Tag Archives: community

We ALL Deserve to Experience the Bounty of the Season!

Now that Summer is in the air, the buzz to “get out there” and engage with our greater Community is palpable! But dusting off the lingering memories of the past year is not as simple as it looks… our hope is that with your ongoing and generous support of Unity’s mission — THANK YOU! — and our hard work in providing the essentials, we can ease the burden on those still finding their way back after the long pandemic “winter” we just lived through.

All of us at Unity Shoppe, including our essential workers, are grateful to be vaccinated and working on behalf of our Community’s residents. Those in need of help still turn to us for support services every day. They include: vulnerable seniors and other homebound adults who continue to need our grocery delivery service year-round; formerly employed Santa Barbarans still waiting for retailers, hotels, and restaurants to re-open in full; and parents waiting for schools and childcare to resume in person next fall.

Here’s just one example among thousands of what our services have meant in the lives of our clients. Before the pandemic, Erin and her family couldn’t fathom ever needing our support:

“Like so many of us, our family was hit very hard by Covid. Suddenly, we lost our jobs, our 4 kids needed to learn from home, and food in our fridge and pantry was scarce. Thanks to the caring people at Unity, we received fresh food for months – enough to keep our family fed and healthy – as well as access to a lifeline of support that helped us cope with the fear and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.”

It’s Never Been More Clear: As One CommUNITY We Succeed!

Funds are needed immediately to purchase food, fresh produce, and items with a longer shelf life that we depleted during the past year of the pandemic, so please act now. And, thank you to Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who have agreed to match what we raise during the month of June up to $10,000!

Summer Food Challenge donations can be made to Unity Shoppe online at:

The Making it Home Tour: Helping the Homeless Community Find Their PATH

Community members that are experiencing homelessness could often use a path to help guide them from the street into a home. Since the early 1980s, People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) has been helping individuals, veterans, and families requiring assistance find their way to long-term housing solutions. 

“We do that by really focusing on moving people off the streets, out of the shelter system, and into their own permanent home, but kind of providing the full continuum of services from streets to home,” said Tessa Madden Storms, PATH Santa Barbara Regional Director.

Today, PATH has become one of the largest organizations in the state to do so. With programs in about 150 cities spread throughout six main regions, PATH assists roughly 20% of the homeless population in California. PATH has been supporting the Santa Barbara homeless population since July 2015 and offers a range of services in the area. 

In town, PATH operates a 100-bed housing facility located on Cacique and Milpas, with guests usually staying between three to six months while working with PATH staff on their long-term housing goals. 

“We also have a couple of different community housing programs where we’re not necessarily just serving folks who are living with us onsite, but are serving individuals experiencing homelessness from throughout the Santa Barbara community,” Tessa said. 

PATH provides short-term financial assistance and case management in its rapid rehousing program, while launching a Scatter Site Permanent Supportive Housing Program last fall that provides long-term financial and rental support for 24 of the county’s most vulnerable individuals.

PATH offers a range of programs that support individuals and families facing homelessness with financial and employment assistance
PATH helps members of the community find permanent housing solutions

“We have also been able to add some additional community-based programming in the city and the county which includes employment services that are funded through a County Human Services grant and so we’re able to provide employment training, location, and retention services for folks who are work ready,” Tessa adds.

Part of PATH’s success is the close partnerships they have formed with other organizations.

“We have a lot of community contracts and partnerships that really feed into all of our programs and services. One of the main ones is with Cottage Health,” Tessa said. “They have a contract for 20 beds at PATH so we work with them very closely to support those folks that are getting referred from various programs.” 

Additionally, County Behavioral Wellness has a contract for 24 beds with PATH, while County Public Health operates a clinic on site for five days a week. With some creative bed placement and the support of partnering organizations, including Doctors Without Walls, PATH has been able to operate at about 85% of its normal capacity during the pandemic and are starting to accept new referrals from partners and relaunch programs as it is safe to do so.

Since 2015, PATH has served 3,500 members of the community in need, housed just under 500 individuals, and helped 600 people increase their income or gain paid employment.

In 2017, PATH was still a young organization in the area and wanted to introduce a signature event that would be unique while informing the community on their programs and mission. The incredible range of architecturally significant homes in the region seemed like an opportunity to celebrate the concept of home as it asked guests to look inward on what home means to them. The Making It Home Tour was launched that year and it quickly grew in popularity.

PATH serves around 20% of the homeless population in the state

On the tour, attendees would ride a historic trolley to four architecturally-revered local homes while learning about the different PATH programs along the journey. 

“You are kind of seeing the stark juxtaposition between some of the homes we’re visiting and facing the reality that there are still people experiencing homelessness on our streets,” Tessa explains, “but you’re also getting this unique look inside of these homes. It was an event that really got a lot of traction and I think that really did bring a lot of meaning, excitement, and support to the cause.” 

Naturally the Making It Home Tour did not take place last year, however they wanted to bring the popular event back this year in a safe way. A virtual event through Zoom will be held on June 5 from 3 to 4 pm that will bring a familiar experience but in a new format that allows them to share the event with the other Californian communities that PATH serves.

This year’s Making It Home Tour will feature the majestic motifs of famed Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.’s Warwick Evans House, along with the more whimsical forms from esteemed architect Jeff Shelton. There will also be a notable home in Orange County and visits to three of the PATH projects including the tiny home community they helped build in partnership with the city of San Jose.

The Zoom event will last about an hour and attendees will also be given access to a special website that offers inside looks at the featured properties and projects in addition to various workshops. Enjoy a floral arranging demonstration from A&J Floral Designs or try your hand at mixology with one of their guided cocktails courses by Loft & Bear Vodka or Shaun Belway, bar manager of the Bobcat Room.

The site allows attendees to enjoy the extra content on their own time and revisit the range of notable properties and meaningful projects. A general ticket ($50) comes with a little wine and snacks that make for an enjoyable afternoon at home. A VIP ticket ($150) for two offers a full experience with an array of goodies from their supporters, both locally and abroad, including a full bottle of wine with glasses, charcuterie, and something sweet to round out the night. 

More information on the different PATH programs and a link to Making It Home Tour tickets can be found at epath.org.

Ready, Set, Go! Taking Our Mission to New Heights

Realities that became clear in 2020 and, by all accounts, will prevail for the next few years, have informed how we plan to help our Community in 2021 and beyond. Whether they’re seniors in assisted living, hourly wage-earning families living in multi-generational households, or the newly unemployed confronted with joblessness due to Covid-related layoffs, we’re ready to take our mission to new heights.

It Would Be Unconscionable to “Un-See” What We Saw in 2020

– More than 1 in 14 seniors live in poverty locally

– The working poor, the bulk of our clients, still live on small fixed incomes that in no way cover typical monthly expenses

– When more than 30% of their income is earmarked for housing, nutritional food often becomes unaffordable for local seniors and others who are physically or economically vulnerable

– Food insecurity remains a huge problem in our Community with each passing year, as basic nutritional needs go unmet for children through seniors

– Population subgroups already strained economically are especially susceptible to the negative impact of unexpected events, like this most recent pandemic

– Many in our Community are homebound and have limited transportation options

– Social isolation, loneliness, and depression have spiked in the last 14 months

So What Do We Do NOW?

– Grow our inventory of food and other essentials so that not a single vulnerable, isolated, or senior resident in need of food is turned away — and allow them to shop twice a month.

– Don’t stop offering grocery deliveries to our isolated and most vulnerable clients still impacted by the pandemic.

– Expand and deepen the impact of our senior volunteer effort. We must find a way to get evenmore of the handiworks and custom gifts our senior program volunteers make into the hands and homes of those who need to feel they’ve not been forgotten!

