Tag Archives: covid

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!

A Resting Place: Sarah House Withstood COVID in Order to Provide Respite

Sarah House executive director Kate Grove didn’t want to talk much about the financial burdens the COVID pandemic has placed on the eight-bedroom home that mainly provides end-of-life care for the financially disadvantaged, as well as support services for HIV/AIDS sufferers and short-term stays to alleviate stay-at-home caregivers.

“Everyone’s told the COVID story. It’s super tired,” she said, while acknowledging that her organization’s revenues did fall by nearly 30 percent over the past 12 months. 

“We all know that nonprofits are struggling, and it’s been a pain.”

Instead, like everyone at Sarah House, Grove has surprisingly upbeat attitude given that she deals daily with impending death. Instead, she wanted to put some attention on what the nonprofit has been able to do during the pandemic: Stay open as a family-friendly facility for those who need loving care.

“The story of Sarah House was one that’s been consistently having an open-door, open-arms policy and throughout the pandemic, we kept our arms and doors open,” she said. “Of course, there were guidelines and protocols that we had to follow, but we did everything we could to come together and keep that focus on the residents, because Sarah House, for many of the people who stay with us, [is] a place where they really do not have another option. Closing our doors was something that we absolutely didn’t want to see happen.” 

It was largely up to house manager Paloma Espino, who has worked at Sarah House for nearly 20 years — befriending the terminally ill residents, meeting their needs, helping them make their rooms into an extension of their family homes — to figure out the adjustments to meet the “new reality,” which, she said, took a lot of acceptance as well as ingenuity. 

“It was really hard for the first couple of months, because Sarah House is all about gathering people in a community, which is everything that COVID was against,” Espino said. “We are all about inviting the family to the bedside and to be a part of the process, gathering everyone to our dinner table so we get to know the family which helps us get to know our residents better. But COVID was telling us to close your doors, protect your community, don’t let anyone in. 

“So, for the first death we had during the pandemic, the best that I could offer them was to have the family sit outside of the room with the sliding door open as their sister took the final breath. That was really hard.”

Later, Sarah House found ways to make adjustments as needed, including a woman in a coma who the hospital discharged because there was nothing left to do. The twin sister and daughter came every day and stood vigil outside of her door, but the resident — who Espino said wasn’t eating or drinking, but also never woke up — kept hanging on to life. 

“There was nothing left. Her body has so little, just skin and bones. And I kept asking the nurse, ‘What do you think is keeping her here?’” recalled Espino, whose care for the residents expands to whatever is necessary. 

“Her daughter was really crying and asking God to please just take my mom. It’s painful to see her like this.”

That’s when the staff figured out, she probably just needed her twin sister to hold her hand before she let go.  

“COVID was telling us, don’t touch, don’t come near, but the twins had come into the world together and she probably didn’t want to depart until she was given permission by her twin… So, we put a gown and all of the PPE on her, moved her sister’s bed right next to the screen door that opens to the garden and she was able to hold her hand and tell her it was OK to go. An hour later, she was gone.” 

While Sarah House is mostly known as a warm and welcoming final destination for terminally ill patients, the facility also accommodates some for much shorter stays. That includes HIV/AIDS patients who may have strayed from their medication protocols and need focused attention and good nutrition to get back on a path of health. 

“They might just need to get their medication straightened up and their diet treatment so they can go back out prosper,” Grove explained.

And Sarah House also opens its doors to taking in patients simply to provide respite for family members who have chosen to be full-time caregivers at their own homes. 

“The person who is ailing will come stay with us for five days, say, just so the family can have a moment to breathe,” Grove said. “It’s incredibly difficult for people to go from just being a loved one to having to be a caretaker, bathing and cleaning and feeding and caring for someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They just need a moment to breathe and recharge.”

Sometimes, though, the caregiver family members need some convincing even to spend five days away, Espino said. Such was the case a few years ago with a mother who didn’t want to leave her dying 25-year-old daughter in any else’s care even though she’d spent more than 18 months in around-the-clock care. 

