The first image that comes to mind when you think “winemaker” might be something out of I Love Lucy — a bunch of barefoot people smashing grapes in a giant barrel — or perhaps it’s nicely shoe’d folk sipping gorgeous syrahs on a huge veranda overlooking the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley. You’d certainly be at least half right, but what you may not know is that the winemakers of Santa Barbara County also love their philanthropy.
This past Wednesday, on Leap Day, the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, took a generous leap and presented a check for $500,000 to Direct Relief International during at a ceremony held at The Hitching Post II. The money was raised at the foundation’s biennial event, The American Riviera Wine Auction, which took place on February 11 at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club.
“Hitting the half-million-dollar mark represents a huge leap for all of us,” said Frank Ostini, president of the Vintners’ Foundation and owner of the Hitching Post II, “a huge leap that the $500,000 raised here will be leveraged by Direct Relief into $15 million in medicine and aid to the needy across the United States and around the world, which makes the Vintners so proud to be in partnership with Direct Relief.”
Since 2000, the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation has collaborated with Direct Relief on seven American Riviera Wine Auctions, and this year’s check brings the total contribution to just over $2 million.
Direct Relief’s initial efforts targeted medically underserved areas internationally; however, in response to the need for affordable medicines arising here in the United States, Direct Relief has since launched Direct Relief USA and now supplies $50 million yearly on the home front, including millions of dollars for dental and ophthalmic care as well as the distribution of relief packs for emergency responders in Santa Barbara County.