We See Glimmers on the Horizon…

And look forward to the day very soon when our outreach will expand anew: allowing clients and their families safely inside our space to shop for exactly what they want and need, whether it’s in the Grocery and Clothing Store, in the Back-to-School Pop-Up, or in the Holiday Gift Shoppe; reopening our Volunteerism Programs in full and giving the Community the opportunity to be of service; supporting the newly jobless and youth through Job Smart, our employment readiness program; and welcoming the Community back into Gift Shoppe on State Street in search of donated but unique treasures, like clothing, jewelry, home furnishings and more!

2020: A Challenging (and Rewarding) Year Like No Other…

2020 was a year like no other, and it confirmed for us that nothing – not even a worldwide pandemic – could hamper Unity Shoppe’s dedication to the people of Santa Barbara, especially those who felt most vulnerable or experienced sudden job loss and needed a place to turn during this crisis. 

Led by our fearless founder, Barbara Tellefson, we quickly moved into high gear, consolidating all of our programs and services down to distributing food alone in a way that was safe and would help as many people as possible without losing site of our 100-year-old mission: to offer people choice in what they receive and to do so without compromising their dignity or self-respect. 

We quickly secured PPE, kept our essential staff and our Community’s most at-risk members healthy and safe, followed all safety guidelines, and met intense cleanliness standards. By doing so we were able to accommodate residents who could shop at Unity directly and receive free groceries they picked out themselves: farm fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated dairy products, poultry and beef, bread and baked goods, and canned and boxed staples too. The need for food has been so critical over this past year that we worked hard to ensure our clients, many of whom were families of 4-5 people, could shop for everything they needed every other week (up from only once per month in pre-Covid times). Hours were extended and front of the line privileges and automatic car loading assistance was offered to anyone who needed it by our essential staff, much like at any other supermarket around town. But not everyone was able to shop in person; for immuno-compromised, disabled or homebound residents from Goleta to Carpinteria, we instituted a highly sought after delivery service of groceries they pre-selected and we delivered right to their door.

For more information about Unity Shoppe, visit www.unityshoppe.org.

Feeding Our Community: The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Adjusts to Meet Our COVID Needs

To say that the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has been busy is an understatement – the nonprofit distributed 9,708,944 pounds of food over the course of a year, including some four million-plus pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Sounds like a lot, right? 

Sure, but that’s the year preceding the COVID crisis in California.

From March 9, 2020, to March 8, 2021, the Foodbank doled out 18,421,361 pounds of food, including just shy of eight million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

To get there, it took an operational plan to place a priority on both feeding the county, but also doing it safely for all involved.

When the pandemic began to pervade Santa Barbara County in mid-March 2020, it resulted in an increase in need for healthy sustenance due to the mandatory stay-at-home orders, business restrictions, and lockdowns. 

This is not to mention the viral infection taking hold, but the Foodbank stepped up – quickly.

Within weeks, the organization whose formal mission is to transform hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy, pivoted to abide by the new protocols. 

The Foodbank created the Safe Access to Food for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net, working with government disaster response agencies and nonprofits, as well as the education, healthcare, and business sectors to establish more than 50 SAFE Food Net distribution locations. 

These sites were in neighborhoods throughout the county so residents could safely find sustenance near their own homes. More than 20 of the locations even offered complete no-contact, drive-thru service for enhanced safety.

Among other programs, Foodbank also launched a home-delivery service that provided 1,500 low-income, high-risk seniors already partaking of its Brown Bag program with boxes of healthy groceries and fresh produce food delivered to their doors. The nonprofit also tripled the program, enrolling more than 3,000 additional seniors in home delivery and adding other households that were experiencing severe medical circumstances.

How was the nonprofit able to respond so rapidly with a massive upscaling to meet the unprecedented demand? The organization isn’t new to disaster, especially two years removed from the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow.

“I think we’d become a little bit complacent before the fire and debris flows,” Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin explained. “They enabled us to really rethink our approach and increase our ability to respond to a disaster over a long period of time and avoid staff burnout.” 

Of course, the pandemic required a completely different kind of pivoting, he said. 

“Obviously foodbanks have been all about trying to get people to come to one place and get large amounts of food at one time. That wasn’t going to work with COVID, where that would be the last thing you would want to do,” Talkin said. “So we had to really upend our model and learn to do new things to build that capacity and scale up.” 

That included finding ways of storing and moving much more food than before, which the Foodbank solved temporarily by borrowing two additional warehouses to augment its current facilities. 

But that didn’t solve how to find people who weren’t familiar with how the program worked. 

“That was a real challenge, having to identify a system where people could indicate they needed food delivered so we could plan routes and get volunteers to drive those routes and make sure that they received food in a safe fashion,” Talkin said.

A First-Time Experience

Since COVID hit Santa Barbara County, the Foodbank has supplied 18,421,361 pounds of food

The pandemic produced food insecurity among people who work in the tourism-related services, or even restaurants and other food industries.

These people never imagined they would need this kind of help. 

“With the pandemic, so many people need help. It’s affected a wide variety of people. Who are we to say who is the type of person we want to serve? There’s so many people of all sorts who need help,” explained Talkin, who has published Lulu and the Hunger Monster, a children’s picture book that aims to enable kids to feel fine if they or their family needs help with food.

Now that many county residents have already been fully vaccinated, and with increased supply of the three approved vaccines, can we expect the Foodbank to return to its pre-pandemic programs?

Not so fast, said Talkin. 

“Although the pandemic is winding down, the need for our services is not realistically going to be dramatically reduced for another 18-24 months,” he said. “People have built up a lot of debt. People are still unemployed or underemployed. And the federal subsidies are coming to an end. All the studies that we’re doing and the national studies from the Congressional Budget Office related to unemployment show there will be a need for emergency food at much larger levels right through most of 2022.”

So, no, the Foodbank won’t be scaling back services in the near term. 

And it will be keeping some of the lessons that it has learned, including how it operates educational programs, with some staying online even after it is safe to be in-person.

All this increase in demand and services, of course, means a continued need for financial support – even though the Foodbank continues to turn $1 donations into eight meals.

That’s courtesy of volume purchasing and strong partnerships with farmers and other food partners. 

But it does have one need – a new facility in Santa Barbara.

Currently, the Foodbank is working out of a small, converted fire station with no loading dock, causing it to lean heavily on its North County warehouse.

That means it needs to truck all the food down, which Talkin says doesn’t “make sense environmentally.”

“Or worse yet, if there is an earthquake or other disaster and the roads are cut off. So finding land or a location to build a new South County warehouse is a big focus for us at the moment,” Talkin said.

While a donation leading to solving that problem would of course be more than welcome, Talkin noted that everything helps.  

“Our greatest need is for the community to engage with us in whatever way they feel comfortable,” he said. 

“I’m just amazed at the community’s response and how they’ve supported us already. I think it’s because they know it’s absolutely vital to have a strong Foodbank for a resilient community. That’s how you keep people fed and healthy during a challenge.”

More Than $13 Million in Rental and Utility Assistance Funds Made Available by the County of Santa Barbara through United Way of Santa Barbara County

Grants intend to prevent homelessness by providing rent assistance to residents. Grant applications can be found by visiting unitedwaysb.org/rent.

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has more than $13 million in rental and utility assistance funds generously allocated by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for eligible County of Santa Barbara residents, that have experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Emergency Rent Assistance Program is intended to prevent homelessness by providing rent assistance to residents who can demonstrate the need for rental support.

Upon application approval, applicants may receive up to $6,000 over 3 months toward rental and utility expenses. Applicants can re-apply every 3 months up to maximum of 15 months. Assistance payments to applicants will be paid directly to landlord and/or utility providers on behalf of the applicant.

 “This rental and utility support is a lifeline for families who are dealing with the myriad of economic impacts due to COVID-19,” said Steve Ortiz, President and CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County. “We are honored to have the County of Santa Barbara’s trust and partnership as we work to distribute these funds and provide significant relief to Santa Barbara County individuals and families during these difficult times,” said Ortiz.