But her doctors told her she was headed for a nervous breakdown if she didn’t take a break. Espino sat for hours with the mother as she toured Sarah House, explained that she could visit 24 hours a day if she wanted to, even sleep there on the couch in her daughter’s room although that would defeat the purpose of the respite. 

It turns out the mother did show up at 5 am the morning after the daughter arrived. Espino was already there. 

“I opened the door and she saw me, and she asked, ‘What brought you here so early?’ I said, ‘The same thing as you: Your daughter. You trusted me with her and I wanted to make sure we take good care of her.’ I didn’t hear from her for another two days. She got her rest.” 

Whatever the reason the residents come to Sarah House, Espino and the rest of the staff give each resident — and their loved ones — individual care and loving kindness. To the house manager, the exchanges aren’t merely one way.   

“Every person teaches you something if you’re willing to pay attention,” Espino says. “Every person here has a life that’s been lived, all of them had so many dreams and desires and maybe regrets. And really everyone here is me. It’s just me in a different way, in a different form and perhaps on a road that I didn’t take. It’s a beautiful thing to remember that the more we think we’re different, we’re actually way more alike.” 

That extends to the ways in which people can support Sarah House: large financial donations, small monthly giving, or simply making donations in kind through Sarah House’s online registry at Walmart, where items range from a $317 dresser to glassware, salad forks and even $3.99 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner. Everything is needed and greatly appreciated. 

“The way we look at it is that Sarah House holds a big responsibility to be there for the community,” Espino said. “But, by the same token, we would hope that the community would feel the same way about Sarah House, that they hold some responsibility for helping us remain so that when someone knocks on our door, whether it be themselves, their neighbor, their friend, or sister, that we’re still around so that we can help.”

Making It Home Tour

PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) is hosting their fourth annual Making It Home Tour on June 5th, a virtual, guided journey through the homes of PATH supporters and tenants across California. We hope that you will join us for a pre-recorded, virtual compilation of unique home tours and personal interviews connecting us all to the question, “What does home mean to you?”. 

The Making It Home Tour celebrates the meaning of home. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an already pervasive problem: homelessness. The necessity of staying inside to keep our communities safe has made us all even more grateful to have a place to call home. What does home mean to you? 

Event Details 

A link to the virtual event will be sent to all ticket holders in advance, and we will all come together to watch as it streams on Saturday, June 5th, 2021. 

All guests will also receive: 

– Access to a private event website to explore on their own time, with in depth tours of each home highlighted in the streamed event, and access to interactive DIY home, decor, and design workshops. 

– Event package that will be mailed to your home the week of the event, to enjoy as we watch together on June 5th. Event packages include exclusive PATH wine glasses, premium wine, travel safe charcuterie items, and more. Please see ticket types for details on each package. 

Tickets can be purchased https://www.eventbrite.com/e/path-making-it-home-tour-tickets-142755408269

All proceeds from this event go towards PATH’s mission of ending homelessness for individuals, families, and communities.

For more information about PATH, visit www.epath.org.

CASA seeks “Purses for a Purpose” to benefit advocacy for child victims of abuse

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Santa Barbara County plans to hold its first ever online auction of designer handbags, Purses for a Purpose, due to an increased need for volunteer advocates.

COVID-19 has not only impacted the non-profit’s ability to fundraise and recruit volunteers, but there has been an increase in the number of children experiencing abuse and/or neglect in the Santa Barbara County community. All resulting in a waiting list of more than 200 children in need of a CASA volunteer – a drastic rise compared to previous years.

With a need to find additional volunteers for the children waiting and support the 185 CASA volunteers working on behalf of 311 children, CASA plans to launch Purses for a Purpose, an online auction to take place April 21 – 27. The event was kickstarted by a generous CASA supporter, donating more than 15 designer bags to the program. 

