Hillside Resident Morgan Newfield Makes the Most of His Opportunities to Get Out and About

By Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Santa Barbara residents Morgan Newfield and Regina Diaz plan their Wednesdays around a fun event.

Newfield is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. He grew up in Pacific Palisades with his parents and two brothers.

The 53-year-old moved to the Santa Barbara area during his teen years and attended San Marcos High School.

“I love Santa Barbara,” he said.

For 31 years, Newfield has lived at Hillside in Santa Barbara.

“He has made a life for himself,” said Gail Metzger, director of operations at Hillside, a nonprofit residential facility caring for 59 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The organization has been helping people gain independence and meaningful opportunities for more than seven decades on its campus at 1235 Veronica Springs Road.

Hillside offers an array of activities and partnerships with local groups and organizations to meet residents’ interests, and promote participation in the community and opportunities to journey toward independence.

Every Wednesday, Newfield and his aide — Diaz — ride the public Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District bus from Hillside to the bustling Chapala Street transit hub downtown.

Newfield and Diaz’s day-long adventure typically starts around 10 a.m. and they take the bus back to Hillside around 3 p.m.

Once downtown, their activities begin and Newfield can decide where he wants to go for the day.

Santa Barbara Fire Station No. 1, at 121 W. Carrillo St., opened its doors to Diaz and Newfield on a recent jaunt.

Newfield, grinning from ear to ear, was delighted at the sight of a bright red fire engine parked outside the station.

Anyone who saw Newfield, greeted him.

Wednesday’s visit didn’t disappoint.

Fire Battalion Chief Mike de Ponce presented Newfield with a black SBFD hat.

“Thank you,” he responded.

Battalion Chief Lee Waldron gave him magazines dedicated to fire and emergency response, and Liliana Encinas, the department’s bilingual outreach coordinator, added a small flashlight.

Newfield helped empty recycling and trash bins inside the offices at the fire station.

Diaz also assisted with moving the trash into a garbage bag.

Sometimes, there isn’t any trash for Newfield to collect, but it is still a nice opportunity to spend time with firefighters.

He lit up every room he went in with his beaming smile and warm personality.

Firefighters also allowed Newfield an opportunity to see what it was like to be up close and personal inside the station.

Fire Station No. 5, at 2505 Modoc Road, responds to the neighborhod where Hillside is located, and fire crews there have established a genuine relationship with Newfield.

In the morning, he sometimes would call Station 5, and personnel would update Newfield about incidents happening in the community.

“It truly is a bright spot in our day,” de Ponce said of Newfield’s frequent visits. “He has a good spirit and he is always happy.”

Newfield and Diaz often visit Netsource Global, a Santa Barbara-based computer hardware business, and Newfield’s new job is to help clean up trash.

Diaz said he enjoys taking out the trash and recycling, and he likes mingling.

Sometimes, he also helps MarBorg Industries employees working at the MarBorg facility on the Lower Westside. Newfield will wear a bight yellow beanie with “MarBorg Industries” on it for that visit.

“Morgan goes to MarBorg every now and then, and the employees all know him,” Diaz said. “They always greet him.”

Newfield has an active social life.

He often visits the Central Library downtown and he takes Easy Lift Transportation to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Tigers are his favorite animals.

During the day’s outing, Newfield likes local eateries, hanging out at coffee shops and drinking hot chocolate.

He frequents Backyard Bowls, where he helps clean the dining tables and eats berry bowls.

Hillside staff also prepare Newfield’s lunch and he will eat it in the community — sometimes at the Paseo Nuevo open-air mall in downtown Santa Barbara and other popular places.

Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, at 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, is another spot Newfield visits on Sundays.

“Morgan knows a lot of the community in Santa Barbara,” Diaz said. “He is independent and goes to church a lot, and he loves his church community.”

Watching television and police shows are other activities that Newfield regularly enjoys. A favorite TV show is the old CHiPs series from the 1970s and ’80s.

Newfield is interested in firefighters and police officers, trash trucks and trash company workers.

Inside his room at Hillside, he has a 12-month calendar featuring fire trucks and emergency rescue vehicles. The calendar was a gift from local firefighters.

Newfield listens to live audio from his handheld fire and police scanner. He likes using the device to tune into the frequencies used by local emergency services.

Newfield and Diaz, who has been working for Santa Barbara-based Independent Living Resource Center for four years, have created a friendly, tight-knit relationship.

“We created a bond,” Diaz said.

She described Newfield as “intuitive” and “talkative.”

“He’s always smiling,” she said. “He’s always helpful.”

Newfield keeps a daily journal.

At the end of the afternoon, Diaz and others help write what they did for that particular day.

“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “Morgan is always busy.”

Hillside plans to offer new opportunities for residents, their families, neighbors and the community for decades to come.

The organization hopes to transform the 24-acre property into an integrated, mixed-abilities neighborhood, including 10 new, state-of-the-art, adaptive homes for residents as well as private homes for purchase, officials say.

Click here for more information about Hillside. Click here to make an online donation.

— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Link to Noozhawk: https://www.noozhawk.com/article/hillside_resident_morgan_newfield_makes_most_of_opportunities_20191229

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