Tag Archives: support

Girls Take the Lead

By her sophomore year of high school, Sarahi Larios Cruz had already experienced family disruption, racism and systemic inequity, but she chose the “path of most resistance” focusing on overcoming these challenges and limitations to create the future she envisions for herself.

Key throughout her journey has been her confidence and resilience, which she cultivated at Girls Inc.’s Goleta Valley Teen Center where she spent almost every weekday from 2:45 – 6:00 PM.

“Girls Inc. is a place of independence, support, respect and opportunity,” Larios Cruz said during the Girls Inc. 2019 Celebration Luncheon. “At Girls Inc. I am at home. It is a place I am excited to go to, and a place I don’t want to leave.”

And while the space itself is “home,” it is the Girls Inc. staff – many of whom are Latina like Sarahi – that serve as her “extended family” and make her experience so transformational.

In fall of 2019, Larios Cruz was selected as one of 12 teens to serve on the National Girls Inc. Teen Advocacy Council where she advises the national organization’s public policy team about the issues facing girls and teens in their respective communities. With the leadership skills she has developed from the experience, attending college is not even a question for Larios Cruz after she graduates in 2021.

For CEO Barbara Ben-Horin, the strength of young women like Larios Cruz is the whole reason why Girls Inc. exists. When girls have tools and opportunities, they change their own circumstances and they also change the circumstances of others around them.

“The girls are not victims, they are powerful,” Ben-Horin says. “We want them to take their power and their voices into the world and make their mark as leaders.”

To do that, Girls Inc. uses its two facilities in downtown Santa Barbara and in Goleta to serve as many as 1,500 girls and teens every year. The programming is developed around the three words that capture the group’s mission: inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Strong (healthy) programs are aimed at health and wellness. Smart (educated) programs focus on academic enrichment and literacy and developing girls’ interests in pursuing STEM. Bold (independent) programs cultivate girls’ social and emotional intelligence and teach girls – many of whom grow up in under-resourced communities – to break through gender bias to create their place as powerful leaders as adults. These programs focus on areas such as economic literacy, leadership, civic engagement, and advocacy.

After nine years at Girls Inc., Larios Cruz is the embodiment of Girls Inc.’s mission – confidently shaping her own path forward, and ready to take the lead.

Much More than Lights and Sirens

Firefighters do a lot more than fight fires. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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