“These kids can’t wait until we hold our next big gala event, they need our immediate help. Everyone has that purse in the back of the closet that just doesn’t get out enough, especially now! Why not give it a new purpose?” asks Associate Director of Donor Engagement, Kira Cosio. The organization hopes to collect an additional 10-12 new or slightly used purses, valued at or over $200, to help fund the next training class of CASA volunteers. 

Those wanting to contribute a handbag can reach out to Kira at kira@sbcasa.org or call 805-739-9102 ext 2595 to set up a contactless pick up. All donations received are tax-deductible. To learn more about CASA of Santa Barbara County, visit sbcasa.org.

One805 Four Years Later, Nonprofit Continues to Kick Ash

Everybody in town likely knows about One805. Sure, they’re the organization who three years ago created the “Kick Ash Bash,” mounting the massive benefit concert as a way of thanking both the firefighters whose brave stand against the Thomas Fire in December 2017 saved untold homes in Montecito, as well as honoring the already weary first responders who had barely had a break before having to jump once more into the fray to help rescue many Montecito neighbors when a 100-year storm flooded the burnt hillside resulting in the devastating debris flow a few weeks later. 

The day-night celebration in late February brought out the Goleta-born/Montecito resident turned international pop star Katy Perry and a whole host of other celebrities with connections to the area. Brief speeches from the likes of Montecito residents Dennis Miller, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Connors, and Jane Seymour, plus fire chiefs and other first responders delivered during set changes for musical performances by Kenny Loggins, Alan Parsons, Katharine McPhee, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Glen Phillips, Dishwalla, David Foster, and more. The evening “After Bash” was hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Michael Keaton and featured David Crosby and the Sky Trails joined by Iration, Robby Krieger of the Doors, the Caverns, and others. 

But the Bash also had another benefit that went beyond gratitude: raising funds to better equip the first responders to meet natural disasters, as well as offering counseling services and victim relief. So, while scenes from that stirring event still reverberate in our collective memories, what also has had a lingering impact around town is the three custom mobile command units One805 purchased from $2 million in proceeds to donate to the police, fire, and sheriff departments.  

It wasn’t just the gifts that have made a difference, though, explained Angela Binetti Schmidt, the nonprofit’s executive director. 

“The different departments said, this is amazing that we’re all talking and we’re collaborating, and learning from each other,” she said. “They told us they wished it could continue because it makes it easier for all of us to do our jobs better.”

That cemented the idea of turning One805 into an ongoing nonprofit that officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in late 2019, founded by executive committee members Richard Weston-Smith, Eric Phillips, and John J. Thyne. The trio meet periodically with an advisory council consisting of the 11 department heads to field funding requests and collaborate on the decisions of what to allocate. 

Its first full-year grant awards in 2019 included a tactical robot to be shared between the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team and the city police SWAT team, as well as a modem for the County Fire Chief’s Association Incident Management Team. 

Three QRET Helicopter Harnesses for the County Sheriff/Fire Air Operations Unit were the biggest items in the 2020 grant awards in February, all meant to fill in the spaces where needed equipment projects can fall through the cracks due to arduous budget processes or other issues. 

“Technology moves so fast, and it’s important that our departments have the equipment and technology to protect public safety,” she said. “And even if they had all the funding in the world, it’s like molasses to get things passed through the budget, which takes a year just to apply. So, if we donate it, they can get it immediately.”

Which leads us to the current grant requests that the One805 board approved in February: a rescue rope system for $3,700; various drones to assist in remote rescues and other emergency situations at a cost of $14,000; purchase of the Rosetta Stone language development program to assist first responders in communicating with non-English speakers for $1,890; the aforementioned face shields and helmets to be used during larger group events involving protests for $5,500; four rescue struts that assist in extrication from vehicles and structures for $11,000; advanced technological products to assist with criminal investigations for $14,500; and a portion of the costs for the helicopter that supports the county first responder agencies for $35,000.

The Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow in 2018 brought about the need for One805, which continues to raise funds to aid the community with its various needs

Nothing terribly glamorous. But things don’t have to be monumental or cost mega-bucks in order to matter. 

“We have to be conservative because we weren’t able to do our fundraiser in 2020 because of the pandemic, and we wanted to respect the other nonprofits and what’s going on with a lot of donors who have diverted their funds to coronavirus relief,” said Binetti Schmidt. 

“So, it is pretty small, but these things are really impactful. When first responders are interacting with the general public, there’s some language barriers where the program could really make a difference. We found out the face shields matter during the George Floyd protests that turned violent in Santa Maria last summer. And those tech products really help because you can’t have the bad guys having better equipment and better technology than our departments.”  

What makes the current list even more exciting, Binetti Schmidt said, is that the requested items speak to one of One805’s tenets. 

“Collaboration and efficiency really meet our goal of wanting things that we donate to be fully utilized and shared,” she said. 

Take note that One805 is not dormant in between considering the equipment requests from first responder organizations. In fact, in times of crisis, the nonprofit can be something of a first responder itself. 

That’s what happened when COVID came to town. Within a few days of the first lockdown orders in March 2020, One805 – knowing that the official first responders were once again serving on the front lines while the rest of us sheltered at home – immediately began seeking donations of critical supplies including masks, gloves, liquid hand sanitizer, and protective medical clothing to distribute to medical and police, fire and other public safety departments throughout the county. Later they purchased and distributed 45 electronic defoggers for all the departments in the county to help sanitize public spaces and indoor environments to fight COVID.

“As an emergency response organization, we’re on the forefront in collaborating with the departments all over the county because that’s exactly what happened after the debris flow,” said Binetti Schmidt, explaining that having family in Washington State, where the virus first showed up, helped her to know what was coming. 

“That’s why we were created. There are always a lot of missing pieces in bringing the community together and quickly responding.” 

The nascent nonprofit’s nimbleness comes from the experience of its founders – each of whom had spent time previously on the boards of many nonprofits while Binetti Schmidt is the organization’s only paid employee. 

“We brought what we’d learned before into One805,” she explained. “And even before the virus, we were operating mostly virtually.”  

Now, as increased vaccinations are bringing hope of an eventual end to the pandemic, One805 would love to stage another big benefit event for the community, perhaps in the late summer or early fall, Binetti Schmidt. But in the meantime, there’s the $85,000 in approved requests to fulfil.  

“We’re just hoping this article speaks to people and that they are willing to help,” she said. “Maybe they want to underwrite one of the specific requests. Or they have a lead where we can get drones at cost, for example.”

A large donor taking care of all of this year’s latest requests would be dandy. But the gestures don’t have to be grand. In keeping with its mission to unite the community, One805’s memberships start at just $25, and come with swag you can wear proudly around town — or rather will be able to show off in public as the pandemic restrictions continue to ease. 

But no matter what happens with COVID or whatever nature has in mind for us next, One805 will be ready to support our first responders in keeping us safe, Binetti Schimdt said. 

“If there’s a need that arises, we want to do what we can.”

All Together for Animals Concert

As you already know, COVID-19 has had a dire impact on the Santa Barbara Zoo and all of our nation’s AZA-accredited institutions. Due to the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Zoo has lost nearly a year of revenue. But it still needs to feed, care for, and provide medical attention for its animals – every single day. Until the Zoo can re-open to 100% capacity, it will continue to struggle financially. 

To help raise immediate funds, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have teamed up with a lineup of today’s top country artists to produce an incredible virtual concert fundraising event – “All Together for Animals” concert on March 31, 2021, featuring performances by Brad Paisley, Old Dominion, Ashley McBryde, Wynonna Judd, Riley Green, Jessie James Decker, Shy Carter, and others!

Tickets are $30 ($15 of which directly benefits the Santa Barbara Zoo) and viewers will receive exclusive access to our “All Together for Animals” concert on March 31. 

