Tag Archives: Thomas Fire

One805 Four Years Later, Nonprofit Continues to Kick Ash

Everybody in town likely knows about One805. Sure, they’re the organization who three years ago created the “Kick Ash Bash,” mounting the massive benefit concert as a way of thanking both the firefighters whose brave stand against the Thomas Fire in December 2017 saved untold homes in Montecito, as well as honoring the already weary first responders who had barely had a break before having to jump once more into the fray to help rescue many Montecito neighbors when a 100-year storm flooded the burnt hillside resulting in the devastating debris flow a few weeks later. 

The day-night celebration in late February brought out the Goleta-born/Montecito resident turned international pop star Katy Perry and a whole host of other celebrities with connections to the area. Brief speeches from the likes of Montecito residents Dennis Miller, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Connors, and Jane Seymour, plus fire chiefs and other first responders delivered during set changes for musical performances by Kenny Loggins, Alan Parsons, Katharine McPhee, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Glen Phillips, Dishwalla, David Foster, and more. The evening “After Bash” was hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Michael Keaton and featured David Crosby and the Sky Trails joined by Iration, Robby Krieger of the Doors, the Caverns, and others. 

But the Bash also had another benefit that went beyond gratitude: raising funds to better equip the first responders to meet natural disasters, as well as offering counseling services and victim relief. So, while scenes from that stirring event still reverberate in our collective memories, what also has had a lingering impact around town is the three custom mobile command units One805 purchased from $2 million in proceeds to donate to the police, fire, and sheriff departments.  

It wasn’t just the gifts that have made a difference, though, explained Angela Binetti Schmidt, the nonprofit’s executive director. 

“The different departments said, this is amazing that we’re all talking and we’re collaborating, and learning from each other,” she said. “They told us they wished it could continue because it makes it easier for all of us to do our jobs better.”

That cemented the idea of turning One805 into an ongoing nonprofit that officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in late 2019, founded by executive committee members Richard Weston-Smith, Eric Phillips, and John J. Thyne. The trio meet periodically with an advisory council consisting of the 11 department heads to field funding requests and collaborate on the decisions of what to allocate. 

Its first full-year grant awards in 2019 included a tactical robot to be shared between the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team and the city police SWAT team, as well as a modem for the County Fire Chief’s Association Incident Management Team. 

Three QRET Helicopter Harnesses for the County Sheriff/Fire Air Operations Unit were the biggest items in the 2020 grant awards in February, all meant to fill in the spaces where needed equipment projects can fall through the cracks due to arduous budget processes or other issues. 

“Technology moves so fast, and it’s important that our departments have the equipment and technology to protect public safety,” she said. “And even if they had all the funding in the world, it’s like molasses to get things passed through the budget, which takes a year just to apply. So, if we donate it, they can get it immediately.”

Which leads us to the current grant requests that the One805 board approved in February: a rescue rope system for $3,700; various drones to assist in remote rescues and other emergency situations at a cost of $14,000; purchase of the Rosetta Stone language development program to assist first responders in communicating with non-English speakers for $1,890; the aforementioned face shields and helmets to be used during larger group events involving protests for $5,500; four rescue struts that assist in extrication from vehicles and structures for $11,000; advanced technological products to assist with criminal investigations for $14,500; and a portion of the costs for the helicopter that supports the county first responder agencies for $35,000.

The Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow in 2018 brought about the need for One805, which continues to raise funds to aid the community with its various needs

Nothing terribly glamorous. But things don’t have to be monumental or cost mega-bucks in order to matter. 

“We have to be conservative because we weren’t able to do our fundraiser in 2020 because of the pandemic, and we wanted to respect the other nonprofits and what’s going on with a lot of donors who have diverted their funds to coronavirus relief,” said Binetti Schmidt. 

“So, it is pretty small, but these things are really impactful. When first responders are interacting with the general public, there’s some language barriers where the program could really make a difference. We found out the face shields matter during the George Floyd protests that turned violent in Santa Maria last summer. And those tech products really help because you can’t have the bad guys having better equipment and better technology than our departments.”  

What makes the current list even more exciting, Binetti Schmidt said, is that the requested items speak to one of One805’s tenets. 

“Collaboration and efficiency really meet our goal of wanting things that we donate to be fully utilized and shared,” she said. 

Take note that One805 is not dormant in between considering the equipment requests from first responder organizations. In fact, in times of crisis, the nonprofit can be something of a first responder itself. 

