Our region has experienced unprecedented destruction this past month. The Thomas Fire devastated the Ventura and Santa Barbara County communities and the recent torrential rain created floods that have changed the Santa Barbara County landscape forever. The most tragic impact to the community has been the growing number of lives lost due to these devastating natural disasters. The effort to both physically rebuild and heal emotionally will take a long time for this community.
The outpouring of support and effort from so many local individuals and organizations is evidence that our strong community will see this through. In fact, a network of organizations has been hard at work since early December, when the Thomas Fire broke out, serving local families and individuals displaced and affected by both disasters. These organizations, members of the Santa Barbara County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) collaborative (like Unity Shoppe, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Direct Relief International, and others), have been assisting Thomas Fire evacuees and are now serving flood victims to get them on the road to recovery.
United Way of Santa Barbara County is also a member of the VOAD collaborative and, together, they will ensure that comprehensive assistance services to help victims are available and that victims are linked with the appropriate services.
One of United Way of Santa Barbara County’s roles in times of disaster is to provide long-term financial relief efforts. To this end, UWSBC has partnered with United Way of Ventura County to establish and manage a relief fund, the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund, which has raised over $3 million to date. 100% of the funds raised will support victims and evacuees, and the organizations that serve them.
“Though these are very difficult times for Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, it is so inspiring to see the community come together at so many levels to support our friends and neighbors,” said Steve Ortiz, President & CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County. “There are literally thousands of volunteers and people in local nonprofits, government agencies, schools, businesses, and more who are working to support our community members who need it most.”
Phase one of Santa Barbara County fund distribution will take place in February 2018 to local organizations who are currently assisting the affected individuals. The window for agencies to request funds is open until February 1, 2018. United Way of Santa Barbara County will coordinate with local partners such as the Santa Barbara Foundation, SB County Office of Emergency Management, and the SBC VOAD Committee to determine the most appropriate SBC VOAD member organizations to receive funding, based on the direct needs of those affected.
A second phase of fund distribution is being coordinated for the coming weeks to assist with long-term recovery efforts for individuals and families directly affected.
To give a gift designated to victims of the fire and/or flood, please visit: www.unitedwaythomasfirefund.org, text UWSBC to 40403, or call (805) 965-8591.
For more information, please visit www.unitedwaysb.org.
Photo credit: Matt Udkow/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via Associated Press