The program will be available to all county residents at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), though qualifying individuals at or below 50 percent AMI will be prioritized. This program has strict eligibility requirements.

The program application process opened February 15 and will be available until all funds are expended or by December 30, 2021, whichever is first. To review eligibility requirements and to apply, please visit www.unitedwaysb.org/rent

About United Way of Santa Barbara County 

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has the unique and positive vision that “in our community, everyone has a hopeful future.” Since 1923, UWSBC has served Santa Barbara County community through funding, volunteer development, and by utilizing its own unique initiatives that involve dozens of local nonprofit and public sector agencies. UWSBC’s local community driven Power of Partnership™ priorities help children, families and seniors with a focus on Education, Income and Health. To learn more, please visit unitedwaysb.org

It Takes a Village to Help Our Village!

Someone once said that it takes a village to raise a child; at Unity Shoppe, we say that it takes a village to help a village — and every day we offer our gratitude for that support:  to Unity’s essential employees for their selfless work, especially in this last year, when our Community needed it most; to our volunteers who normally join us throughout the year, in numbers typically nearing 2,000 strong, through a range of initiatives, contributing their handiwork, their time and willingness to lend a hand, and their desire to collect dollar amounts and in-kind donations large and small to make a difference in the lives of our local residents. And what of our donors? When we ask — and we do ask — their positive response and generous support is never taken for granted!

Here are just but two examples of the kind of big-hearted folks we mean.  Meet Kathy and Christina, who will also be featured as part of our upcoming Spring Newsletter due out in early April. 

If you would like to receive a copy, and learn more about all things Unity during the pandemic, and how we’re going to keeping supporting our Community in novel ways during the rest of 2021, email us your post mail address to pat@unityshoppe.org, and we’ll be sure to send you a copy!

Ms. Christina Rodriguez: A MOST Essential Worker!

How do we explain why Christina is one of our MOST essential workers? … In her own words, of course!

From a very young age, all I ever wanted was to rescue and heal all living creatures who were being mistreated and needed caring for. As I got older that feeling only got stronger, so when I found “my perfect first job” at Unity Shoppe, I vowed to keep it for as long as possible! That was 1995, and I’ve never looked back since!

Christina has been an integral member of the Unity Shoppe family since joining the team 16 years ago, when she was hired to open Unity’s Gift Shoppe on State Street. Fast forward several years of on-the-job training in many different capacities — merchandising, purchasing, inventorying, client services, staff supervision, and volunteer oversight — and you’re left with an employee like no other: the person capable of filling Barbara’s shoes as Manager of Operations!

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss our dear Miss Barbara. More than anything, I want to continue to make her proud by fulfilling the role she taught me so well. Partly because it was among her last wishes, but mostly because I owe it to her and to all of the wonderful people who have turned to Unity for help — especially in this last year. Nothing makes me more proud than to be part of a team that can make a genuine difference in the lives of so many who are less fortunate.

Leading others with her big warm heart, engaging smile, and years of experience under Barbara’s mentorship, we know Christina will shine bright in her newest role at Unity Shoppe!

An Extraordinary Volunteer with a Heart of Gold…Much Like That of Her Hero

No single phrase adequately describes the powerhouse that is Kathy Hughes…a part of the Unity Shoppe family for over 30 years, she’s been a devoted volunteer, donor, cheerleader, Community member, and successful realtor at Berkshire Hathaway who isn’t bashful about sharing her strong work ethic or passion for the woman she considered her mentor, teacher, and friend — Barbara Tellefson.

I had the honor of really watching Barbara from up close over the years, and when I think about her…what comes to mind first is how she brought the Santa Barbara Community together at Unity Shoppe and just how many thousands of people she was able to help during her lifetime. Barbara was my hero, and she taught me incredible life lessons that I try to embody every day: how to care, how to give generously to others, and how to treat people — all people — with love and respect.

As much as it saddens me to think of Unity Shoppe and our Community  without Barbara, I am comforted to know that her legacy lives on in the caring staff who work in service of others — especially during this incredibly trying time. I know that Barbara’s vision and mission will live on in Unity Shoppe with the help of her many caring supporters and volunteers, just like me, for years to come.

Thank you Kathy for your volunteership and support over three decades, for your most recent sponsorship of our 34th Annual Telethon in December 2020, and the additional matching dollars it generated — thanks to your generous outreach effort — from all across the Community … a heart of gold indeed!

Breast Cancer Resource Center: THRIVE is Alive

Webster’s Dictionary defines thrive as a verb meaning “to grow vigorously, flourish” or “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”

No wonder the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara – the nonprofit that provides free educational resources and unique support services for women currently facing a breast cancer diagnosis and/or undergoing treatment – a few years ago chose Thrive as the new name for its Fashion Show fundraiser. 

The annual event serves as a celebration of the courageous BCRC clients through “modeling” appearances by a select few of the women who proudly showcase their confidence and strength by donning designer threads to walk the runway and sharing their cancer journeys via video segments. 

“We wanted to recognize and celebrate the journey that these women are taking,” explained BCRC Executive Director Silvana Kelly. “Whether they’re in treatment now, or are post-treatment and surviving, or just living with the disease, the thought is, let’s celebrate our life, celebrate who we are, what we’ve been through and where we’re going.”

Where one of the cancer survivors/thrivers went is somewhere she never would have imagined prior to her diagnosis, said Armando Martinez, BCRC’s Director of Donor Engagement. “She was a physician but through the process of being diagnosed and her cancer journey she let her practice go and is now dedicated to helping other women that are also managing breast cancer. Her thrive story is that although her life took a turn when cancer hit, it also deepened her purpose when she was able to reapply her medical background toward helping other women in a more focused way. That’s why we realized it was a great idea to have the women tell their own stories.” 

Being seen walking the runway at the THRIVE Fashion Show also allows the women to see each other in a different light, Kelly said. 

“It’s a way to share that they’re back to being a mom, being a spouse, a caregiver, or whatever multiple roles that they’ve played. It’s a way to say, ‘I’m back.’”

Surprisingly, after taking 2020 off due to the strict guidelines on gatherings during the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the THRIVE Fashion Show is also back, albeit virtually. This year’s event will be filmed at the Belmond El Encanto’s Lily Pond in the Santa Barbara foothills and broadcasted on Sunday, May 2, via Zoom to paid viewers and sponsors with an intention to also have it aired on KEYT-TV over Mother’s Day weekend. 

BCRC provides emotional support and offers free services to empower women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer

The women will be invited one at a time to have their hair done and makeup applied, and then shoot their video in their own words, Martinez said. The videoclips will then be compiled with footage of the fashion show itself that will take place at the Lily Pond. 

“It creates a sense of joy and accomplishment to say and show, ‘This is what I’ve been through and this is my journey,’” he said. “Even if it’s in a really small format, it’s still important for the families of these women to see them complete a cycle of sorts, even if they’re in continued treatment. It’s a point in time where they can celebrate and be seen as vibrant.”

That vitality, of course, is the main purpose of the Breast Cancer Resource Center, whose unique support services include everything from a lending library to peer groups to hands-on practical programs such as reflexology and reiki treatments, all in service of empowering a sisterhood and create healing by fostering hope to counteract the terror of facing a cancer diagnosis. 

“Our services are unique in that we approach the healing process and the journey by looking at mind, body, and spirit,” said Kelly, who, like most of the staff at BCRC, is also a breast cancer survivor. “When we started 23 years ago, that wasn’t a generally accepted concept. We were really blazing a trail to provide patient services.”

Nowadays, thankfully, such forward-thinking medical providers as the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center offer a number of patient support services, but only BCRC exclusively deals with women diagnosed with breast cancer, an important factor that makes the nonprofit services still vitally important, she said. 

“Women tend to want to be with other women, and going to a support group, you want to be with people who are going through the same thing you are.” 