That’s what happened when COVID came to town. Within a few days of the first lockdown orders in March 2020, One805 – knowing that the official first responders were once again serving on the front lines while the rest of us sheltered at home – immediately began seeking donations of critical supplies including masks, gloves, liquid hand sanitizer, and protective medical clothing to distribute to medical and police, fire and other public safety departments throughout the county. Later they purchased and distributed 45 electronic defoggers for all the departments in the county to help sanitize public spaces and indoor environments to fight COVID.

“As an emergency response organization, we’re on the forefront in collaborating with the departments all over the county because that’s exactly what happened after the debris flow,” said Binetti Schmidt, explaining that having family in Washington State, where the virus first showed up, helped her to know what was coming. 

“That’s why we were created. There are always a lot of missing pieces in bringing the community together and quickly responding.” 

The nascent nonprofit’s nimbleness comes from the experience of its founders – each of whom had spent time previously on the boards of many nonprofits while Binetti Schmidt is the organization’s only paid employee. 

“We brought what we’d learned before into One805,” she explained. “And even before the virus, we were operating mostly virtually.”  

Now, as increased vaccinations are bringing hope of an eventual end to the pandemic, One805 would love to stage another big benefit event for the community, perhaps in the late summer or early fall, Binetti Schmidt. But in the meantime, there’s the $85,000 in approved requests to fulfil.  

“We’re just hoping this article speaks to people and that they are willing to help,” she said. “Maybe they want to underwrite one of the specific requests. Or they have a lead where we can get drones at cost, for example.”

A large donor taking care of all of this year’s latest requests would be dandy. But the gestures don’t have to be grand. In keeping with its mission to unite the community, One805’s memberships start at just $25, and come with swag you can wear proudly around town — or rather will be able to show off in public as the pandemic restrictions continue to ease. 

But no matter what happens with COVID or whatever nature has in mind for us next, One805 will be ready to support our first responders in keeping us safe, Binetti Schimdt said. 

“If there’s a need that arises, we want to do what we can.”

Taking Care of Those Who Take Care of Us

By the time the Thomas Fire turned toward Montecito in December 2017, Santa Barbara County’s first responders had already spent weeks preparing for the worst. 

Eric Phillips, whose home sits at 1,060 feet above the sea, knew his family was particularly exposed. When the fire struck, he didn’t need news reports because he watched from his security cameras. Firefighters scurried about as smoke poured over them. 

“It looked like midnight, but it was three in the afternoon,” he says. Then the cameras went out. “I figured ‘that’s it, the house is gone.’”

But it wasn’t. Like for so many others throughout the region, incredible effort by firefighters, police, and sheriff’s deputies paid off – saving homes and lives. “I was pretty blown away,” Phillips says. “I thought, ‘we have got to do something for these heroes.’” He and others considered a thank you barbeque.

Then, on January 9, 2018, a historic rain storm hit the scorched mountainsides causing the devastating debris flow that killed 23 of our neighbors. The weary first responders jumped into action again. 

With friends like Kirsten Cavendish & Richard Weston-Smith, John Thyne III, Ursula & Pat Nesbitt, Pat Smith and Sheila Herman, Phillips’ idea of a “little barbecue” to thank the first responders snowballed. In February 2018, these friends along with an army of volunteers, and a growing list of stars including Katy Perry, Alan Parsons, David Crosby, the group Wilson Phillips, David Foster and Kenny Loggins hosted “The Kick Ash Bash” on the grounds of Nesbitts’ Bella Vista Ranch. 

Battle-fatigued first responders, their families, and the community’s many thankful residents enjoyed a benefit concert with local celebrities, raising $2 million for charity. Supported by the likes of Yardi Systems, Inc., One805 immediately poured $1.4 million into three custom mobile command centers for the county’s fire, police, and sheriff’s departments to protect the community from future disasters. The safety of Santa Barbara county is central to the mission of One805.

“We quickly learned that [first responder] budgets move at a glacial pace,” Weston-Smith quips. “Real life doesn’t work like that. In a disaster, things are destroyed and they need up-to-date equipment and safety gear right away.”

Following the success of “The Kick Ash Bash”, Weston-Smith, Phillips, and Thyne launched One805, a nonprofit serving public safety agencies equitably across Santa Barbara county. The organization’s only staff member is Executive Director Angela Binetti Schmidt, the wife of a first responder herself. 

This low overhead and active board allows One805 to convert donations into fast action, quickly buying 45 decontamination foggers to protect the community from COVID-19, personal protective gear and other emergency equipment. The group collaborates with an advisory council made up of Department Heads from over a dozen Santa Barbara first responder agencies who decide where donations are needed most. 

