profit, but it shouldn’t be so unknown. It’s been helping people in the community for more than a century, Marion Schoneberger is with the Cecelia Fund. She says it started in the late 1800’s with the wives of some doctors doing community concerts, which became so popular someone suggesting they should use them as fundraisers for those in need. For years, they funded a hospital room at Cottage Hospital reserved for those in need. Later, they turned it into grants for those facing serious medical problems.

The Cecelia Fund now works with the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, giving out about $100,000 to help support medical care for those in need. Schoneberger says helping people like cancer survivor Garfield is now the focus.

Garfield says the fund help with a number of expenses, from expensive medicine to hotel stays for out of town treatment. Garfield says it’s been a year since what she hopes what was her final surgery, and is in remission. The fitness instructor is back teaching yoga and pilates classes, and has even recorded a video, and is creating her own foundation to help cancer survivors improve their fitness.

The Cecelia Fund has a volunteer board, no full time staff, and raises its money through memberships, and donations.

This week, it’s holding its biggest annual event. It’s the 125th annual Tea and Membership meeting at the Santa Barbara Club. The 2:30 P.M. Thursday event is open to the public.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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