With the pandemic still preventing most in-person gatherings, particularly for people who are immunosuppressed such as cancer patients, most of BCRC’s services have moved online, Kelly said. 

“We’ve now migrated almost everything to a virtual platform, including support groups that meet twice a month and one-on-one sessions between clients and support personnel over the phone or Zoom. There’s even remote Reiki healing and an online sound healing session with crystal bowls and chimes.”

Even so, Kelly said, people are still coming to the center, although the traffic has diminished. 

“So we’re still open in the office,” she said. “I’m glad that we are because that personal human touch really matters when you are in such sensitive circumstances. It’s important for the women to sit across from us and go, OK, these ladies are healthy, they’re thriving. It inspires them and encourages them to get through.” 

Which circles back to the THRIVE Fashion Show, which was previously one of the biggest sources of revenue for BCRC, which receives no government funds, instead relying on donations from individuals, businesses, and private foundations. 

“It’s been quite the challenge for us to get the message out that we are still open and are still available to provide support to the women who need us,” Kelly said, adding that even though most oncologists already refer their breast cancer patients to the center, others need a little push. “Sometimes we feel like medical sales rep, making the rounds to sit in front of the doctors to keep them aware of what it is we’re doing.”

What’s even tougher, though, given the continuing coronavirus crisis, is making sure the funds will be there to keep their services bustling.

“It’s really tough for the fundraiser because people really like to get to go to events when they make donations, which is understandable.” Kelly said. “They want to have some fun. The question for us is how we keep those people involved. How do we keep them connected to what it is we’re doing?”

Hopefully, the fashion show, by attracting sponsorships and ticket sale donations, will fulfill BCRC’s fundraising needs. After all, it’s a celebration of life. And who doesn’t want to thrive? 

Breast Cancer Resource Center is located at 55 Hitchcock Way, Suite 101, in Santa Barbara. For more information about the services offered, visit bcrcsb.org or call (805) 569-9693.

Four Local Leaders Join Leading From Within Board

Four new members – Katya Armistead, Ashley Costa, Alma Hernández, and Kiah Jordan – have joined the Board of Directors of Leading From Within, marking an important transition as the 12-year-old nonprofit expands its board by one member and embarks on a strategic plan in 2021.

Leading From Within’s volunteer Board of Directors works closely with the organization’s Executive Director and president to oversee and support the nonprofit’s commitment to its mission to invest in people who drive and create change in Santa Barbara County.

“We are no longer a start-up organization,” said Edward France, Executive Director of Leading From Within. “It’s a testament to Leading From Within that trustees with great depth of experience would say yes to joining our Board. Each new member contributes to civic leadership for our community in their own way, and they are complementing the whole of our board of directors in coming together to support leadership programs that improve our communities.”

Katya Armistead

Katya Armistead, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UC Santa Barbara

As the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UC Santa Barbara, Katya Armistead serves as the control point for ten Student Affairs departments and works on special projects often related to campus climate and diversity. Armistead also teaches a leadership course at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and is a certified trainer for The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, a research-based curriculum that she co-facilitates at Leading From Within. Armistead’s involvement with Leading From Within dates back to her participation in the Katherine Harveys Fellows program more than a decade ago. She also serves on Leading From Within’s alumni committee and participates in one of the organization’s peer learning circles.

“I have so enjoyed my work with Leading From Within and have personally received so much value through my involvement with the organization,” said Armistead. “It’s an honor to be part of the Board.” 

Katya brings more than 30 years’ experience in education to her Board position, as well as her perspective as a woman of color who is passionate about and experienced in supporting issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I think it’s important to have thoughtful yet challenging conversations that we may have avoided,” she said. “It’s critical to engage in civic dialogue and provide spaces to amplify voices that are not often heard. Leading From Within recognizes the value of this work.”

Armistead is also a member of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs’ executive committee and a member of the Chancellor’s Senior Officers’ group. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1988 and her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in 2012, both from UC Santa Barbara. She served for a decade on the Board (including as co-chair) for the nonprofit Family Service Agency. Katya has been a mentor for CADA’s Fighting Back Mentor Program, and helped create and is a mentor for The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Youth Making Change program. When she isn’t working or volunteering, Katya enjoys early-morning walks, reading, and dining out.

Ashley Costa

Ashley Costa, Executive Director of the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization

Ashley Costa is the Executive Director of the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization which facilitates the Healthy Lompoc Coalition, a partnership of local leaders and volunteers working together to improve the health of Lompoc Valley residents. Some of the nonprofit’s greatest accomplishments include collaborating on a volunteer committee and partnering to raise $1.6 million toward the capital overhaul of a community track and field in Lompoc. Costa’s organization has also served as advisor and participant to the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and for the past six years has worked in partnership with the Santa Barbara Foundation to better assist seniors and caregivers in the Lompoc Valley.

Costa participated in the Emerging Leaders Program at a pivotal time in her young career and she credits the Leading From Within program with giving her the confidence and courage to step into a larger role and accept her first-ever Executive Director position.

“I was just 28 years old and considering the transition to Executive Director,” explained Costa. “The Emerging Leaders program was so impactful in not only providing skills and leadership development but also in building my confidence and network, which ultimately gave me the encouragement that I needed to accept that promotion.”

Having now spent six years in her Executive Director role, Costa said she’s delighted to have the opportunity to give back to Leading From Within. 

“It’s refreshing that Leading From Within genuinely wants to learn from my experiences and I know I’m not just checking a box and filling a Board seat but will be respected and engaged for my ideas and opinions,” said Costa.  

In addition to sharing her ideas, Costa hopes to bring the North- and Mid-County perspectives to the board room and to cultivate leadership in the Lompoc Valley.

“There’s a silver lining to the unprecedented times that we find ourselves in, driving us to be more innovative and flexible, and more accepting of change,” said Costa. “It’s an exciting time to be joining a board that is leaning into this unchartered space.”

A native of Lompoc, Ashley graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a B.S. in Political Science. She was elected to the Lompoc City Council in 2010 and served until 2014. Ashley began working with the Healthy Lompoc Coalition as a volunteer in 2010 and as Director of Community Health in 2013. Two years later she accepted the role of Executive Director. Costa practices what she preaches as a fitness enthusiast. She loves working out in her home gym and hiking with her husband and dalmatian.

Alma Hernández 

Alma Hernández, District Representative for County Supervisor Joan Hartmann

Alma Hernández has over 20 years’ experience working in rural, largely immigrant, communities developing leadership through cooperative efforts and by placing community members at the forefront of decision-making processes. She currently serves as a District Representative for County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, where she has worked for the past three years building leadership opportunities for underserved populations. 

“Local government doesn’t necessarily reflect our population, especially in the North County,” explained Hernández. “We need to create pathways that enable our Latinx community to make connections, access resources, and gain confidence in their skills.” Hernández is dedicated to increasing diversity in leadership and ensuring that all voices are respected and heard. She will bring this expertise and passion to Leading From Within.

“I am excited to join the Board of Leading From Within, where I hope to expand the network of North County and Latinx leadership,” said Hernández.

As a graduate of Leading From Within’s Leading for Community Impact program, Hernández knows firsthand the transformational power of the nonprofit’s programs. She participated in the cohort while working as director of Guadalupe’s Little House by the Park, where her focus included the promotion of open, communal, multicultural, and artistic spaces. She credits her Leading for Community Impact “passion project” with giving her the confidence and providing guidance to help her work in collaboration with others to successfully establish Santa Maria’s first Cultural and Creative Arts Center. Hernández said she worked closely with community partners to create an open and safe space for teens to connect and express themselves through art.

Hernández has also served as chair of the Dune’s Center Internal Affairs Committee and Board, Vice President on the CAUSE Board of Directors and as a Board Member for The Fund for Santa Barbara. She was born in Arizona to a first-generation immigrant family from Mexico and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal Poly and a Master’s in Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. In her spare time Hernández loves the outdoors, hiking, biking, and running.

