Community is Way of Life for Central Coast Resident

For three decades, local advocate for the underserved has served others;

urges low-income residents like herself to act now, get connected

For Sara Macdonald, “community” is more than a word – it’s a way of life. Born and raised in Santa Maria, the graduate from both Santa Maria High and nearby Cal Poly San Luis Obispo didn’t need to travel far to find her purpose.

After an early career as a local preschool teacher, Macdonald found her way to helping underserved adults and families in her community, especially those experiencing homelessness. “My activism started in the 1990’s through my church – St. Peter’s Episcopal in the heart of Santa Maria,” said Macdonald. “Volunteers like myself worked to help the area’s hungry and unhoused. That early effort planted the seeds for what eventually became the Good Samaritan Shelter.” It also set Macdonald on her path as a compassionate community organizer.

“I hear the voices of the unheard, and I try to speak for them in my various volunteer roles with community service organizations.” Macdonald is active in the Central Coast Chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign and is the current President of the Democratic Club of Santa Maria Valley.  Her political involvement began during the first Obama election campaign. “I wanted to stand up for those of us that are not wealthy, and live my democratic values.”

Sara Macdonald is also a valued member of the CenCal Health Board of Directors. As the Medi-Cal health plan that works with local providers to deliver health care services to those with limited or no income, CenCal Health serves one in three residents of Santa Barbara County and one in four residents of San Luis Obispo County. In her role on the board representing Medi-Cal members, Macdonald ensures that health plan consumers like herself are seen and heard. “I don’t have a car, so I walk everywhere and can really see what is lacking in our community. Noticing the looks on people’s faces when they are in need, I think to myself ‘CenCal Health has services that would help them.’”

“What an asset it is to have Sara Macdonald on our Board. Her thoughtful suggestions are vital to better serving our members,” said Marina Owen, CenCal Health CEO. “As our Medi-Cal recipient representative, Sara supports delivering high quality healthcare benefits and services for members on the Central Coast.”

As a Senior and a cancer survivor, Macdonald also brings her own knowledge and personal experience in health care to this board position. In 2014, after a screening colonoscopy, the Santa Maria resident was diagnosed with colon cancer. “It was emotional. ‘Oh my gosh, I have cancer’ was what I kept thinking. But you have to go forward. You make decisions, like having chemotherapy. It’s your own cancer journey. Eventually you get on the other side of the diagnosis, do the treatments and know you are going to get healthy.” Macdonald has been cancer-free for ten years.

In 2019, The Democratic Club of Santa Maria Valley, named Macdonald Volunteer of the Year. In 2022, she was selected by the Santa Barbara County Action Network to receive the Giving Back Award. The press release for the awards stated “Macdonald offers compassion and inclusiveness to those with whom she interacts. She is also prolific when it comes to sharing information, offering the latest on governmental and nonprofit meetings, to ensure the community is well-informed.” When asked what these awards mean to her, Macdonald said “They mean everything! As a person with a low income, I can still give back to my community. It doesn’t require money. You just roll up your sleeves and do the work. Giving time is what is most valuable.”

The activist has always made good use of social media to spread the news of hope to those in need – frequently posting about local support and resources from the many organizations where she is involved, which also include the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

The always involved Sara Macdonald continues to lead and advocate, all in service to her beloved community, and, she hopes, the world at large.

# # #

About CenCal Health

CenCal Health is the local Medi-Cal health plan that partners with over 5,000 local physicians, hospitals, and other providers in delivering health care services to nearly 240,000 members in its two-county service area – one in three residents of Santa Barbara County and one in four residents of San Luis Obispo County. Marking four decades of serving the most vulnerable, CenCal Health prioritizes cultivating community partnerships; advancing quality and health equity; expanding its service role and reach in the community; and organizing for impact and effectiveness. With a vision to be a trusted leader in advancing health equity so that the communities we serve thrive and achieve optimal health, CenCal Health invites the public to review its 2024 Community Report at

Leave a Response

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top