Purchase tickets and help the Santa Barbara Zoo animals and animals all across the country. Make sure you use this exclusive link below so that the Santa Barbara Zoo receives these much-needed funds!

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE!

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.”

At Covid-19 One-year Mark, Foodbank Deepens Commitment to End Hunger Amid Unprecedented Need

In addition to meeting doubled demand for supplemental food for the last year, Santa Barbara County’s primary food assistance organization deepens commitment, expands partnerships to serve those most vulnerable in our community

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has met twice (or more) the usual need for food assistance countywide for nearly one year since the Covid-19 crisis began in early March 2020. At that time, viral infections, mandatory stay-at-home orders, business restrictions and lockdowns began in California, plunging residents of Santa Barbara County into unprecedented need. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the Foodbank team and organizations across Santa Barbara County for working together to implement our Disaster Feeding Plan so swiftly and gracefully when the Covid crisis struck our area,” explained Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin. 

“We put our heads together, using lessons learned from the Thomas disasters, and mounted a creative, strategic response based on strong relationships and providing food at or near where people live. Our Covid response has endured and evolved over the course of a highly volatile year, proving how scalable and adaptable the Plan is.”

Providing Food for Everyone in Need

Within weeks, the Foodbank established the Safe Food Access for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net, working with county- and city-government disaster response agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the education, healthcare and business sectors. The Foodbank established 50+ certified SAFE Food Net food distribution locations in neighborhoods throughout the county so residents could find food safely near their homes. More than 20 of the locations offered no-contact drive-thru service for enhanced safety.

Total pounds of food distributed between March 9, 2020 and March 8, 2021: 

19,549,119

Pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits distributed, same time frame: 

8,313,581

For comparison, same time during previous year:

Total pounds of food distributed between March 9, 2019 and March 8, 2020: 

9,708,944

Pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits distributed same time range: 

4,086,509

A home delivery program was launched that provided the 1,500 low-income seniors served by our Brown Bag program with healthy groceries and fresh produce food at their doors. The Foodbank also enrolled more than 3,000 additional seniors in the Brown Bag program, providing triple the usual low-income seniors in the county with home deliveries. Households experiencing severe medical circumstances were provided with home deliveries by request.

Total home deliveries provided since March 9, 2020: 60,000

Capacity-building

As lockdowns and mandatory stay-at-home orders led to precipitous job and income losses and economic collapse, need for food assistance doubled countywide. 

In order to meet the need, Foodbank procured additional physical capacity by acquiring additional warehouses in Santa Maria and Goleta to hold inventory and provide space for safely distanced volunteer efforts. Large refrigerated trailers were added at each of the Foodbank regular warehouses to expand cold storage. New trucks were purchased to transport food between north and south county, to deliver food to more food distribution sites and to expand cold food storage.

The Foodbank enlisted invaluable additional human resources via the following sources: 

  • New hires, for a 15% increase in total paid staff
  • Thousands of new community volunteers and interns
  • California National Guard
  • AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps 
  • Workforce Development Board / United Way’s dislocated workers program
  • Team Rubicon, and
  • Red Cross.

The Foodbank team organized almost 15,000 volunteer shifts representing more than 27,000 volunteer hours.

Communications

To ensure that community members could find information about where and when to receive food, the Foodbank provided updated information via:

  • A collaboration with the City of Santa Maria and the County’s 2-1-1 service to offer live phone assistance to provide food location guidance and home delivery sign-ups;
  • Hard copy paper flyers updated multiple times each week;
  • Downloadable .pdfs in Spanish and English, 
  • Scrollable listings on the website, and
  • A brand new bi-lingual text-to-find-food program to serve those without wifi or smart-phones.

New Initiatives: Supporting Local Business and Reaching Underserved Populations

At the peak of the crisis, when businesses closed suddenly, the Foodbank partnered with local restaurants The Lark and Loquita for the Chef’s Kitchen program, to provide more than 10,000 nutrient-dense, gourmet meals to seniors and households in need throughout the county. The program helped valued local businesses keep their staff employed.