Kiah Jordan

Kiah Jordan, founder of Impact Family Office

Kiah Jordan is the founder of Impact Family Office, a family office dedicated to aligning clients’ financial resources with their values to generate the greatest impact. Jordan works with clients, supporting their objectives while implementing long-term perspectives on the impact of, not only his clients’ balance sheets, but also their succession plans, wealth transfer plans, and philanthropic engagement.

Prior to starting Impact Family Office, Jordan worked for Santa Barbara Capital, a real estate investment firm, and it was during this time that he completed his Certified Financial Planner™ designation and found a passion for applying a holistic planning perspective to personal finances and business operations. 

An advocate for socially conscious ventures and entrepreneurship, Jordan dedicates much of his time to start-ups and organizations that benefit the Central Coast, including Leading From Within. He graduated from the Katherine Harvey Fellows program at Leading From Within and remains involved with the organization through peer learning circles and alumni networks.

“Leading From Within was extremely beneficial in helping me think through my contributions in the community,” commented Jordan, who credits the nonprofit with helping leaders apply their passions and talents to improve the communities they serve.

Jordan brings a keen and creative financial lens to his work at Leading From Within. His educational background transcends the nonprofit and for-profit realms while his work bridges fiduciary and philanthropic worlds. He says this cross-sectional experience will benefit Leading From Within which similarly straddles and serves diverse sectors.

“Leading From Within promotes leadership growth in the for-profit, nonprofit and social sectors, and I hope that my experience thinking strategically across these industries will help the organization blend these distinct worlds in effective and innovative ways.”

Jordan is a founding board member of the Sustainable Change Alliance and serves on the Executive Committee for the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, and on the board of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Additionally, he is a National Certified Guardian by the Center for Guardianship Certification and a licensed Professional Fiduciary by the California Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. Kiah graduated from Westmont College, where he now serves as an adjunct professor. He completed his master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. 

Outside of the office, Kiah enjoys outdoor adventures with his wife and three children and plays soccer in a local recreation league. He and his wife recently recertified as a resource family for children in the Santa Barbara foster care system.

Founded in 2008, Leading From Within invests in people who drive and create change in Santa Barbara County. Its leadership programs, alumni education, and impact networks cultivate leaders who are renewed, prepared, connected and collaborating for the greater good. For more information, visit http://leading-from-within.org.

New Beginnings

When COVID-19 first closed down in-person meetings, everyone hurried to figure out online opportunities. But New Beginnings Counseling Center (NBCC) had a leg up, having already nearly completed a partial pivot to Zoom before the pandemic opened the floodgates toward the platform. 

It turns out the nonprofit had recognized a need to find a way to serve community members suffering from mental health challenges who, for distance, logistical, or other reasons, aren’t able to come into the clinic’s downtown Santa Barbara offices. So when COVID hit, the 50-year-old nonprofit benefitted from having already partnered with Zoom to provide a platform on virtual counseling sessions for those in need.  

“It was sheer dumb luck that we’d already made that deal and received a grant to develop and implement a telehealth counseling system countywide to help people who weren’t able to comes to us,” said Executive Director Kristine Schwarz. “It was important to reach people who wouldn’t be able to get counseling otherwise.”  

Still the pandemic made the niche program look microscopic in comparison to the burgeoning demand for online services once the lockdown prevented nearly all in-person meetings from taking place.  

“We had just developed the foundational aspects, the operating manual, the structure for this kind of a program just as the COVID (crisis) happened,” Schwarz explained. “We had just literally pressed the button to start it and suddenly we had to train every one of our counselors on how to do sessions online all at the same time. And we surely hadn’t anticipated having to transition every single client to telehealth.” 

The good news is that New Beginnings did have the protocols and the manual already in place, so ramping up was reasonable. And when other agencies reached out to NBCC and asked to take a look at what they’d done, Schwarz said, NBCC “were very happy to share whatever relevant information could help.”

Of course, transitioning to Zoom has been just one of the adjustments New Beginnings Counseling Center has had to make to cope with COVID, said Development Director Michael Berton. “Mental health was already a huge and growing need in our community as people are looking for access to services. And with COVID, we’ve had a huge uptake in clients who are reaching out at the same time we’ve also received a request for reductions in fees due to job losses by our clients,” he said. “We’ve taken a big hit in clinic income because our mission is to not turn anyone away for inability to pay. But we continue to stand strong in the counseling center and offer those services.”

Of course, that’s nothing new for NBCC, which has come up with several important new programs during its half a century in town, including Safe Parking, its innovative Shelter and Rapid Rehousing Program that provides safe overnight parking to individuals and families living in their vehicle since 2004. Safe Parking has served as a model for dozens of other communities throughout the country and currently manages more than 150 spaces in 26 parking lots throughout Santa Barbara, Goleta, and the neighboring unincorporated areas of the county, toward the goal of ending homelessness for individuals, families, and veterans. 

NBCC’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which operates from a housing first model to help end veteran homelessness within Santa Barbara County, has also had challenges with the pandemic, including an immediate need to shelter 16 chronically homeless former servicemen who suddenly had to shelter in place.

COVID caused other havoc, taxing NBCC’s staff, who nevertheless stepped up in innovating ways, according to Schwarz. 

“The last year was like triage, with constant crises every day,” she said. “I was always wondering, what’s today’s catastrophe going to be?”

Dozens of NBCC’s clients and other vulnerable members of the community either from homelessness or with mental health issues had all of their support essentially pulled out from under them, Schwarz said, necessitating handling whatever emergency presented itself, Schwarz said. 

“Almost immediately we had people coming to us saying, ‘I have no food, I have no place to go to the bathroom.’ So I was going to Ralphs at seven in the morning twice a week for five months getting literally baskets of food. The other thing that was a huge effort is using the CARES funds to put medically frail people into motels. We’re up to about sixty of them over the last ten months, so we built new partnerships with Holiday Inns and Super to get people off the street.” 

The astonishing part is that New Beginnings has been handling all this while dealing with a significant reduction in financial support, to the tune of a more than 70 percent drop in income from the counseling clinic at one point last year, Schwarz said. “That’s our main source of earned income for the agency. But almost everybody asked for a fee reduction and you can’t say no.”  

That’s because, not surprisingly, the need is greater than ever, she said.  

“For the second quarter in a row during COVID, we’ve seen an increase in the level of distress, even with clients receiving counseling. That’s never happened in the nine years I’ve been here. There’s been an overall decrease in symptomatology but we do assessments every eight weeks to see how people are doing, and almost everyone is really stressed.” 

Meanwhile, New Beginnings is facing reductions in potential funding from the second round federal aid due to technicalities. Meaning donations can really help ease some of the burden at the moment.  

“Donations from people really do help us to continue to support those who really need a lot of assistance and don’t have any money, whether it’s counseling, or rental assistance or food,” Schwarz said. “There’s only so much to go around. And the more resources we have, the more we can help more people who really, really don’t have any.”

New Beginnings | (805) 963-7777 | https://sbnbcc.org

Santa Barbara Foundation’s Social Good

Writing this inaugural issue of The Giving List has entailed speaking with and studying the work of 52 of Santa Barbara’s most important nonprofit organizations. Throughout, I have discerned a vibrant and brave nonprofit community, staring down the crisis we all have behind and before us with purpose and commitment.

At the heart of all this community stands the Santa Barbara Foundation, which in its tenth decade has weathered many storms, emerging as Santa Barbara County’s key convener and catalyst for positive change. A look back into the Foundation’s history and its strategy offer a salve and strength for the uncertain future we face together. 

“If there has ever been a question as to the need of the Foundation in Santa Barbara, it would certainly seem that the present emergency facing the country would justify the existence of such an institution,” said Charles B. Raymond, the Santa Barbara Community Foundation’s first president, in 1930 as the Depression brought desperation to so many Santa Barbara residents. 

