More than 300 members of the Assistance League of Santa Barbara have worked hard to continue their work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the past 11 months, the group has come up with new ideas for its mission of improving the lives of children, teenagers, families, seniors and people with developmental disabilities in the Santa Barbara area.
Here are examples of the organization’s work.
FRIENDSHIP LUNCHEON: During the pandemic, the Assistance League could no longer provide home-cooked lunches and entertainment for seniors at the ALSB chapter house. But the nonprofit still contributed to a pair of nonprofits that help seniors in need.
And during the holidays, ALSB paid for hams and baked 800 cookies for Food From the Heart.
See’s chocolates were also donated to 170 recipients of Meals on Wheels for their holiday meal. Charlene Heinz and Carol Bowie co-chair this committee.
HILLSIDE: One of Assistance League’s biggest philanthropic programs is supporting the enrichment programs for Hillside, a nonprofit residential home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These residents have been without their off-campus activities since March.
With Donna Williams as chair and with Ann Hammond’s help, Assistance League is focused on sending uplifting cards, letters and gifts through its Secret Pals program, as well as providing extra funds to help with individual necessities.
VERY IMPROVED PERFORMERS 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.
SCHOLARSHIPS: The Scholarship Committee has awarded 10 scholarships ($3,500 each) to area youth who are attending four-year colleges. The youth are selected for the Assistance League by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. In addition, the League is supporting students at Santa Barbara City 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 committee, led by Nikki Ricard, decided to move forward with a completely different summer program. Instead of helping fund swim classes or field trips, the committee distributed summer shorts and T-shirts directly to the United Way, and helped fund their summer enrichment program.
OPERATION SCHOOL BELL AND TEEN SCHOOL BELL: The Operation School Bell dressing rooms were shuttered during COVID-19, but new jackets, pants, shirts, underwear, school supplies and dental kits were packed into colorful backpacks and delivered to the schools.
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 T-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 Clinic, the Santa Barbara Police Department, Santa Barbara Superior Court, the Friendship Centers and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.
“We donated 575 bears,” Bear Hugs co-chair Jennifer Purdy said. “We are ordering more bears and will need to put together more kits!”
Ms. Purdy co-chairs Bear Hugs with Pat Crissman.
KIDS ON THE BLOCK: The 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 center’s volunteers provide tutoring and mentoring support to participating children in grades K-6 and their families. Although not able to meet in person with their students, they 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: Participants have focused on providing 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: Participants have focused on donations of various goods from the Assistance League Thrift Shop to agencies and organizations with specific requests. The chair is Carol Voorhis.
Along with its auxiliaries, Las Aletas and Assisteens, the Assistance League of Santa Barbara’s 350 members volunteer more than 50,000 hours a year to improve the lives of local residents.