In partnership with key local community partner agencies, United Way of Santa Barbara County is leading efforts to build a strong and resilient community by providing children and families the educational base and financial stability they need to be successful in school and the future. 

To ensure that local children and families are not left behind in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have transitioned our Red Feather Ball event to a virtual and unique Red Feather Campaign, United | Together. This digital campaign will raise funds to provide thousands of students with access to high quality learning experiences and resources through Fun in the Sun and United for Literacy programs in 2020 and 2021. 

Your support of our United | Together Red Feather Campaign makes this important work possible. A donation to this campaign supports two critical educational initiatives, Fun in the Sun and United for Literacy, that help change the lives of local children and families.



Fun in the Sun is a nationally-recognized summer learning program that transforms academically and financially at-risk children — grade 3 through high school — from low-resource neighborhoods into successful, confident students.
In summer 2020, United Way modified Fun in the Sun to a virtual program model to continue supporting over 350 students and families during the pandemic. The learning program, originally designed to address summer learning loss, is especially important with this year’s prolonged school closures.
Seven virtual sites:
  • Carpinteria Unified School District 
  • Santa Barbara Unified School District (4 school sites instead of its usual 2 school sites)
  • Goleta Union School District
  • School districts throughout the Santa Ynez Valley 

In this virtual setting, scholars engage in hands-on STEAM activities, have access to online literacy programs, participate in virtual field trips, and receive all the individualized materials they need for virtual learning on a weekly basis. In addition, United Way, the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, and No Kid Hungry are partnering to ensure that scholars are provided with a free, nutritious lunch every day.

In 2021, United Way expects to offer an in-person FITS program at five south Santa Barbara County sites and a brand-new sixth north Santa Barbara County site in Guadalupe. United Way is already developing expanded service delivery partnerships to meet the needs of participating children and families next summer.



School readiness and reading at grade level or higher are key for school success and high school graduation. United Way and its strategic community partners deliver innovative and results-driven education programs to thousands of Santa Barbara County students who need extra help meeting and sustaining reading benchmarks in grades K-12 every day. Many of these programs engage parents as well.
United for Literacy’s individualized literacy improvement software, which can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection, is a key tool for many educators and their students. As the original program has always been primarily virtual, since school closures began in spring 2020, the program has grown from serving 10,000 students per year to help more than 38,000 local students meet and exceed critical reading benchmarks in a virtual setting. This growth represents expanded partnerships with Santa Barbara Unified School District and some north Santa Barbara County school districts that will continue during the 2020-21 school year, particularly as social distancing guidelines are in effect. United for Literacy's wraparound early learning partnerships, Kindergarten Success Institutes and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, also provide educational tools and books to children between birth and age 5 to help them engaged and learning at home.




In times of natural disaster or other crises, United Way of Santa Barbara County activates and deploys our existing partnership network and local experience to lead the community in meeting its immediate and long-term needs during the response and recovery. While leading its core education programs, United Way has also activated its crisis response partnership network to deliver a multi-pronged response through three funds:

  1. The COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County: Hundreds of donors have given more than $1.5 million to provide ongoing relief grants for individuals and families in need. To date, 1,586 households (representing more than 5,200 individuals) have received support to help meet basic needs like housing and food and recover from lost wages. United Way and Family Service Agency will continue to review and approve individual assistance grants on a rolling basis as funds remain available. The COVID-19 Joint Response Effort partnership has also provided close to $1.6 million to 107 local nonprofit organizations to help them meet immediate and long-term community needs. Overall, this countywide collaborative led by United Way of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Hutton Parker Foundation, has raised over $3.7 million to respond to community needs. 
  2. The Emergency Child Care Initiative: United Way and its partners, Jane and Paul Orfalea/the Audacious Foundation and the Natalie Orfalea Foundation with Lou Buglioli, have provided childcare for essential Santa Barbara County employees since early April. Childcare services have been available for up to 278 children at 4 sites in Santa Barbara (for Cottage Health and Sansum Clinic employees), Lompoc (for Lompoc Community Hospital employees) and Santa Maria (for Community Health Centers employees).  To date, this fund has raised $686,000. This initiative will provide services through July 31 with childcare centers soon resuming normal operations through California’s reopening plan.
  3. The Public Health Critical Needs Fund (CNF): Resources are being quickly deployed to help leaders from the SBC Public Health Department and other medical/health care providers reduce the rate of viral transmission to keep our local economy safely reopened. Specifically, the CNF is focused on two strategies:
    1. Providing shelter and services to individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 who would not otherwise have access to a safe location to self-isolate/quarantine. 
    2. Providing more contact tracing capacity to help the County reduce the spread of COVID-19. Substantial progress has been made in deploying these contact tracing teams through an expanded partnership with Family Service Agency. 30 culturally and linguistically competent employees are now trained and have been integrated into the County Public Health Department’s contact tracing program.


Your support is needed today to provide local children and families with continued access to vital education programs and collaborative COVID-19 response efforts that help meet the community’s immediate and long-term needs. The need for help in our community already well exceeds total funding available at this time and additional support is urgently needed to meet long-term needs. To join this effort today, please click the Donate Now button below.