Then – as now – the Foundation stepped into quick action, offering emergency employment for workers to improve city property, and by supporting the Red Cross Sewing Project that paid women to make clothes for citizens in need. Facing child hunger during the Depression, which is disturbingly ubiquitous today, the Foundation contributed to the Community Chest Milk Fund, which helped young children gain weight and fight off tuberculosis.  

In the 1940s, the world was at war and Santa Barbara County was struggling through years of severe drought. The Santa Barbara Foundation jumped into action, seeking plans to retain more water, and defraying the travel expenses of two county supervisors to plead for the construction of the Bradbury Dam, which would, at least before the ravages of climate change further strained the water supply, ensure that the shortages of the 1940s were not to be repeated. 

Following the Civil Rights gains of the 1960s, the 1970s saw the emergence of environmentalism in Santa Barbara and the creation of a nonprofit infrastructure to meet the social justice challenges coming into ever starker relief here and across the nation.

“The Foundation must broaden its assistance in the community to meet current needs,” said then-Foundation President Harold W. Beard. “The pattern of giving followed in its past history must be reviewed in light of changing times and problems.” 

Catalyzed by a devastating oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast in 1969, local activists came together to create the Community Environmental Council. With significant Foundation support, the council would, in 1975, start the nation’s first-ever recycling center, an achievement with long reverberating implications. In 2020, the organization celebrated its 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in Santa Barbara, the oldest event of its kind.  

During this era, social issues like child abuse and sexual violence were met with Foundation-supported, sector-leading nonprofits including CALM (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation) and Standing Together to End Sexual Assault then known as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. Capital contributions to the Boys & Girls Clubs created the network of physical locations that are so important to working families today.

Laurie Leis, the executive vice president of advancement at United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara, remembers looking at a Boys & Girls’ budget from 1938 and seeing a $250 donation from the Santa Barbara Foundation. “They are always the first ones to come in and say, we are going to help,” Leis says. “They are the voice for us. They bring a call to action when so many voices go unheard in this community. The Foundation is the voice of the hungry, the homeless, the families in need.” 

In 2018, the Santa Barbara Foundation launched an ambitious five-year plan focused on eight “priorities for impact.” Consistent with its history, the Santa Barbara Foundation studied the landscape and identified the most pressing issues of need, ranging from food insecurity to homelessness and a frayed and inadequate childcare system. 

“We wanted to broaden our reach by narrowing our focus, and we found that a handful of key social and economic challenges reverberate into every aspect of Santa Barbara County’s health and well-being,” said Foundation President & CEO Jackie Carrera. 

The Foundation immediately went to work to support vulnerable populations in areas of behavioral health, health care, food, shelter, and safety, while uplifting working families in the areas of childcare, workforce development, and workforce housing. The Collaboration for Social Impact was developed to advance the strength and capacity of nonprofits, and, by virtue of the Foundation’s stature in the community, guiding individual and institutional funders to focus attention on pressing issues in the community. While thoughtful, the Foundation couldn’t have imagined how prescient the strategy would prove. 

“As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustices, and economic worries, we are confident that our focus on vulnerable populations and working families is the correct direction,” Carrera said. “We have already experienced increasing need and will continue to follow our strategy to provide critical support in these areas.”

Like Foundation presidents before her, Carrera immediately recognized the need and, with her team, got to work. In March 2020, the Foundation reactivated its Community Disaster Relief Fund, which had been established in the wake of the 1/9 Debris Flow. Days later, the Foundation, in collaboration with United Way, the Hutton Parker Foundation, and the Foundation Roundtable, launched the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort to provide funding to nonprofits responding to Santa Barbarans mounting emergency needs. By the end of October, a 34-member funders’ collaborative that the Foundation co-leads has mobilized over $18.9 million to support individuals and nonprofits in Santa Barbara County. 

Carrera noted, “with decades of community knowledge, a tradition of diverse, meaningful support, and outstanding stewardship of community investments, the Santa Barbara Foundation is well-positioned to support the health and vibrancy of Santa Barbara County, now and for decades to come.” 

Investing in Community and Getting Better Returns than Wall Street

Tom Parker has been marinating in Santa Barbara philanthropy since the 1950s when, as a kid, he and his dad would distribute food to Santa Barbara’s homeless through the local Kiwanis Club. Tom says philanthropy has always been woven into Santa Barbara’s fabric because it’s a small enough place where it’s easy to see the impact of one’s good deeds – and enjoy the gratification that comes with it. 

“Very few businesses give you the kind of feeling of fulfillment a nonprofit can,” says the third-generation Santa Barbaran and president of the Hutton Parker Foundation.

The Hutton Parker Foundation primarily focuses on supporting Santa Barbara nonprofits, especially in the areas of Education, Health & Human Services, Civic & Community Development, Youth & Family Services, and Arts & Culture. The Foundation was started by Tom and his aunt-in-law who are sort of a riches-to-rags-back-to-riches story – with many valuable life lessons learned along the way.

Parker did well in real estate investing as a young man, so much so that when the real estate portfolio of his wife’s beloved aunt Betty Hutton became distressed in the 1980s, Tom had the flexibility – and wherewithal – to move his family to Orange County to work with Betty for quite a few years whilst turning around her ailing business and her underperforming assets.

As with Parker, philanthropy was always a priority for aunt Betty. So as soon as Betty’s financial ship was righted and the family had “enough,” Tom and Betty funneled the rest of their assets into their newly formed Hutton Parker Foundation. “You get to a certain point where it feels better to give back than to consume. If you are fortunate in life, that’s not just an obligation, it’s an ingrained part of you.” Not surprisingly, Parker is grooming his sons Christopher and Jess to take over the foundation and carry on the family legacy.

Parker’s philosophy as a philanthropist is that most of the charities he focuses on are great at their primary mission, but their good deeds could go further if these nonprofits ran better, leveraged assets, and found productive synergies. To this end Tom sees himself as more of an aggregator and super connector rather than a micromanager. He uses lessons learned streamlining his aunt’s businesses and has innovated a system whereby multiple nonprofits pool resources and invest in local real estate, and frequently (with Tom’s help) buy the buildings where they operate.  

“The local nonprofits don’t just need monetary funding; they need entrepreneurial support, innovative ideas, and energy. All these charities do great work, I just try to help make sure their business plans are sustainable.”

– Tom Parker

To facilitate its mission, the Hutton Parker Foundation makes below market loans to nonprofits, buys buildings, and has housed 55 nonprofits in 17 renovated Santa Barbara structures, not just saving these organizations millions in operating expenses, but greatly benefitting the larger community of Santa Barbara. “The local nonprofits don’t just need monetary funding; they need entrepreneurial support, innovative ideas, and energy. All these charities do great work, I just try to help make sure their business plans are sustainable.”

Parker says the key to his system is identifying and sometimes synthesizing collaborations, or as he likes to say, “Whatever you do, try to make sure everybody wins.” By maximizing symbioses, Parker scores a quintuple win for nonprofits, the people they serve, other nonprofits they partner with, and the communities where they’re located. 

Parker’s system (known as “tenant equity”) has been so successful there’s even a book about it: The Hundred Million Dollar Secret: Why and How Foundations Should Invest in Community Instead of Wall Street. Parker says he wrote the book because he was a “boring lecturer.” Although that is likely a fiction, Tom’s book in fact proves that foundations can yield superior returns by investing locally rather than in an ordinary portfolio of stocks and bonds. 

Parker is also a big believer in the utility and importance of data: that how a place (or group) is doing can be measured, providing data that’s invaluable in terms of allocating resources and focusing efforts. This is one of the reasons Hutton Parker is a main underwriter of UCSB’s “Indicators Project” – which literally measures leading indicators in a multiplicity of categories, showing how various aspects of a hyper local community is doing or at least trending.

