Society Matters | One805 Presents Grants to First Responders
Grants Fund Mental Wellness Care and Equipment
On March 29 at the Montecito Club, One805 presented about $240,000 in grants to first responder agencies throughout the county. This nonprofit, founded in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow, boasts an advisory board comprising all eleven first responder chiefs in the county.
After the cocktail reception, two of the event co-founders, Richard Weston-Smith and Kirsten Cavendish Weston-Smith, welcomed the group of about 100 supporters, potential supporters, and first responder chiefs. Kirsten related how the 1/9 Debris Flow made the One805 founders realize how dangerous first responder jobs are and motivated them to raise funds to support first responder agencies throughout the county.
Presenting the awards was boardmember Barney Melekian, who last year stepped down as S.B. interim police chief and previously served as S.B. County undersheriff and as Pasadena Acting Fire Chief and Pasadena Acting City Manager. Melekian explained that One805 originally was focused on equipment, but in the past couple of years, it has become apparent that providing mental wellness support for first responders and their families is absolutely critical. So, the largest check went to fund one year of counseling for all firefighters in the county and their families. A single, generous donor stepped forward to fund this commitment with a $144,000 donation.
The remainder of the grants were for equipment: $41,000 to the Guadalupe Fire and Police Departments for a generator, which the city previously lacked; $40,000 to the Sheriff’s Office for new dive masks, whose need was made apparent with the Conception dive boat disaster; $13,000 to the Santa Maria Police Department for mass-casualty first aid kits; and $1,800 to the Santa Maria Fire Department for Rosetta Stone translation software to help EMTs in delivering services to the non-English speaking community.
S.B. County Sheriff Bill Brown noted that he has worked in many jurisdictions, and he has never experienced the collaborative effort, camaraderie, and friendship that exists both between the members of the different public service agencies and among the executive leaders of the agencies in our county.
He went on to pay tribute to One805, whose founders were part of the group that put on the Kick Ash Bash after the Thomas Fire and debris flow. Proceeds from that event, which featured Katy Perry, Kenny Loggins, Alan Parsons, and many other stars, funded three mobile command posts — one each for the S.B. County Sheriff’s Office, the S.B. Police Department, and the county’s fire departments.
One805 founders then decided to support first responders on an ongoing basis, holding events to raise funds and to provide entertainment for first responders. No agency in the county, Brown noted, has an adequate budget to obtain some of the most important things it needs. Thanks to One805, he added, they have received some extraordinary equipment.
In praising the mental wellness services One805 now funds, Brown shared the axiom that “if the people who take care of other people are not taken care of, we are all going to be in trouble.” S.B. County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig emphasized the importance of culturally competent counseling, relating how when a member of his department needed counseling, he found little help with counselors provided by his insurance company. By contrast, the team retained by One805 has that cultural competency to assist first responders with their particular needs.
A separate nonprofit, 911 At Ease International, also provides mental wellness services to first responders in Santa Barbara County.
Kirsten Cavendish Weston-Smith shared how One805 doesn’t do formal fundraisers, but rather “we are all rock and roll,” denim and dancing, The next event is One805Live at Sunstone with Ed Roth and the Session Kings. An afternoon event at Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, it features six top musicians, including Andy Vargas, lead singer of Carlos Santana for the last 20 years. On September 22, Maroon 5 and others will perform at Kevin and Christine Costner’s oceanside estate in Summerland. Tickets for both events are on sale now.
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