The worsening economic forecast notwithstanding, the fundraising success of the Cottage Health System demonstrated that charity is alive and well in Santa Barbara.

Surpassing their goal by nearly $11 million, the Cottage organization – which oversees the hospitals in both Santa Barbara and Goleta, as well as in the Santa Ynez Valley – finished a five-year fundraising campaign with $110.8 million in the coffers. The money, which was raised with the help of the local community, will go toward the renovation of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital located downtown on Bath Street.

While the Cottage Health System will pay for the majority of the estimated $700 million cost of rebuilding the hospital, the funds raised in the campaign blew past their $100 million fundraising target by $10.8 million.

Since the fundraising drive began in 2004, over 5,500 different sources have contributed to the cause.

Construction began in 2005 to replace the current aging and seismically unsound Cottage Hospital. Features of the modernization will include 337 spacious private rooms, air ambulance services, sophisticated imaging and other diagnostic technology, as well as numerous meditation areas and gardens. Flowing through the central gardens will be a stream dubbed the “River of Life.”

Construction is expected to be finished in 2011.

The rebuilding of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is one of many construction projects Cottage Health System is currently undertaking. Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital on Hollister will see a similar reconstruction, although a fundraising campaign has not yet been organized.

Charitable individuals, corporations and businesses from the greater Santa Barbara area contributed the bulk of the donations to the fund, including a $1 million gift from Montecito’s Oprah Winfrey.