As recently as this year, Tom “reused” data collected by the United Way during relief efforts for undocumented residents in the 2018 debris flow to spearhead a new outreach to undocumenteds today, during the pandemic. “Investing in our local communities is like watering a thirsty plant – you can see the local communities springing back to life,” says Parker.

For his achievements in philanthropy Tom has been awarded Santa Barbara County’s Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce Founders Award, the Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Community Service Award, the Women’s Economic Ventures Man of Equality Award, and countless others. More importantly, Tom Parker has won the respect and gratitude of thousands of Santa Barbarans, though it is very clear this is not why he does it.

“For me, it’s the ‘teach a man to fish’ thing,” says Parker. “Helping nonprofits work better and sustain over the long haul is much more satisfying – and ultimately more useful – than simply writing a check.”

The Community’s Theatre

Not only is the Lobero the longest running theatre in California (founded in 1873), but it is relentless, with over 200 nights of performances a year serving more than 70,000 people. 

For Executive Director David Asbell, whose 23-year tenure seems short given the Lobero’s history, the job is all about serving Santa Barbara and its vibrant performing arts scene. 

AHA! Santa Barbara performs on the Lobero Stage

“The staff and board, we look at our role really as stewards of this great building and tradition,” Asbell says. “The most important thing we can be doing, job number one, is all about our community. The collaborations we are most proud of are with local arts organizations and local artists.” 

The Lobero has four pillars of performance: classical music, jazz, dance, and theatre. While the theatre has been – and is regularly – graced by world-class performers, the Lobero’s staff is heavily focused on giving local artists and youth a platform to thrive and grow into their craft. 

“We are not going to make the music, but we will make sure that a local musician or dance company has the best opportunity at succeeding,” Asbell says. “The most important goal for us is to complement and support the local arts scene.” 

To accomplish this, the theatre heavily subsidizes or gifts the space whether for the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, a nonprofit youth service provider like AHA!, or the Santa Barbara Vocal Jazz Foundation’s “Journey Through Jazz” residency. Journey Through Jazz is a seven-week in-classroom program during which local grade schoolers learn about jazz music and history, which culminates in a performance at the Lobero. 

Jim Dougherty is the Lobero’s Director of Planned Giving. For him, the Journey Through Jazz performances have their own “special magic” because of the audience that comes through the doors. 

“These are not your typical theatre-goers,” Dougherty says. “You have whole families. The best is watching a sibling watch their siblings up on stage. I just love to see the families’ reactions. It’s absolutely sweet.” 

That is what he misses the most about the theatre being closed for such a long stretch of 2020. 

For Asbell, Dougherty, and the entire Lobero team, it is moments like those that the theatre was built for: community. 

United in Crisis and Community

For the nonprofits that matter, mission statements are much more than words on paper. They are the foundation of that organization’s future, and statements of commitment. 

In 2020, after four months of board-led strategic planning, the nearly 100-year-old United Way of Santa Barbara County updated its mission and vision to better reflect its role and responsibility in guiding the community during times of natural, economic, and public health crises, as well as times of stability. 

“To enrich the lives of children and families and build resilient communities by leading local programs and partnerships that improve school readiness and academic achievement, financial empowerment, and crisis response and recovery.”

As with declining local and national academic scores, the Thomas Fire or the debris flow, United Way coordinated a powerful community-wide mobilization in the wake of COVID-19. While only having a full-time staff of 17 and 45 temporary staff each year, the organization expands its capabilities by engaging with partners in philanthropy, the nonprofit community, and public agencies to: raise $10.1 million for COVID-response efforts; support 2,500 individuals and families with funding to meet basic needs; all while providing 40,600 students with unique academic programming in partnership with school districts. 

One of those students, an eight-year-old girl, was failing to attend her virtual classes because she was so busy helping her two younger siblings with their remote learning and homework. 

“We have been here as a solid organization that adapts quickly and then delivers results,” says President and CEO Steve Ortiz, himself a 15-year-veteran of United Way. 

For Ortiz, assessing and responding to varying community needs is what United Way was built for. The organization is built on measuring results so that every one of its programs – whether supporting students or mitigating the fallout of the deepest public health crisis our generation has known – is built out of data and continuously improved. And unlike most other nonprofits, its history gives it credibility as a convener, a quality it uses to forge the partnerships needed to respond to the most pressing issues the community faces. 

“We are too small to be able to accomplish everything we do alone,” Ortiz says. “If we are able to set goals that are aligned with one another, we bring together our strengths for a much stronger result” – the united way.  

Women, a Smart Investment

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) was founded in 1991 when women earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by a man. A male college graduate earned almost twice as much as a female college graduate. Women weren’t routinely viewed as managers or executives, let alone entrepreneurs. There were only a handful of organizations in the entire country devoted to helping women start businesses. WEV was a pioneer in the arena.

Fast forward to 2020. WEV has provided business training and consulting to more than 17,500 women and men throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and made over $6 million in loans to local businesses. More than 5,000 businesses have started or grown with WEV’s help, creating or sustaining an estimated 9,400 local jobs. And for those interested in ROI, every dollar spent on WEV results in $12 in tax revenue and jobs created.

Charlotte Andersen, The Andersen’s Danish Bakery & Restaurant

Small business owners have grown to depend on WEV not only to learn how to write a business plan or secure a loan, but to find a community that encourages and supports them in their personal and business growth. 

If you are invested in creating a better world for your children and grandchildren and are concerned about the economic stability of our country in general, then you should be interested in women’s entrepreneurship and women’s leadership. The cost of not caring is enormous. A seminal 2015 study by McKinsey & Company found that the global economy would grow by $28 trillion by 2025 if women reached parity with men in the workforce. That’s $7.5 trillion more than U.S. GDP.

If macroeconomics doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, think local quality of life. “WEV is helping to create a pipeline of sustainable entrepreneurs who build businesses that are the heart of our communities,” CEO Kathy Odell says. “The businesses we rely on daily for fresh juice, dry cleaning, childcare, staying healthy and fit, personal care services, dining out – businesses that enable our prized lifestyle.” 

Now that is something worth investing in.

Uniting the Boys & Girls Club

During 2020, when so many of us were hunkering down as COVID-19 turned our lives upside down, two Santa Barbara nonprofit leaders were busy formulating the best way to serve children, youth, and families.

Quietly, in early 2020, both Boards, especially board presidents David Bolton and Tony Vallejo along with their executive committees, had a series of meetings to discuss merger details and came to an agreement. In one deft move, the pair and both Board of Directors had unified 11 Santa Barbara Boys & Girls clubs under one banner, giving all the county’s children, teens, and their families safe places to learn and grow.

Laurie Leis, who recently wrote a dissertation on nonprofit mergers, understood that the merger of the 80-plus-year-old club she ran downtown with United’s 10 others including Carpinteria, Lompoc, and Buellton satisfied both agencies’ double bottom line. 

“Let’s just look at the mission,” she says. “It’s going to be better for the kids.” And by combining administrative costs, donors know that more of their donations go straight to programs and children. 

For CEO Michael Baker, a 32-year veteran of Boys & Girls Clubs on the East and West Coast, the move was all about “breaking barriers” for the young people who rely on the clubs every day. “The reason young people get into trouble and join gangs is that they are surrounded by it in many of the communities we serve, it breeds territorialism” he says. “With clubs all over the county, we can break those barriers down and bring kids that would otherwise not meet together.” 

For the families – Santa Barbara’s essential worker workforces – the benefit is undeniable. Parents pay $40 a year for five days a week of after school care and access to the clubs on Saturdays. That is 19 cents a day, Leis says. That helps working parents stay working and ensures the children are adequately supervised. “We give those kids a chance to become who they were meant to be. That’s our motto.”  

Leis and Baker are excited about 2021. Combined they have become the model for youth serving agencies, and plan to reach 5,000 children, youth, and families. 

