Former entertainment reporter Rona Barrett now dedicates her life to helping seniors

SANTA YNEZ (KABC) -- In the world of television entertainment reporters, Rona Barrett started it all many years ago on ABC7.

These days, she's hard at work making life better for our seniors.

She created something in Santa Ynez she believes can be replicated all across the country.

The Golden Inn & Village is now celebrating five successful years.

Making it happen was not easy.

"I went to see everyone under the sun," Barrett said. "Everybody said, 'No, you can't do this. No, you can't do that.' I said, 'Yes, we can.'"

It took her seven years to convince Santa Barbara's housing authority to work with her. The result: the Golden Inn & Village, affordable housing and supportive services for low-income seniors. It's now considered a model for helping to care for our aging population.

"It has to be combined with your community, your government, local and statewide, and it has to be the people who really have a great deal of money in this country and are interested in being philanthropic," Barrett said.

Due to the pandemic, the last year has been tough so the non-profit Rona Barrett Foundation turned to mailers for help. And it worked. "Suddenly, people were calling and saying, 'How can I help? How can I help?' And I would say, Send the money because I need to start a food program here. I have to make sure that my people will not go hungry,'" she said.

They now provide three hot meals a week for residents.

In Rona's previous career as an entertainment reporter, she interviewed Hollywood's biggest stars, making a lot of friends along the way.

Among them: Cher, who stepped right up to the plate, doing a PSA for the foundation, asking the audience to "please contribute in any way you can."

Barrett said, "I don't care if you send me two dollars or two pennies as long as you send something and I can make life better for somebody that I know has not been in the greatest shape at this time in their life."

The seniors who live at Golden Inn & Village pay 30% of their Social Security to do so. About 60 seniors are currently residents but Barrett's vision includes breaking ground on one more building to help at least 60 more.

Barrett said, "They bought me a gold shovel, by the way, and I can't wait to take that gold shovel and stick it in the earth once again. That's all I have to say."

One mission of The Rona Barrett Foundation is to make sure seniors know there's a future out there for them and more good times to come.

Barrett had a lot more to say. You can see more on our free ABC-7 Los Angeles App. You can find it on Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple T-V and Android T-V.
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