Families with school children represent a segment of the community facing unique need as parents lost jobs and children could not attend school. In collaboration with districts countywide, the Foodbank provided boxes of healthy groceries and fresh produce to kids’ families at the same times and locations where picked up school lunches.

To serve families experiencing the highest need, the Foodbank is collaborating with schools and other community organizations to broaden the reach of our award-winning Healthy School Pantry (HSP) program. Adding to a base of six existing programs, the Foodbank has identified 10 more high-need neighborhoods countywide where new HSPs will be launched in the coming year. 

At a Healthy School Pantry, families receive nutritious groceries and fresh produce, and have access to health and nutrition education, recipes, and other wrap-around services and resources from additional providers.

One of the most painful ironies of the pandemic has been that essential workers who provide healthy local produce for others of us have been least equipped to provide their own families with that same nutritious food. 

Launched in July, the Food Access for Farmworkers outreach program provides food in locations where high concentrations of farmworkers live. The reason this works better than providing food at work sites is that farmworkers often carpool to work or are transported there in vans. Shared vehicles would not have enough space to hold the food they receive. Also, many don’t have personal transportation, so they and their children can walk to food distribution sites and carry the food home easily. 

The Foodbank’s Food Access for Farmworkers program has served more than 4,800 unduplicated individuals, providing over 200,000 pounds of food at five sites in north county. The Foodbank aims to serve 500 families per month and expand locations for this program to other areas of the county. 

In collaboration with CenCal Health, the Foodbank also launched a Food Prescription (Food Rx) program to deliver boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to families with children with obesity. The program is currently serving 60 families, with a goal to reach 70 families this year.

Nutrition Education

In a time when health is a central concern, the Foodbank has pivoted to make nutrition education safely available to as many in the community as possible.

Food as Medicine, a series of free public presentations on eating for optimal health, moved from live events and periodic podcasts to interactive webinars covering topics including power of cruciferous vegetables, food and mood, digestion, and diet trends.

The Foodbank’s nutrition educations programs for children – such as Kids Farmers Market (KFM) and Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) – which normally take place during or after the school day, evolved into a hybrid model incorporating both activities and information sent home with food boxes for students’ families, along with online education modules and videos for students.

About the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is transforming hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy. The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through a network of more than 300 nonprofit community partners and more than 2,000 volunteers annually. In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food support from the Foodbank, which equates to more than 191,000 unduplicated people, 41% of whom are children. In the past year, the Foodbank distributed nearly 19 million pounds of food –half of which was fresh produce. This represents twice as much food distributed in an ordinary year. The Foodbank is assuming a major leadership role in countywide disaster preparedness with initiatives including a host of Covid-19 response programs, disaster food boxes, disaster feeding plan, establishing a new south county warehouse and updating our trucks for safer food storage and transport. For more information, visit www.foodbanksbc.org.

Latest on School Reopening

In addition to the majority of the business sector permitted to reopen indoors with modifications earlier this week, most county public schools – bolstered by happy and tired parents and caregivers – reopened in early March. Montecito public schools, Montecito Union School and Cold Spring School, have been open for in-person learning since late September, after applying for and receiving a waiver from the County’s Health Officer. Both schools have since conducted the majority of in-person learning outside, modifying both campuses to accommodate outdoor, socially distanced curriculum. Both school superintendents report that there has been no COVID-19 transmission at either school, and all staff and teachers have tested negative. The majority of teachers at the two schools have had the first round of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

One805 helped local schools prepare for the reopening: Harding Elementary School principal Veronica Binkley and One805 CFO John Thyne during a mask distribution in February

Crane Country Day School has also been open since October, and Kristen Peralta, Assistant Director of Admission tells us vaccines arrived last week for Crane employees. “There was an immense sense of peace that they were one step closer to safety and would soon be relieved of the burden that had been upon them since beginning On-Campus learning last October.”