Both board chairs are pleased: 

Board President Tony Vallejo says: “The merger between our two great organizations has allowed us to streamline operations so that we are able to use our resources more efficiently. In the short time we have been merged we are already seeing success even in these trying times and I am confident that this will continue!”

Vice President David Bolton, and former BGCSB Board President, says: “Bringing two organizations together, especially in these times, helps to reduce combined operational costs which translates to more resources for the kids of our community. As one, all of our clubs are stronger. And, as one, our kids are truly the ones that will benefit most.”

Empowered Leaders

Nonprofit leaders make it their personal mission to serve others, and in doing so, too often lose sight of themselves. Burnout or worse, anemic leadership, results in ineffective nonprofits that don’t do what they were built to do: uplift the community.

Five years into his tenure as the first staff and executive director of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Ed France was drained. “I was out of energy,” he says. “I was just done.”

But there was an intervention: Leading From Within – a nonprofit itself – bent on fostering “a dynamic network of public-minded leaders who know each other, trust each other, and are better able to work together to improve our communities.”

Founded in 2008, Leading From Within has delivered four intensive programs aimed at building up executives, mid-level staff, nonprofit volunteers, and those interested in community impact to more than 500 social sector leaders.

France took part in the group’s 18-month Courage to Lead program, where expert facilitators led him and other nonprofit executives through group sessions, poetry readings, and journaling all aimed at reinvigoration.

“The program reconnected me with why I was doing the work,” France says. “It rekindled my passion.”

The results were undeniable. In short order, the bike coalition raised enough money to buy a building, set up centers at Santa Barbara City College and in Santa Maria all while launching programs in local elementary schools.

The experience was so vital to France’s professional growth that he decided to join Leading From Within as its executive director in 2020.

Beyond his own personal growth, France points to the unparalleled nonprofit network that Leading From Within has developed in its 12 years, and that network’s capacity to respond to any crisis that affects the community.

“Empowered leaders who build relationships of trust can collaborate for much more meaningful change,” France says.

As France sees it, investing in local leaders ensures that Santa Barbara County’s rising stars stay bright, and their nonprofits work together to make the community stronger.

We Are Family

In the 1960s, the Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan laid the groundwork for our understanding of the value of early education. 

A sample of 58 low-income students received high quality preschool, while a control group of an additional 63 had none. Researchers then followed those children until age 40. On all measures – high school graduation, income, arrest rates – the adults that had high quality preschool did better. The return was a jaw-dropping $16 for every dollar invested. 

So what does Ypsilanti have to do with Santa Barbara? Well, the latter is home to Storyteller Children’s Center, a therapeutic preschool that provides high-quality early childhood education for homeless and at-risk children and comprehensive support services for their families. 

Founded in 1988, the school serves 80 children and their families a year. Storyteller’s recently appointed executive director, Susan Cass, sees the center’s work as “critical to breaking the cycle of poverty in Santa Barbara.” 

“This marginalized population that we serve is a large portion of our county,” Cass says, an allusion to Santa Barbara’s ignominious distinction of having the third highest poverty rate in California. “There are a lot of people in our community struggling without alternatives for childcare. Storyteller provides these families with the support they need to address and overcome their challenges so they can build a better life for themselves and their children.”

Storyteller’s teachers and staff receive double the amount of required training for early childhood educators and are committed to ensuring that children and their families have the tools and resources they need to thrive. Whether it be through mental health support services offered in partnership with CALM and Casa Pacifica, monthly parent meetings, or bi-annual home visits, the children’s center is focused on much more than the child alone. “We are a whole family service,” Cass says. 

One desperately needed in Santa Barbara. A 2017 countywide needs assessment conducted found that more than 35,000 children were in need of early education and childcare, while the number of available slots stood at just under 18,000, after tumbling by more than 1,200 in the preceding decade. For the working poor, whom Storyteller serves, the need is even more acute. 

Cass envisions a future where she and her team can devote more energy to improving the lives of the entire families, which she knows – and research shows – will have a powerful ripple effect in our community, only making it stronger with each passing year.

Much More than Lights and Sirens

Firefighters do a lot more than fight fires. 

On any given day, Montecito Fire’s 33 active duty firefighters wake up to uncertainty, not knowing what emergency they will respond to next: trail rescues, sickness, trauma, structure or brush fires, mud flows, or even threats of a global pandemic. 

They are always there, and it is for this reason that we trust them with our lives. For the same reason, you can trust the Montecito Firefighters’ Charitable Foundation with your money. 

Founded in 2006, the foundation’s board is fully comprised of active duty firefighters whose mission is to “provide relief to the poor, disadvantaged, underprivileged, disaster victims and those facing emergency hardship situations based upon need (financial or other distress) at the time the assistance is given, specifically as related to children, firefighters and their families, and burn victims and their families.” With a minimal annual overhead of less than $15,000 for legal, accounting, and other administrative costs, virtually every dollar the foundation receives goes straight towards helping people. 

“We’re just firefighters,” says Aaron Briner, a founding board member and a department Battalion Chief. “We don’t know marketing. But we do know how to work really hard and mitigate your emergency.” 

As a charitable foundation, the Montecito Firefighters’ Charitable Foundation knows how to do one thing very well – issue responsive grants that deeply impact individuals. 

When 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in an Arizona inferno, the foundation provided support to their families. Similarly for an engineer, Cory Iverson, who died in the Thomas Fire. When a local foster youth wrote a letter explaining that she needed help paying for college, the foundation set up a fund. And when a severely handicapped child needed a new wheelchair, the foundation footed the bill. 

Like I said, firefighters – notably, your local Montecito firefighters – do much more than fight fires. The work of the foundation mirrors the work that they do every day: responding to whatever comes their way.  

For the charitable board, the work they do with the foundation is an extension of what they do every day on the engines. “It is simply another avenue to help assist people in their time of need and something I can be part of long after I retire from the fire service,” says Briner.  

Would you expect any less dedication from these public servants who put their lives on the line for this community every day? 

A Global Challenge

It has always been important to recognize that injustice and discrimination occurs in the United States and not only in far off lands. 

Over the past decade, Human Rights Watch – among the world’s leading human rights organizations – has poured its experience, energy, and incredible potency into combating domestic threats to the rights of everyone in the United States.

Whether working to ban child marriage in Florida, helping to ensure that juveniles can’t get sentenced to life without parole, or stopping traumatic family separations at the southern border, Human Rights Watch is there – advocating for good, and making positive change.

Across the globe, Human Rights Watch’s roughly 450 researchers, lawyers, journalists, and advocates relentlessly defend human rights. They do this by rigorously investigating abuses, exposing their findings through unparalleled media attention, and then driving change by advocating to governments and organizations – dismantling systems of oppression and uplifting entire populations.

HRW’s impact is immense. The organization won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work with partner organizations to ban landmines, establish the International Criminal Court to bring the world’s worst warlords to justice, and elevate global standards to improve the lives of women, children, and the vulnerable around the world.

At a time when the challenges facing our community and our world can feel overwhelming, we need an organization ready and able to face them head on. We need Human Rights Watch.

“At this inflection point in human history, we have an extraordinary window of opportunity to make bold, transformational change,” says Lis Leader, the Director of Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara.

As a filmmaker who travelled the world producing documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC, Leader witnessed “some unbearably heartbreaking visions of human suffering.” So when local writer, philanthropist, and activist Vicki Riskin suggested she lead HRW’s recently established committee in 2014, Leader didn’t hesitate.

For Leader, the connection between an HRW researcher working to end child marriage in Yemen, and the needs of Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable are all the same.

“Although we are a global organization, we make positive change on a community level,” Leader says. HRW Santa Barbara regularly hosts civic dialogues with key figures from its deep bench of programmatic staff who bring global and domestic issues home to the Central Coast.

The organization is now engaged in a “global challenge” meant to create “the future we want,” HRW proclaims. Leader and the Santa Barbara Committee invite you to stand with HRW as it faces some of the most dire threats to humanity here and abroad.