Supporters both of New Beginnings Counseling Center and of retiring Congressmember Lois Capps gathered at El Paseo Restaurant on Sunday, July 17, for a moving and festive salute to Capps.
While the menu for the social hour was pure Mexican with tasty appetizers and margaritas, the restaurant was all-American in décor with large American flags draped from the high balconies on all sides.
The program, too, had a strong patriotic tone, beginning with a striking presentation of colors by the Vandenberg Air Force Base Honor Guard. Then retired police sergeant Davis Gonzales gave an awe-inspiring rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Board president Diane Pannkuk welcomed the crowd and remarked on how Capps “has been tireless in her commitment to helping people improve their lives through better schools, quality health care, and a cleaner environment.”
“Compassion” is the word that strikes Laura Capps, the congressmember’s daughter, when she thinks about New Beginnings: “It is what drives their work for veterans and for homeless people.” “Compassion” is also the word that comes to mind in thinking about her mom — in her work in Congress, as a nurse, and as a mom. According to Laura, her mom’s starting point has always been “that we are all human and just trying to make our way in the world and do the best that we can.”
Laura’s brother, Todd, stressed the importance of family to his mother and that the concept of family to her extends outward. She has “the hope that we can be more of a family on the national front.” He ended by simply sharing that “she’s the real deal.”
Paul Didier, CEO of United Way, commented on the enormous support Capps has provided to the United Way and the community in general. Santa Barbara City Councilmember Cathy Murillo read a proclamation from the mayor and city council thanking her for her longstanding service. New Beginnings executive director Kristine Schwarz read a detailed, heartfelt letter from former president Bill Clinton praising her many accomplishments.
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson noted how Lois’s spirit of service has been such a source of inspiration. “Politics is not always the most warm and fuzzy business, and yet I have never heard Lois Capps say an unkind word about anybody or any circumstance, and I think that is extraordinary.”
Capps believes “that we can rise to a higher level, that we must try to be better, that we must be inclusive of everyone in this country” including providing for the needs of veterans and the mentally ill. In closing, Jackson stated of Capps that “there is no one who has worked harder or cared more deeply about the people of the Central Coast and the issues that affect us all, and her energy, integrity, and commitment are absolutely unmatched.”
After Chloe Redit beautifully sang “Imagine,” Capps graciously accepted the honor. She quickly turned the attention to the good work of New Beginnings and other organizations in the community. She commended New Beginnings for looking at the underlying causes of a person’s situation and taking a comprehensive approach — making the inquiry: “What should we be doing to truly make a new beginning.”
Capps, true to her intense spirit of service to the community, closed by saying that now that she does not have to commute to Washington, she is looking forward to engaging with the community as a volunteer.
Lois Capps was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1998. She serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, and during her 18 years in Congress, she has sponsored or co-sponsored more than 220 bills that have become law.
Prior to serving in Congress, she served as a nurse and public health advocate for the Santa Barbara School District. She founded and served as the director of S.B. County’s Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Project and the Parent and Child Enrichment Center. She taught Early Childhood Education at SBCC for 10 years.
New Beginnings Counseling Center is a nonprofit mental health center that provides psychological counseling and supportive services to low-income families and individuals. Last year, New Beginnings provided counseling to more than 800 at-risk individuals.
Since 2004, New Beginnings’ Safe Parking Program has been providing case management and outreach to the homeless and safe overnight parking to individuals and families living in their vehicles. Last year it served more than 700 people. It works with churches, governmental and non-profit agencies, and businesses to provide 120 safe overnight parking spaces in 20 lots. It distributes more than 450 pounds of food each month and provides case management and many services to transition program participants into permanent housing and employment. It is underfunded for the 2016-17 fiscal year and seeking donations.
For more information about New Beginnings, click here www.sbnbcc.org.
By Gail Arnold