On April 14, the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Santa Barbara Independent co-hosted a Toast to Our Community to honor first responders, nonprofits, and other community members who supported the community during the pandemic. More than 250 guests came out to enjoy the happy hour reception in the Rotunda at the Hilton SB Beachfront Resort, including a host of nonprofit leaders. In attendance also were Mayor Randy Rowse, Supervisor Das Williams, SB and Santa Maria councilmembers, and Police Chief Barney Melekian and other first responders.
During the program, Santa Barbara Independent Publisher Brandi Rivera expressed her deep gratitude to all those who stepped up to provide assistance during a time when funding resources had declined, but the need for services had increased. She commented on how the Independent could relate to this situation, as the uncertainty that the pandemic created brought an increased need for information. Rivera thanked the nonprofits for the press conferences and interviews, which enabled the Independent to do its job of keeping the community informed. She related that there are always challenges in getting the word out, given the large number of nonprofits offering services, and encouraged guests to continue sharing tips and story ideas because “we really want to know what we are missing.”
SB Foundation President and CEO Jackie Carrera toasted guests for all they have done to keep our community whole over the past two years. She recounted the host of unknowns the community faced, which could have been crippling, but pointed to nonprofits springing into action, including the United Boys & Girls Club, which, upon realizing that kids could do longer come to their sites, immediately began serving food and distributing supplies. She lauded the Foodbank, which with its partners immediately implemented the Emergency Feeding Plan. Carrera shared how coalitions and task forces formed around isolated seniors, community wellness, homelessness, and Latinx and Indigenous migrant response. Also, there was the massive infrastructure overhaul, shifting everything to the virtual, and vaccine distribution.
Carrera praised first responders, health care workers, fire, police, and civil servants, county health professionals, and “our fearless nonprofit partners” as “brilliant, nimble, creative, unrelenting and clearly driven by your love of your community.”
She noted the Foundation raised and distributed $4.1 million to 245 nonprofits and in collaboration with the United Way, the Hutton Parker Foundation, and 38 other funders, distributed more than $39 million.
Carrera commented that “although the pandemic is still ongoing, there is a new understanding, and a renewed trust and hope, at least for me, in the determination and resilience of the human spirit.” In raising a glass to toast guests, Carrera shared her gratitude noting that “It is you, our first responders and nonprofit leaders, who give so much of yourselves to enhance others lives . . . and we cannot thank you enough.”