Thomas Fire press conference at Carpinteria High School (Dec. 7, 2017)
Paul Wellman

Disasters bring out the best in people, but they also bring out the scammers. Be careful of being asked for donations to an organization you’ve never heard of ​— ​either in person or over the phone.

Of course, a number of legitimate groups are stepping up as they always do in times of need. The following groups can use your help, or offer you services if you’re affected by the fire.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

HELP: Monetary donations stretch the furthest as Foodbank can leverage relationships to serve eight meals out of a single dollar. Donate via

GET HELP: The Foodbank opened extra locations as early school closures left more than 10,000 children without their school-provided breakfast and lunch. The warehouse at 4554 Hollister Avenue is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and the Foodbank is also now operating at the Franklin Neighborhood Center (1136 E. Montecito St.), Westside Boys & Girls Club (602 W. Anapamu St.), and St. Joseph Church (1532 Linden Ave.) in Carpinteria, where fresh produce, nutritious groceries, and protein items are being given away 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

American Red Cross, Santa Barbara Chapter

HELP: Like the Foodbank, the Red Cross prefers money over donations of food and clothing. “They may not be what people need who don’t even have a home anymore to hold them,” explained Jessica Piffero. To ensure a donation goes toward fire victims, she suggested that check writers put “California Wildfire” in the memo section. Online, donations can be made to “Your Local Red Cross,” which would go to the chapter associated with the check writer’s zip code. See

GET HELP: The Red Cross is running the evacuation center at UCSB, though only 67 evacuees stayed there on Monday night. Piffero believes that is due to many hotels in the area offering discounts. The list of hotels offering as much can be found at Visit Santa Barbara’s website:

Santa Barbara Agencies on the Fire

HELP: At the town hall meetings, the fire chiefs echoed the Red Cross’s statements, saying that they sincerely appreciate the home-cooked food they are receiving but that they’d just as soon see donations go to the Red Cross to help fire victims. For those who’d like to donate directly to the local agencies working the fire and keeping evacuation areas safe, there’s the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse, both of which raise funds for equipment and training in these budget-strapped times.

United Way of Ventura County

HELP: More than 700 residences were lost in Ventura County, so our neighbor to the south is going to need a lot more help than Santa Barbara County residents. The United Way of Ventura County is leading the charge there via the #ThomasFireFund campaign, a partnership with the American Red Cross of Ventura County and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. To donate, see or text UWVC to 41444.


HELP: To donate to more personal situations, the crowdfunding website has dozens of “verified” campaigns listed at

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

HELP: Sign up to be an active helper in the next emergency by becoming a member of Santa Barbara County’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. See


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