Co-workers began GoFundMe campaign to support beloved Santa Barbara waitress Barbara Dutra
These are the words Barbara Dutra’s co-workers at Jane at the Marketplace used to describe the beloved waitress, who has worked at the Goleta restaurant for over a decade.
The Santa Barbara resident is well-loved among the tight-knit staff at the restaurant, so when she received a stage IV colon cancer diagnosis in December, her co-workers immediately knew they wanted to help.
“When she told me (about the diagnosis), I cried for three days and felt kind of helpless, and then I thought, ‘I have to do something for her,” Arielle Chang, manager at Jane at the Marketplace, told the News-Press. “I just knew everyone in the community loved her so much, and I knew they would want to help.”
Just a few days after Ms. Dutra’s diagnosis, Ms. Chang started a GoFundMe page to collect donations to support Ms. Dutra while she received chemotherapy treatments.
Since January, donors have raised more than $28,000 to support Ms. Dutra. The money helps to cover Ms. Dutra’s rent, bills and food expenses so she can solely focus on her treatment.
“She is always taking care of everybody else, and I wanted her to be able to heal and take care of herself,” Ms. Chang said.
The continued support from donors across Santa Barbara is a testimony to Ms. Dutra’s legacy among locals. As a waitress at the Montecito Cafe 15 years ago, Ms. Dutra quickly became a favorite among regulars.
Serving hundreds of guests from all over the world, Ms. Dutra was often asked for by name by repeat customers, Ms. Chang said. “She just made everybody feel special when they came in, and she was just like one of those school waitresses that made you feel good.”
When the Montecito Cafe’s owners opened Jane at the Marketplace, Ms. Dutra joined the staff in Goleta and has worked there for over a decade. During the December COVID-19 lockdown, Ms. Dutra, along with other staff members, was laid off when the restaurant was closed.
As she undergoes treatment for cancer, Ms. Dutra is unable to work, but through the support from the GoFundMe page and grants from the Ridley-Tree Cancer Foundation, she is able to focus on her treatment and healing.
With support continuing to roll in, Ms. Dutra told the News-Press she is “overwhelmed” by the kindness of the community.
“I’m just so overwhelmed and grateful for what everyone has done,” Ms. Dutra said. “There’s not a moment that I don’t wake up in the morning and appreciate all this.”
Though the cancer treatment has been difficult, Ms. Dutra said her faith in God and the support of her family helps to keep her spirits high.
As she goes through her treatment, Ms. Dutra is currently living with her daughter Brandy in Santa Barbara. Her son, Joseph, lives close by in Goleta.
“My family is with me through everything, thick and thin,” Ms. Dutra said.
Looking back over her nearly 15 years of service with the restaurants, Ms. Dutra said she “cannot say enough” about the staff, owners and customers at the restaurant who made her job enjoyable.
When she first started at the Montecito Cafe, she was working for Bartlein and Company, a Santa Barbara property management company, and was waitressing on the side. As a single mother, her waitressing job brought in extra money to support her two children.
“It worked out perfect with the hours, and the owners were great, the staff was wonderful, and just the experience with the customers was almost like I was serving them from my own living room,” Ms. Dutra said. “It was really good fun, and I had a great time.”
As she goes through her treatment, Ms. Dutra is remaining positive and said she always reminds her daughter to “live every day like it is your last.”
After working with Ms. Dutra for more than 10 years, Ms. Chang said the waitress is always energetic, always positive and never complains.
Ms. Chang said she believes Ms. Dutra’s outlook on life will carry her through this illness.
“It gives me hope that she can beat this because she’s just so positive.”