Friendship Luncheon committee members baked and bagged 800 cookies for Food From the Heart. | Credit: Courtesy

The 350 dedicated members of the Assistance League® of Santa Barbara, including its auxiliaries Las Aletas and Assisteens®, are not settling in armchairs during the Covid-19 Pandemic. They’ve managed to kick the virus in the patootie by coming up with new ideas to carry on their mission of improving the lives of children, teens, families, seniors and people with developmental disabilities in our community.

Some of the ways ALSB has adjusted their philanthropic programs:

Friendship Luncheon

Since ALSB could no longer provide home-cooked luncheons and entertainment for senior citizens at the ALSB chapter house, they contributed to two non-profits that help seniors in need. During the holidays, Assistance League paid for hams and baked 800 cookies for Food From the Heart. See’s chocolates were donated to 170 recipients of Meals on Wheels for their holiday meal. Charlene Heinz and Carol Bowie co-chair this committee.


One of Assistance League’s biggest philanthropic programs is supporting the enrichment programs for Hillside, a non-profit residential home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These residents have been without their off-campus activities since March, unable to leave their facility. With Donna Williams as chair, and with Ann Hammond’s help, Assistance League is focusing on sending uplifting cards, letters, and gifts through its Secret Pals program, and providing extra funds to help with individual necessities.

Very Improved Performers (VIP) Luncheon

“The principals and counselors from our community middle schools responded with enthusiasm to our request to continue to recognize student’s achievements,” said Marianne Lynch, VIP program chair. Instead of a luncheon ceremony, students who have demonstrated improved performance in grades, citizenship, attendance, or attitude will be honored with a note of congratulations written by an Assistance League member, along with a tote bag filled with school supplies and a Chick Fil-A or Kyle’s Kitchen gift certificate. 


The Scholarship Committee has awarded 10 scholarships ($3,500 each) to area youth who are attending four-year colleges. The youth are selected for Assistance League by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.   In addition, the League is supporting students at Santa Barbara Community College. “Our $35,000 grant to the SBCC Foundation will provide books, materials, supplies and tools to students studying in trade or technical fields,” said Nancy Revlin, committee chair.

Fun in The Sun

The Fun in the Sun Committee, led by Nikki Ricard, decided to move forward with a completely different summer program. Instead of helping fund swim classes or field trips, they distributed summer shorts and tee-shirts directly to the United Way, and helped fund their summer enrichment program. Gift cards to Blenders in the Grass were given to students in the program as incentives to complete their summer school assignments.

Operation School Bell® and Teen School Bell ®

The Operation School Bell dressing rooms were shuttered during Covid, but new jackets, pants, shirts, underwear, school supplies and dental kits were packed into colorful backpacks and delivered to the schools. Parents were asked to fill out request forms and the Assistance League members proceeded to fulfill the orders. More than 537 elementary school students in the Santa Barbara, Hope, and Carpinteria school districts were clothed since the pandemic began, with an additional 641 children in the Goleta School District from the Las Aletas auxiliary. The masked volunteers of Teen School Bell took 190 middle and high school students shopping at Ross for appropriate school clothes and supplies. These philanthropic programs are led by chairs Sue Kremser, Heike Kilian, Marilee Green, Ammon Hoenigman and Toni Kipp.

Bear Hugs

Cuddly teddy bears sporting the Assistance League of Santa Barbara’s logo tee-shirts were distributed by many local organizations to help comfort injured and traumatized children and convalescing adults. These included Family Service Agency, Isla Vista Youth Project, Marian Regional Medical Center, Sansum Clinics, Santa Barbara City Police, Santa Barbara Superior Court, the Friendship Centers and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. “We donated 575 bears,” declared Bear Hugs co-chair Jennifer Purdy.  “We are ordering more bears and will need to put together more kits!”  Jennifer co-chairs with Pat Crissman.

Kids on the Block

The creative members of the Las Aletas auxiliary are addressing children’s literacy by purchasing Playaway Bookpacks for the Goleta Library. Each Playaway Bookpack includes a selection of print books and a preloaded audio player, so the child can listen to the stories while reading along. The Las Aletas Kids on the Block life-size puppets will demonstrate the Bookpacks on the Goleta Library’s YouTube channel. The committee chairs are Julie Harris and Deborah James.

Family Learning Center

The volunteers of Family Learning Center provide tutoring and mentoring support to participating K-6th grade children and their families. Although not able to meet in person with their students, they nevertheless have been seeing students via Zoom. The tutors are supplementing the students’ schoolwork with kids’ yoga at the beginning of Zoom meetings, interactive reading sessions, contests, word games, and virtual parties with homemade cookies delivered to their homes. Penny Luce is the chair.

Santa Barbara Smiles

Donations of colorful Smiles Dental Kits, complete with a toothbrush, toothpaste, timer, flossers and tips for a healthy smile, are being included in every bag of school supplies filled through the Assistance League’s Operation School Bell and Santa Barbara Smiles philanthropies. Headed by Mary Lopez and Carol Sauceda, the Smiles Committee has been busy compiling the kits.

Fostering Friends

Fostering Friends has provided grocery gift cards to Target, Vons and Albertsons to the 25 students who are Guardian Scholars attending City College. Guardian Scholars is a comprehensive program that supports former foster youth in their efforts to gain a college education. Each student was also remembered at Christmas with a gift card for South Coast Deli. The philanthropic program is chaired by Betty Piertrzak.

Community Friends

Community Friends continues to donate various goods from our Thrift Shop to agencies and organizations with specific requests. The chairperson is Carol Voorhis.

Along with its auxiliaries, Las Aletas and Assisteens, the Assistance League of Santa Barbara’s 350 members volunteer over 50,000 hours a year to improve the lives of residents in our community. The Assistance League Thrift Shop, located at 1259 Veronica Springs Road, is the major source of funding for these programs.


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