Tag Archives: justice

Finding a Community of Giving

As philanthropists, it is our view that wealth is both a blessing and a responsibility. We have been most fortunate to be blessed with bounty in our lives and believe that it is our moral obligation to share this bounty by giving. For us, wealth creates a sacred trust to be put to use in helping to repair our world in impactful ways to improve the lives of others and hopefully advance our human condition through our efforts in giving.

Growing up, both of us experienced financial strains and sometimes even hardships. We both know what it means to struggle and so can appreciate the struggles of others. We say “there but for the grace of God go I.” 

We established our Zegar Family Foundation thirteen years ago as the primary vehicle through which we make gifts to others. The mission of our foundation is “to give back by improving the larger world around us and the lives of others where our gifts can yield meaningful tangible impact for a better world.”

Over the years, our areas of giving have evolved and we now concentrate our giving efforts in two key focus areas – Environment and Sustainability as well as Justice and Human Rights. Yet other core values remain important to us such as arts and culture, health, education, and helping those in need especially in the community around us.

“These goals of supporting our Santa Barbara community while seeking advances for the larger world around us are not mutually exclusive.”

Thus, when we bought our home here in Montecito six years ago, we were determined to become involved in local philanthropy and set about to learn more. With so many local not-for-profits per capita (and without the aid of this terrific philanthropy giving book guide you now have) we turned to Charity Navigator and found the highly rated Direct Relief. Inspired by the work of Direct Relief, we not only made a grant to contribute to constructing their much needed new building, but also offered a challenge match which helped spur the capital campaign forward.

By doing so, we not only helped Direct Relief, but this gift opened doors for us into the Santa Barbara giving community. We met numerous other philanthropists and good people who remain our friends to this day. From there, we began to learn of a broad range of other giving opportunities, for example, ranging from our next capital contribution made to MOXI, an educational children’s museum then being constructed, to supporting Pacific Pride’s LGBTQ programs to assisting the services of Girls Inc. for local girls by providing a grant for a new position to helping to fund performing arts at our beautiful, iconic Granada Theatre.

Over the years here, we have been active caring members of the Santa Barbara giving community, stepping up to help those in need following the Montecito mudslides two and a half years ago and more recently giving multiple grants for COVID relief. Our community philanthropy and commitment is in addition to the philanthropic focus of our foundation with which we try to make change and have impact on a potentially grander scale. These goals of supporting our Santa Barbara community while seeking advances for the larger world around us are not mutually exclusive.

We are so happy to be part of this caring community in Santa Barbara. There are so many ways to help improve the world and give to the many in need. We hope that you too will find a path of giving that resonates and be inspired by this guide to give back in ways that you can!

Dismantling Racism on the Central Coast

In 2008, Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez took part in Just Communities’ intensive CommUnity Leadership Institute designed to teach up to 40 local high school students about all the “isms” that get in the way of social justice.

“All my experiences with racism and classism had been private,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says. “For the first time those experiences were welcomed and supported. As a young person you need that validation, to know that you are not alone.”

Ten years later, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, Gonzalez-Gutierrez came to work for the nonprofit that had opened her eyes a decade before.

That nonprofit, Just Communities, “advances justice by building leadership, fostering change, and dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.”

Its staff of five helps youth, educators, and families through cultural competency trainings for organizational leaders, running education seminars for the general public, and producing leadership training institutes for students and teachers.

Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities’ Development and Communications Manager, and Executive Director Melissa Rodezno-Patrino point to the outcome of a recent student seminar at a local Santa Barbara high school. There, students serving on-campus suspensions had to do so in the cafeteria. At lunchtime they were made to eat their lunches facing the wall. “It was dehumanizing,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says.

As part of the Just Communities’ model the students gave a presentation to the principal. That was in August. Come September, when school started, the practice had been dismantled.

Rodezno-Patrino likens this example to the greater “sense of awakening” about racial injustice gripping the country. “Once you know what is happening there is no way to go back,” she says. “We at Just Communities have always had this conversation. We are not a regular nonprofit where you are treating the ailment with a band-aid. We are treating it directly.”

Every year the staff serves more than 400 young people and adults throughout the region. And every day they are hearing from new organizations looking for tools to dismantle racism in their work. For nearly 20 years, Just Communities has been doing just that