By the end of the week over 90% of Crane’s employees had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. “For a school that has been providing full-day, on-campus learning five days a week since October, as well as an online learning option, this is a significant step in the right direction,” Peralta said, crediting Crane’s Health Administrator, Nurse Savannah Aijian,for helping coordinate the effort. “Sharing vaccine information and availability became a group effort as chains of emails were sent among Crane employees, including 5 am messages to let others know that appointments were available,” Peralta said. “Teachers rallied to cover their colleagues’ duty stations so that they could get to their vaccine appointments. The glimpse of hope and sense of gratitude sparked camaraderie, and the vaccinations marked a milestone in the academic year and in the school’s history.”

In the five months that the majority of the Crane community has been on campus, students, parents, teachers, and staff have become accustomed to the safety measures implemented this year, including handwashing stations, a daily health questionnaire, a full-time school nurse, plexiglass at every desk, coyote badges around campus marking a six-foot distance, and 23 unique outdoor learning spaces. Experiential learning areas in the various quads and plazas around campus have allowed teachers and students to spread out, enjoy fresh air, and look at their education outside of the four walls of the classroom. “Teachers have been grateful to be offering their students an exceptional education whether they are on campus or at home. The school is grateful that its decisions and the precautions of Crane families have together successfully allowed for a 0% transmission rate of COVID-19 on campus. Finally, the entire community can now be grateful that the widespread vaccination adds another thick layer of protection to our schools,” Peralta said. 

Crane will continue to offer a slightly modified two-prong approach with the vast majority of families choosing on-campus learning, while a smaller set of families in third through eighth grades continue to rely upon Crane’s online learning option. “I am hopeful that if we continue to wear masks, and we continue to socially distance, we will be able to slowly return to a more normal school environment,” said Head of School Joel Weiss.

The nonprofit also donated disaster kits in Lompoc: pictured here are Mason Schmidt, Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani, Angela Schmidt, and Captain Kevin Martin

Last month, in order to help prepare local school campuses in Santa Barbara for the reopening, One805, a local nonprofit, donated 1,000 masks and 50 disaster kits to Harding Elementary School. “The new double masking recommendations from the CDC combined with the community beginning to open up has increased a need for masks,” said Angela Schmidt, One805 Executive Director. “Never has it been more important to work together as one county to abide by all safety recommendations.” 

One805 was formed to create a way for all members of our community to support First Responders and contribute to the public safety needs of Santa Barbara County; the organization was formed following the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow in January 2018. “We are the only organization that supports multiple First Responder agencies. The One805 Advisory Council, which helps direct donations to where they are most needed, is comprised of the department heads of 11 separate First Responder agencies from Carpinteria to Santa Maria and throughout the county,” explains John Thyne, a founding board member. The group also recently delivered 300 disaster kits to the Lompoc Police Department; each hand-packed kit contained two masks, soap, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, and a note of encouragement.

“It’s remarkable to witness the impact One805 has had on the overall safety of our community” says Schmidt. “We established an emergency Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/One805sb to consolidate messages from multiple agencies during emergencies and we work on public safety initiatives county-wide.” 

One805’s slogan is Prepare, Equip, Support, and they do all three. To learn more visit www.one805.org.

Bilingual Volunteers Needed for Vaccine Clinics

As vaccination efforts begin ramping up, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics will be holding vaccine clinics more frequently. Please contact Taryn Ouellette at (805) 963-1174 if you are interested in becoming a bilingual vaccine clinic volunteer. Right now there are two a week at various locations, but they hope to ramp up to five a week. 65% of patients are Spanish speakers. Over the last two years, SB Neighborhood Clinics have served 30,000 patients, which means 60,000 patients will need to be vaccinated. Visit sbclinics.org for more information about Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. 

