Tag Archives: Giving List

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.

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.

Search Dog Foundation: Finding Diamonds in the Ruff

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has had tremendous success in rescuing rambunctious shelter dogs and turning them into highly-trained rescue canine workers who, teamed with human partners, help find survivors buried in disaster wreckage while they’re still alive. It’s a story that’s both heartwarming on every level and awe-inspiring in its purpose and efficiency.

But, for some reason, while dog teams have been placed among fire departments across the country and even in Baja, Mexico, not everyone knows about SDF and its important work – including people located just an hour’s drive north from its massive national training center in the hills of Santa Paula in Ventura County.

“No matter how many stories we work on and ways we tell them, and no matter how many advertisements we place, a lot of folks in (the Santa Barbara) area still don’t know that we exist practically in their backyard,” said Denise Sanders, SDF’s Senior Director of Communications and Handler Operations, sounding cheerful despite juggling taking care of her kids and speaking to a reporter on Valentine’s Day afternoon.

That oversight does seem surprising given that SDF is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, marking a quarter-century since Wilma Melville, one of the FEMA-Certified Canine Search Specialists deployed to the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, founded the nonprofit to address the gap in our nation’s disaster response network by creating a new methodology for training disaster search dogs. SDF recently met its initial goal of training 168 search dog teams – one for every victim of the bombing – but the need keeps growing.

Maybe knowing all those details doesn’t matter all that much for locals regarding the actual services that SDF provides, given that a search tandem team for Santa Barbara is already in place. Rescue dog Waffles (who replaced his retired canine brethren Riley) and his handler, Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Eric Gray, have been ensconced in the community since 2009. They, like all the teams, are ready and able to immediately spring into action when disaster strikes, deployable locally or around the globe, and SDF certainly proved there was a lot of bite in that dog, so to speak, when 18 different teams were mobilized and utilized within hours of the 2018 Montecito mudslide and debris flow. (We wrote about that in the initial annual book version of The Giving List.)

Still, additional awareness sure doesn’t hurt, especially in a community as philanthropic and animal-loving as ours.

So Sanders is only too happy to talk about the 81 teams stationed in fire departments across the country, and the up to 40 dogs that live in SDF’s kennels at any given time, eagerly awaiting daily training sessions at Doggie Disneyland, Sanders’ term for the Santa Paula campus.

“We have rubble piles, a train wreck, a collapsed freeway, all sorts of pseudo-disaster sites for training,” she said. “It’s not your normal dog toy stuff, but it certainly is for these dogs. They absolutely love it!”

Indeed, a relationship with toys is the first attribute trainers look for when selecting shelter dogs to SDF’s program, said Sanders, who specializes in canine wordplay among her communication skills.

“The best indicator is what we call ‘toy drive,’” said Sanders, a Santa Barbara native who attended Laguna Blanca from grades K-12, and then worked for the Sheriff’s Department as a dispatcher for six years before landing the SDF job. “It’s having a near obsession with a toy, whether it’s a tennis ball, a stuffed animal, or anything the dog is into. These dogs will not let it be. It goes way beyond playing fetch with your family pet for 10 minutes in your backyard. This is a whole new level. These dogs will not quit until they’re exhausted, and it’s that determination that is great for what will eventually become their job (of trying to find survivors).”

That energetic obsession probably doesn’t make for the best pets, though, Sanders said, as the intrepid canines can be a lot to handle, which is why so many end up at the shelters. “But the way we see it, that’s not the dog’s fault. That’s just who they innately are. With proper guidance they can be able to channel that drive into something productive versus something destructive.”

That’s part of what makes the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation a rare win-win-win-win organization. The dogs win because they get saved from life in shelter (or worse) and instead get to do what they’re action-driven personalities desire. Potential disaster victims win because the highly trained dogs are experts at finding folks who have survived the initial event in ways mere humans can’t. First responder organizations win because the addition of a dog to their team of rescuers improves services while costing practically nothing as NSRD’s program includes all fees, licensing, medical bills and even dog food through the dog’s life. SDF itself wins because the trainers and staff like nothing better than another successful “Rescued to Rescuer” story.

Amazingly, that all happens without any government funding at all. But it doesn’t come cheap.

Sanders estimated it can cost $50,000 per dog, including combing the shelters for suitable recruits, initially training the search dogs and their handlers and providing ongoing training to keep the team sharp, plus the lifelong care that is guaranteed when a dog is accepted into the program whether or not the animal gets partnered or deployed. 

Fortunately the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t put a major dent in SDF’s services, as the training center allows for lots of social distancing, and most other meetings can be accomplished remotely. On the other hand, there’s an increasing need for these rescue teams as climate change and other factors have noticeably amped up the incidence of natural and other disasters, from wildfires to floods, mudflows, and even, recently, a scaffolding collapse at a meat-processing plant. 

“The whole entire operation revolves around the dogs, and we can’t do it without the support of the public,” Sanders said. “Whatever people donate truly helps go to the mission and what we need to do to continue to expand. We already have a waiting list (of fire departments wanting to house a team) which we’re working our way through, and we also have to replenish as teams retire. We can’t produce the dogs any faster because we want to keep our quality high, but we’d love to be able to work with more teams at the same time.”

Sanders said that funds would also help update training for current rescue teams.

“We’re always looking at ways to better our advanced search team training, to provide challenging situations to up their deployment readiness and be sure that when they step off that bus or that plane, they already have some experience that will help them through whatever they’re about to face.

“Wilma did a great job setting us up. It’s 25 years later, and we’re still trucking along, innovating as best we can, striving to remain leaders in the field.”

Search Dog Foundation