Where the Fullest Lives are Lived

By Giving List Staff   |   October 28, 2021
Hillside resident Pilar among the reindeer of Hillside’s annual Shining Light on Abilities display that takes place during December

During its 76-year history, Hillside House, a residential facility for people with moderate to severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, has grown accustomed to multiple periods of profound change. In 1955, it outgrew its building in Ojai and moved into a state-of-the-art facility in a then-remote part of Santa Barbara known as Hidden Valley. It was a different era, when many families kept their relatives with developmental disabilities hidden away from public sight. Societal mores have evolved drastically since those bygone days. Today, Hillside House celebrates and strategically engages every one of its 59 residents in the broader community. The nonprofit works eagerly in partnerships with a wide variety of local agencies and organizations like Alpha Resource Center, Easy Lift, and Assistance League.

“Hillside is an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) where local families truly appreciate the love, care, and attention their loved ones receive. They value our individualized, person-centered approach and know that each resident is treated with dignity, and provided every opportunity to live their fullest life,” says President and CEO Michael Rassler.

Barbara celebrates her 77th birthday celebration with Ricardo Martinez

One of those residents is Ryan, who has lived at Hillside for 20 years. Since he came to the facility, his family encouraged him to meet people. He befriended neighbors and began taking out their trash. When the neighbors noticed there was no continuous sidewalk connecting the community and their home to the Hillside campus, they constructed a ramp so he could ride his electric wheelchair. 

“Hillside is a big family,” Rassler says. “It is an incredibly inspiring, welcoming, warm, and loving place where the residents, neighbors, and staff all look out for each other.”

Today, Hillside is going through another moment of transformation as societal mores continue to evolve. New government mandates are requiring that residents with development and intellectual disabilities move out of institutional living arrangements and into integrated housing. Accordingly, Hillside is embarking on a major development initiative that will incorporate senior housing at its campus, with walkways and outdoor and indoor activities for all residents in a new integrated, mixed-abilities community.

What will never change is the around-the-clock commitment to top medical and empathetic care for which Hillside House is known. Eighty-four percent of residents are non-ambulatory and most are medically fragile.

“Hillside House is unique in what it offers,” says Director of Operations Gail Metzger. “It takes a lot to give people the life that they deserve, and we do everything we can to provide that.” 


Hillside House

Donate now!

(805) 687-0788
President & CEO: Michael S. Rassler
Associate Director of Operations: Angela De Bruyn


Our mission is to provide a home that supports our residents’ efforts to maximize their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities so that they can attain their highest level of independence in an environment where people are treated with dignity and respect.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

Shining a Light on Fundraising

Hillside depends on donations to cover many medical services, adaptive equipment, and the supportive programming needed to maximize residents’ potential, and acquire the skills necessary for their greatest independence, including physical, occupational, speech, and behavioral therapies. Hillside also has a number of targeted campaign needs including power chair lifts, alternating pressure mattresses, and interior building repairs/replacement.

Key Supporters

Assistance League of Santa Barbara
John and Gail Campanella
Joan Redmond and Susan Crossley
John and Adrienne Demboski
Ray and Susan Dingman
St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara
Brad and Cynthia Frohling
Barry and Norris Goss
David Gorham
Hutton Parker Foundation
Hady and Jana Izadpanah
Ann Jackson Family Foundation
Robert and Jan Kopf
Montecito Bank & Trust
Mosher Foundation
Cecille Raleigh
George and Marlene Riemer
Barbara N. Rubin Foundation
Santa Barbara Foundation
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation
Judy A. Shea
Marie Williams Shipman
David and Pamela Flynt Tambo
Towbes Foundation
Peter and Gina Troesch
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation
Jon and Mary Anne Valois
Russell and Nancy Werner
Jim and Lisa Wilcox
Williams-Corbett Foundation
Erik and Dyanne Wipf
Jim and Marcia Wolfe