California Casa Releases 2019/2020 Impact Report: Stronger Together

California CASA announced today that it has published its 2019/2020 Impact Report, which reinforces the organization’s mission as it relates to helping serve the over 83,000 youth in California’s foster care system, local CASA programs, and Court Appointed Special Advocates. This year’s report also focuses on the unique actions the organization took in the wake of unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this exceptional year, the 44 CASA programs in our state experienced first-hand how difficult it was, at times, for children in foster care to get their basic needs met. California CASA also witnessed the dedication and resiliency of CASA staff, boards, and volunteers in their outstanding support of youth who have experienced abuse and neglect,” said CA CASA CEO Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq. “The 2019/2020 Impact Report showcases the strength of our network and the potential to serve even more children by recruiting, training, and overseeing a growing and more diverse group of volunteer advocates in each county.”

The title of this year’s report – Stronger Together – underscores the cooperative relationship of California CASA and the variety of community members that come together to care for children across the state. In the midst of these tumultuous times, California CASA’s flexibility enabled the organization to operate exceptionally in an environment where county and state guidelines shifted in unpredictable ways. This purposeful approach was enhanced by dedicated CASA staff and volunteers at individual CASA programs adapting to ever changing dependency court and public health requirements that impacted advocates and the youth they are connected to.

The report looks at the how California CASA managed a wide range of initiatives to strengthen the service, quality, and impact of Court Appointed Special Advocates around the state. 

Summary of 2019/2020 Impact in California:

14,150 children in California foster had the support of a CASA volunteer.

8,798 Court Appointed Special Advocates worked on behalf of children.

$17.6M+ worth of volunteer service hours were provided by CASA volunteers to foster youth.

6,628 hours of technical assistance were provided by California CASA to local CASA programs.

$8.5M+ in funding was facilitated by California CASA for local CASA programs.

2500 local CASA staff and volunteers attended California CASA webinar training sessions.

California CASA – a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization ensuring that children and youth in California’s foster care system have both a voice and the services they need for a stable future. California CASA connects the 44 county CASA programs in the state in order to raise awareness of the need for Court Appointed Special Advocates and provides support, advice, resources, and oversight to maintain high-quality programs that serve children’s best interests. California CASA is a member of the National CASA/GAL Association for Children.

More information about California Court Appointed Special Advocates Association can be found here: CaliforniaCASA.org.  

Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics Receives Consecutive 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator for Six Consecutive Years

Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC) is again proud to announce our sixth consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. Less than 12% of charities receive six consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics continues to demonstrate strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency. 

Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology. These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, Charity Navigator upgraded their methodology for rating each charity’s financial health. These enhancements further substantiate the financial health of the 4-star charities. 

“This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “We are proud to announce Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics has earned our sixth consecutive 4-star rating. This is our highest possible rating and indicates that your organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way,” 

“Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges. Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.” 

The pandemic has challenged us like never before. Thanks to our amazing clinical staff, in collaboration with the skilled support staff and led by our competent administration leadership and selfless, dedicated volunteer board, we have remained open to serve our patients with respect and compassion as we struggled with this enormous challenge.” states Charles Fenzi, MD, CEO/CMO.” 

Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics rating, and other information about charitable giving, are available free of charge on www.charitynavigator.org. More-detailed information about Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics rating is available to Charity Navigator site visitors who become registered users, another free service.

About SBNC

Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics is comprised of two dental clinics, four medical clinics, and three intermittent clinics, all offering behavioral health services, that served over 22,000 individuals in the community over the past year and is an independent, nonprofit health-care organization dedicated to providing high quality, affordable, medical, dental and behavioral healthcare to those in need in Santa Barbara County, regardless of one’s ability to pay, in an environment that fosters respect, compassion and dignity.

About Charity Navigator 

Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org, is the largest charity evaluator in America and its website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health, Accountability and Transparency of more than 8,000 charities. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data. As a result, Charity Navigator, a 501 (c) (3) public charity itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations and foundations that believe it provides a much-needed service to America’s charitable givers. Charity Navigator, can be reached directly by telephone at (201) 818-1288, or by mail at 139 Harristown Road, Suite 101, Glen Rock, N.J., 07452.

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

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.