Tag Archives: philanthropy

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.

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.

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.”

An Expression of Santa Barbara’s Global Philanthropic Reach

In 1948, an Estonian immigrant named William Zimdin – who had experienced the ravages of World War II – founded what would become the largest charitable distributor of medical supplies in the world: Direct Relief. Importantly, Zimdin did so right here in Santa Barbara.

Direct Relief’s global work begins at home, and has long worked closely with and supported both local and statewide firefighting and public health agencies as well as colleague Santa Barbara nonprofit health organizations, including the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade.

Over the last decade alone, the charity – which is entirely funded by private philanthropy – has provided $7.8 billion in medical aid to more than 100 countries and every single U.S. state. Across the United States, Direct Relief partners with 1,300 safety-net clinics and health centers, which serve more than 30 million people who are unable to pay for care. It is the largest provider of charitable medicines in the world, largest supplier of free PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, and uniquely accredited among nonprofits to distribute Rx medications in all 50 states.

The organization’s motto is to serve anyone at any time, and its mission is “to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”

To do so, Direct Relief leverages donations of medicine and medical supplies from 150 of the world’s largest medical and pharmaceutical companies, so that it can in turn give those vital resources to the people who need them most – whether on the tail end of a hurricane, a fire, or during a raging global pandemic.

This highly leveraged business model has allowed Direct Relief to expand the frontiers of its work efficiently, and with all of its fundraising costs covered by a supporting foundation endowed by bequests.

When Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, it took the island’s medical infrastructure with it. In short order, 84% of the territory’s temperature-sensitive medicines were lost, and Direct Relief quickly realized it couldn’t send insulin with the grid – and the refrigerators attached to it – knocked out. So the nonprofit quickly set up battery backups and solar power generation at 89 Puerto Rico clinics to provide refrigeration for medicines. The project was so successful that the nonprofit is launching a similar initiative in California, where an ever-growing fire season and rolling blackouts threaten the medical system’s ability to respond in times of emergency. Direct Relief’s headquarters is powered by the first microgrid approved in the continental U.S. and allows it to fulfill critical roles here locally in during power outages.

But for all this work across the globe and nation, Direct Relief remains rooted to its home: Santa Barbara.

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.