Tag Archives: The 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.

Easy Lift

Several years ago, my elderly neighbor gave up driving due to recurring hip injuries and a debilitating autoimmune disease. Sometimes I’d look across our cottage complex and notice a taxi waiting to take her to doctor appointments or grocery shopping – she was old-fashioned enough to not even own a smartphone, so Lyft and Uber were out of the question. Finally, after trading in her walker for a wheelchair, she found out about Easy Lift, the Santa Barbara nonprofit whose mission is to restore some dignity to the disabled through providing mobility.

Now I’d peer out the window to see the nonprofit’s easily recognizble Dial-a-Ride vans pulling up to her door, and watch the friendly, always punctual driver lower the mechanical lift and then wheel Rose into the van before making sure she was secure in her seat. Then the van would take her wherever she wanted to go, whether to get medical treatment or pick up prescriptions or even to just go visit a park. The rides cost a mere $7 roundtrip, just a fraction of what two cab rides used to set her back, a godsend on her fixed income as a retiree. 

It was one of the things that made life worth living, I remember her telling me. “Stories like that warm my heart,” says Ernesto Paredes, Easy Lift’s longtime executive director. “It’s what has kept me motivated and inspired over all these years because for a lot of people, we are truly their only line of transportation and connection to our community.”

Paredes admits he didn’t always feel that way, at least not when he first started at the organization back in 1991, 12 years after Easy Lift began operations and just one year after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect. 

“Back then I thought I’d be with this nonprofit for a year to get some experience and then I’ll move on to somewhere else,” he says. “I thought transportation wasn’t sexy, it’s not sheltering someone or feeding someone, it’s just access. But you don’t realize the importance of transportation until you don’t have it.”

Ernesto Paredes, Easy Lift’s executive director, with Ron Werft, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cottage Health

Just think about when you drop off your car at the mechanic for the day and you’re dependent on someone else to pick you up and then take you back again, Paredes suggests. “You can really feel helpless, and it’s just one day,” he says. “That’s the way some people feel every single day, like prisoners in their homes unless they have a service like Easy Lift to get them out.”

With that principle in mind, Easy Lift has grown to provide, via its fleet of 30 vans, an average of 300 rides a day on demand for the elderly, disabled, and anyone physically or cognitively unable to ride MTD, even temporarily, plus nearly 1,000 rides per month for low-income Medi-Cal residents to travel to and from non-emergency medical appointments through a partnership with CenCal Health. 

The ongoing pandemic has put a dent in that demand, of course, anywhere from 40-60 percent depending on restrictions, Paredes said, as the ill and elderly are most vulnerable to suffer serious effects from contracting COVID-19, so voluntary trips have declined drastically. But, Paredes points out, those who require treatment like dialysis can’t just postpone it. So the drivers, whom the ED calls the heart of the organization, have stayed true to the task, working diligently to comply with the CDC guidelines for distancing and disinfecting, although, Paredes says, it’s almost impossible for them to be six feet apart at all times because they have to secure the wheelchairs to the floorboards.

“We try to prepare them and educate them and give them the proper tool, but they’re the ones who put themselves in harm’s way,” he says. “That just tells you how great our drivers are.” 

When the pandemic first forced the stay-at-home orders and demand decreased, Paredes also arranged for idle vans to be used to support the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County to transport food from their storage area on Hollister to its locations in North County. Easy Lift also stepped up to take over for HELP of Carpinteria, the all-volunteer nonprofit that provides similar door-to-door transportation service to non-driving residents of that city, because the organization would have had to shut down as most of its drivers were seniors who themselves wanted to shelter at home. 

“We spoke to their board and their executive director and offered to continue transporting their seniors free of charge, which we’re still doing today,” Paredes said. “It’s really about looking out for our brother and sister nonprofits because we’re all in this together. The pandemic has made a lot of us closer because of what our community members are going through. And it’s also given me and my fellow EDs a chance to shift from merely managing our organizations to really leading, look at our business models and see if they’re still effective.” 

That spirit is what drives Paredes to let potential donors know that while his organization can always use more funds – partly because people often mistakenly think that Easy Lift is part of the MTD system, he said – he wants donations to go where they’re most required. 

“We always need ongoing support, but we’re not trying to create a war chest of money,” he says. “I’m a community member first. If there are other organizations that need the money more than us, we should help the ones that are really suffering. Just follow your heart.” •MJ

Easy Lift
www.easylift.org
(805) 681-1181