Before TMZ, , E!, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, and all the internet gossip sites, there were only a few gossip queens that had the attention of the country. One of them was Rona Barrett. She paved the way for Barbara Walters’ TV celebrity interviews and published magazines on Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. “Nothing But the Truth,” she promised.
Today Barrett’s big swirly blonde do has become a natural looking platinum banged bob. And her cause célèbre has changed from gossip to do-good. The Rona Barrett Foundation is dedicated to providing more and better affordable housing for seniors, as well as advocacy work on behalf of seniors.
“I founded the Rona Barrett Foundation in 2000 because I saw firsthand the great need our seniors have today for an advocate to speak on their behalf,” says Barrett, who moved from Hollywood to Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara county. “I was caring for my own aging father, who came to live with me after my mother passed away. He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I found that even with the resources I was able to provide for his care, all the decisions that needed to be made were daunting and overwhelming: health insurance, prescriptions, pills for this, doctors for that, in-home health, adult day care, surgery options, end of life decision making, hospice care, and so on.”
The Foundation employs a dual approach. With Barrett’s name recognition, it has been able to help nonprofits raise funds to provide housing, basic and medical needs, food and other services for the elderly in need. “I’m often asked about why someone might want to donate to my foundation directly,” Barrett remarks. “My answer is simple. I care. I have no hidden agenda and feel a tremendous responsibility to give back. Additionally, I spend a great deal of my time meeting with leaders in the field of senior care, researching and discovering organizations who are on the cutting-edge of senior care and housing across the country. Since most people don’t have the time to research organizations that spend their money wisely and on the most critical things, they can look to me to do that work on their behalf.”
The other tactic the Rona Barrett Foundation is taking is to build community-centered housing for the elderly, with an emphasis on “orphaned seniors” who don’t have a family. The Foundation is focused on the development of an innovative combined housing, adult day care, short term caregiver respite and community center model called “The Golden Inn and Cottages.” A pilot program is in progress on California’s Central Coast with the goal to create a replicable model to serve low-income seniors in communities throughout the United States.
Barrett is performing in a one-woman stage show to raise money for the securing of land and construction costs for the Golden Inn and Cottages. “The show is full of anecdotes and clips from past interviews, including a candid moment with Lucille Ball speaking about her relationship with Desi Arnaz and one of John Wayne’s last interviews,” says Barrett. “Throughout the show I also talk about my own personal journey. Where I started as a youngster in Queens and how I became one of the closest confidantes to ‘Young Hollywood,’ a term I coined back in the 1960s with a series of successful entertainment magazines and a career on television as the original entertainment journalist.”
“Nothing But The Truth” premiered in Beverly Hills at the Paley Center for Media. “My hope is to perform the show nationally,” Barrett says. Given Barrett’s drive and talent, that wish is likely to come true.
For more information about the Rona Barrett Foundation, please visit http://ronabarrett.com.
Judy Kirkwood lives in Delray Beach, Florida and writes frequently for ThirdAge.com .