Orcutt resident Patricia Sly-Feighner said Houth Hak, the owner of Orcutt’s Golden Donut, always went out of her way to make people feel special.
“She’s just always so happy, you just knew she would smile at you. She would help carry your stuff out to your car; she was a ray of sunshine,” Sly-Feighner said. “She made people feel like she was their best friend. She made you laugh, she was funny.”
Sly-Feighner and her family—like many other Orcutt families—have been going to Golden Donut for years for a taste of its delicious doughnuts, she said. The business was hit hard during the pandemic, but the community rallied to support the shop after Hak’s daughter tweeted about the situation in 2020.
When Sly-Feighner found out that Hak was recently diagnosed with cancer and admitted into the hospital for care, she decided it was time for the community to extend a helping hand again, she said. After getting the family’s permission, Sly-Feighner set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help with hospital bills and any other family needs.
Once she set up the GoFundMe page, she posted it to two local Facebook groups with about 5,000 people that she oversees as an administrator, calling people to donate to the cause, Sly-Feighner said.
“My thought was we would get to $5,000 or $10,000, and then it went to $20,000, and now here we are at $25,000,” she told the Sun on March 16. “She’s still in the hospital so we’re waiting for her to come home. I want to do something for them when they get back.”
Hak got sick shortly after retiring over the holidays in 2022. She discovered a tumor after going to the doctor for extreme shoulder pain—the tumor later shattered her neck and resulted in major neck surgery and a tracheostomy because of the swelling in her throat, according to the GoFundMe page.
She’s now in San Francisco for chemotherapy, with no discharge date as of March 16. Sly-Feighner said the family is trying to set up treatments for her in San Luis Obispo after her radiation treatment.
“The GoFundMe is helping the family stay near her and taking that burden [of travel] off. Could you imagine not seeing your mom because she’s four hours away and you can’t afford gas? I wanted to alleviate anything that I could so she could recover,” she said.
Not only are people able to donate to the GoFundMe page, but residents can write letters to the family while they are still in San Francisco to offer messages of love and support, Sly-Feighner said.
The Sun could not get ahold of family members before press time, but they posted a letter in the GoFundMe page, thanking the residents for their support.
“Your kindness and generosity have touched our hearts in a profound way, and we are so grateful to be a part of such a caring and compassionate community,” the letter said. “This has been a difficult time for our family, but the love and support that we have received from all of you have made a world of difference.”
The family emphasized that it’s not just their mother, Hak, who has been uplifted by the community, but the entire family has been deeply moved as well.
“Your messages of hope, love, and encouragement have given us the strength to face each day with renewed hope and optimism,” the letter added. “We appreciate the donations that have been made, what is most important to us is the sense of community and connection that we feel with all of you.”
Shortly after Hak got sick, the family sold The Golden Donut to a young couple, who hadn’t changed the store too drastically from what Sly-Feighner could see, she said.
“They did the transition so seamlessly that it didn’t disrupt the community, which shows how successful they should continue to be,” Sly-Feighner said.
As of March 21, the GoFundMe page had raised more than $25,500 and has 395 donors. Residents are still encouraged to donate, she said. Find the page online at gofundme.com/f/TheOrcuttDonutLady.
“It’s important to remember that we are a small community; even though we’ve grown so much, we still need each other,” she said.
Send letters to 1125 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield, CA 94904. Include her full name, Houth Mu Hak, otherwise she won’t be able to receive the mail.
• The Environmental Defense Center (EDC)—one of the nation’s longest-running public interest law firms working to protect the California coast, natural resources, and the Earth’s climate—announced that Alex Katz will become the organization’s new executive director this month. Katz brings 25 years of experience in public service and communications to the fight for environmental protection. He is deeply committed to climate action, conservation, and justice for communities that are disproportionately harmed by the fossil fuel industry and other sources of pollution, according to the EDC. Former EDC Executive Director Owen Bailey served in that role for more than nine years. Owen passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. The organization has been without a full-time executive director since then. Alex will be joining a staff of 10 members and two year-long legal fellows.
Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor wrote this week’s Spotlight. Reach her at [email protected].