United Way of Santa Barbara County event raises record-breaking total for educational programs
United Way of Santa Barbara County broke a record with the $347,000 it recently raised at its 25th annual Red Feather Ball.
The Sept. 23 event featured a sold-out crowd at the Montecito Club in Santa Barbara, where the theme was a Voyage to Marrakesh.
The ball marked United Way’s return to the traditional gala after two years of hybrid and virtual events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of the money raised went to United Way’s Academic Achievement initiative, which includes the United Learning Center tutoring program, the Early Learning Success Institutes, and the national award-winning Fun in the Sun summer learning program.
United Way’s academic programming operates at sites throughout the county, from Carpinteria to Guadalupe. They serve hundreds of students each year with literacy support, STEAM and enrichment activities, and social-emotional curriculum.
This year’s gala honored the Zegar Family Foundation as the evening’s title sponsors, with Merryl Zegar as the event’s honorary chair. Earlier this year, the Zegar family was also presented with the organization’s Alexis de Tocqueville award for Outstanding Philanthropy.
The Sept. 23 event included a short program, with speakers from United Way’s executive leadership team.
“As we celebrate this special Red Feather anniversary, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the last 25 years of our organization. I see a lot of growth, both in the increased need experienced by our community and in United Way’s capacity to address it,” said Steve Ortiz, United Way of Santa Barbara County’s president and CEO. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but not one step of this journey would have been possible without the support of those I see here tonight. We are so lucky to have such a strong network.”
Later that evening, guests watched the premiere of the 2022 Fun in the Sun video, featuring stories from the recently concluded summer program. After the video, the program moved into the fundraising portion of the evening, raising a record total of more than $176,00 during the live ask. Contributions made during this portion of the evening went to student scholarships, materials and curriculum, and enrichment activities.
“As we continue on the road to recovery, so many in our community remain in need of the unique programs and services that United Way provides each year,” Mr. Ortiz said. “We are grateful for your show of support tonight to help us continue to fill the gap for these students and families as they rebuild and recover.”