Lindsey Leonard talks about leading the California Central Coast chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
Lindsey Leonard is excited about leading a team of angels.
That’s how she describes the staff and volunteers with the California Central Coast chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Ms. Leonard is the chapter’s new executive director.
“I was very attracted to working for this organization because the cause is so critical,” she told the News-Press last week at the chapter’s headquarters in Santa Barbara. “Right now, the number of Alzheimer’s cases across the U.S. is 5.8 million. That number is projected to increase to 16 million by 2050.”
Ms. Leonard said the California Central Coast chapter is serving an estimated 2,800-plus families in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
“I’m very proud of the work that the dedicated staff at the Alzheimer’s Association do,” Ms. Leonard said. “They are in many ways angels.”
And Ms. Leonard, the former executive director of the Santa Barbara-based Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, stressed that the Alzheimer’s chapter is continuing its programs at 100% of their level despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Support groups and other services are being offered online, and this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place in a modified form that will avoid large gatherings in one location.
“There is no decline in the number of families that we are reaching and helping,” Ms. Leonard said. “The chapter has done a number of things, including providing virtual counseling and virtual support groups for our families.”
She noted caregivers can log on for online support and that families can call a 24/7 hotline to obtain resources and get information.
“We’re working remotely,” she added as she talked to the News-Press during her first visit to the chapter’s headquarters on Chapala Street.
The Santa Cruz native earned her bachelor’s in sociology in 2000 at UCSB. Afterward, she knew she wanted to help nonprofits.
“Since I was pretty young, I always had a feeling that we should help others,” Ms. Leonard said. “I was really interested in helping children. I wanted to become a teacher originally as well as a social worker. I do have a teaching credential as well. I’ve never used it, but I have it.”
After UCSB, Ms. Leonard worked from 2000 to 2009 for the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, then served as vice president of operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley in Ventura County. After that, she became the development director for the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, an environmental organization.
From 2012 to this summer, she served as the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s executive director.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree, she earned her master’s in education with an emphasis on organizational leadership in 2008 at National University, based in La Jolla.
Ms. Leonard has used her education and experience to help others, and she sees the importance of doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Alzheimer’s Association supports a predominantly elderly population and their families,” Ms. Leonard said. “They are more vulnerable, now more than ever, during COVID-19.”
She said that makes today an important time to increase the association’s visibility and strengthen its program to meet growing needs.
Ms. Leonard noted that more than 59,000 residents and workers have died nationally from COVID-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care communities. She said the Alzheimer’s Association is urging state and federal policymakers to implement new solutions addressing immediate and long-term issues affecting care facilities during the pandemic.
As always, the California Central Coast chapter is working to help caregivers, families and patients.
“Our goal is not only provide resources to our families but help connect them with others through our (virtual) support groups, so they have the tools to care for their loved ones,” she said.
She discussed the plans for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The five walks include two in Santa Barbara County: Oct. 3 in Santa Maria and Nov. 7 in Santa Barbara, but in a modified manner because of COVID-19.
Instead of walkers gathering in a single location, participants can walk wherever they want.
“They might step outside their front door and walk in their neighborhood,” Ms. Leonard said. “They could be walking downtown. They could be walking on trails.”
She said the goal this year is to raise $750,000.
“Our goal is not only to raise critical funds to further our mission, but also to be able to raise awareness,” Ms. Leonard said. “Our walkers will still be able to do this by putting on their purple shirt (the Alzheimer’s Association’s official color) and posting on social media that they are engaged in this activity.
“The walk is everywhere, and we are really excited about it.”