One805 is also intent on supporting the mental health needs of our essential workforce, whose ranks regularly are witness to terrible tragedy.

Today, One805 is a permanent 501(c)(3) public charity, raising funds for Santa Barbara county public safety initiatives and assisting all three Fire, Police, and Sheriff Departments– purchasing equipment, counseling, and taking care of those who take care of us.

Feeding Hungry People During a Rolling Crisis

When disaster struck in the form of COVID lockdowns and an unfolding economic crisis, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County was ready. 

In response to the deadly double blow of the Thomas Fire and debris flow, the Foodbank developed a comprehensive “Emergency Feeding Plan,” which mapped out how to respond to a wide range of disasters. It hinges on coordinating emergency feeding plans across the county and alongside at least 300 partner agencies. 

“The need immediately jumped by 250% after COVID,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Judith Smith-Meyer. “Relationships are a cornerstone of the Emergency Plan. When we needed to act, we were ready and we did it.” 

A sad truth about the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic is the profile of those coming to the Foodbank. In South Santa Barbara County, an area so reliant on tourism, service workers have found themselves scrambling to make ends meet. Carpinteria saw needs rise some 300%, according to Smith-Meyer. 

“Precipitous job losses have left thousands of households facing food insecurity for the first time, and many struggle even more than usual to make ends meet,” says Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin. “We’ve seen countless new visitors hesitate to receive food, saying, ‘I don’t want to take food from someone who needs it more.’”

When a Foodbank client named Kathy’s new full-time job fell through in April, 2020, she didn’t know what to do. She had to feed her children, and came to rely on a no-contact drive through run by the Foodbank. “At least I don’t have to worry about my kids having enough healthy food to eat until we get the job thing sorted out,” Kathy says. By press time she was still unemployed. 

As federal stimulus programs fade, and those on the margins are crushed by an ailing economy, the Foodbank will be there. 

“The most important thing the Foodbank wants our community to know is that we are ready, and we are here for everyone,” Talkin says. 

Bold Climate Action

The double blow of the Thomas Fire and ensuing debris flow in 2018 left no doubt about the increasing threats of climate change to Santa Barbara County. Hotter days, extended droughts, wildfires, more violent and unpredictable storms are the region’s new normal. 

(photo by Matt Perko)

Thankfully, the Central Coast is home to one of the nation’s most accomplished environmental action nonprofits, which – in step with its forward thinking reputation – reoriented its focus to meet climate change head on 15 years ago. The Community Environmental Council’s CEO Sigrid Wright draws on the organization’s 50 years of experience in “innovating, incubating, bringing to scale and fledging” environmental solutions – such as leading the nation in recycling and other game-changing feats. 

In recent years, CEC has worked to drive down fossil fuel use for transportation, support a healthy and just local food system, better manage waste, and green the grid. Over 800 households have gone through CEC’s Solarize program, which provides bulk-purchased solar panels to make the green transition more affordable. CEC has helped install over 850 electric vehicle charging stations on the Central Coast, working toward California’s goal of putting five million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030 – including getting low-income drivers behind the wheel. “When paired together, rooftop solar is used to charge the electric vehicles,” Wright says. “We call it driving on sunshine.”

Even still, Wright recognizes that the climate crisis is unfolding rapidly and will require massive on-the-ground momentum to reverse emissions and protect the region from its impacts. To get there, CEC’s bold plan to reach Carbon Zero in the next decade is to: 

Lead

•Ensure that the Central Coast has the tools it needs to meet or establish transformative climate goals for transportation, renewable energy, organic waste and nature-based carbon farming

•Spur concrete action to safeguard the Central Coast from the impacts of climate threats like extreme heat, wildfire, drought, sea level rise, and storms

•Build a troop of diverse climate stewards and youth activists who can build community support for action

Partner

•Establish a local green workforce development initiative centered on climate justice 

•Establish a pilot community compost project and food recovery kitchens throughout the County to extend the life of fresh surplus food and prevent food waste

•Establish solar-powered Resilience Centers to support vulnerable populations

Act

•Install 1 megawatt of solar on regional nonprofits and schools

•Deploy cutting-edge transportation technology – including all-electric transit and school buses, and electric vehicle car share, and on-demand transportation services

• Prevent the waste of 240,000 pounds a year of edible food from restaurants, caterers and grocery stores, and provide it to organizations serving people in need