Board Co-President Katya Armistead, Executive Director Lisa Brabo, and Co-President Roberta Heter.

Gail Arnold

Board Co-President Katya Armistead, Executive Director Lisa Brabo, and Co-President Roberta Heter.

Family Service Agency Holds Cooking Up Dreams Event

Event Raises Funds for Youth Enrichment Programs

On March 31, more than 300 enthusiastic supporters of Family Service Agency (FSA) gathered at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort for its third annual Cooking Up Dreams event. Chefs from 14 area restaurants served up tantalizing offerings to raise funds for FSA’s programs for at-risk youth, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, school-based counseling, and youth behavioral health. The chefs competed for the Judge’s Award selected by a celebrity panel and for the People’s Choice Award voted on by guests.

Even before emcee and auctioneer Andrew Firestone took to the stage with his characteristic zeal, there was high energy in the room. The unstructured format allowed for lots of mingling and many conversations were about the amazing work of this organization.

During the short program, Executive Director Lisa Brabo shared how “since its founding in 1899, Family Service Agency has helped ensure that vulnerable individuals and families have access to food, shelter and other basic needs as well as youth mentoring, parent education, and a wide array of mental health programs.” She reminded guests that during these uncertain times, their support is all the more critical. She also announced that as of July 1, FSA is merging with the Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center. The merger of these organizations that provide similar services in their respective areas will enable economies of scale that will be of great benefit to the communities served.

Firestone rallied the crowd, declaring how vitally important donor support is to FSA’s programs. True to his word that he was “going to jump around here like a crazed monkey,” Firestone entertained the crowd through the ask and live auctions and raised much-needed funds.

The celebrity judge panel consisted of KEYT’s Joey Buttita, The Restaurant Guy John Dickson (whose column appears in this publication), Edible Santa Barbara’s Krista Harris, and renowned Denver chefs Jen Jasinski, a Santa Barbara native, and her husband, Max Mackissock. The Celebrity Chef’s award went to Chef Peter McNee of Convivo for his Pesce Crudo: raw ahi tuna, cucumber, and cara cara on squid ink crackers. The People’s Choice award went to Chef Jesus Charco of Santa Barbara FisHouse for his prawns rolled in wonton wrappers.

FSA is in need of both volunteers and donations. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program serves more than 200 youth aged 6 to 15, but has another 59 boys and 44 girls on a wait list. The school-based counseling program operates at K-12 campuses in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, and Lompoc. Insufficient funding has caused wait lists both last year and this year. FSA’s behavioral health program, which serves both adults and children, has seen a significant increase in demand because of the Affordable Care Act, which both increased the number of people who qualified for Medi-Cal and increased the public’s awareness of mental health issues and services. Funding has not kept pace, there are currently 144 people on the wait list for this program. For those without Medi-Cal, FSA has a sliding fee scale and does not turn anyone away because of an inability to pay.

For more information about Family Service Agency, go to

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By Gail Arnold

Board Vice President for Programs Jane Santos Sweeney and Advisory Boardmember Shirley Ann Hurley.

By Gail Arnold

Union Bank Managing Director and Region Manager Vince Caballero and Oveja Blanca Chef/Owner Robert Perez. Union Bank was the Presenting Sponsor.

By Gail Arnold

Boardmember Stephanie Wilson and Convivo Chef Peter McNee.

By Gail Arnold

Celebrity Judge The Restaurant Guy John Dickson with his son, Jimmy Dickson.

By Gail Arnold

Little Sisters Leilanie and Charli with Event Co-Chair Meredith Garofalo.

By Gail Arnold

Rod Ontjas and Operations Supervisor Christie Ontjes.

By Gail Arnold

Finch & Fork Chef James Siao and Boardmember Molly Carrillo-Walker.

By Gail Arnold

Guests enjoy the program.

By Gail Arnold

Participating chefs.

By Gail Arnold

Board Co-President Katya Armistead, Executive Director Lisa Brabo, and Co-President Roberta Heter.

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