As the thousands of nonprofits in Santa Barbara County pivot and adjust to the needs of a community already heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, foundations throughout the area have stepped up to provide resources for those organizations, as well as individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by the public health emergency.
Last week, the Santa Barbara Foundation, United Way of Santa Barbara County, and the Hutton Parker Foundation announced the launch of the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort, a collaboration of members of the Foundation Roundtable to provide assistance to individuals and families impacted by the coronavirus and state emergency orders as well as nonprofits actively assisting them.
In just two weeks, 18 members of the Roundtable, including the Fund for Santa Barbara, The Towbes Foundation, and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, have managed to raise nearly $2 million for assistance.
The funds will be available in the form of grants for individuals and the organizations that support them. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis as the group provides funding as needed.
For individuals, the grants will help struggling community members secure and maintain basic needs, cover unexpected child care and education expenses, and recover from loss of wages due to business closures and social distancing measures.
The application for individuals will be available at unitedwaysb.org/covid-19-response-grants on Monday.
For nonprofits, the grants will help by meeting increased service demand following widespread shutdown of schools and child care facilities, and social distancing measures impacting places of employment.
The application for nonprofits can be found at sbfoundation.org/covid-19-sbc-np-resources/, where organizations can also find an impact survey where they can share their stories.
Although the applications for individuals are not live, the joint response effort has already begun to survey the community about their specific needs.
“We have an intake form right now to start gathering information on some of the needs. As of last night we had 950 intake forms submitted,” said Steve Ortiz, president and CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County.
“To put some perspective on that, during the Thomas Fire we granted a total of 593 grants. So this has far exceeded that number already, and this is before we even go live. By Monday I’m pretty sure we’ll have over 1,000 intake forms completed.”
While the foundations have prepared to service individuals in the community, they have already begun assisting more than 40 nonprofits in the county maintain business continuity as they adapt to the crisis.
“It’s a widespread crisis that is impacting everybody in all demographics. We’ve seen everything from layoffs at businesses that are large and small. The nonprofit sector is trying to figure out how to respond to the demands as they also see losses in their revenue due to cancelled events and fundraisers,” said Mr. Ortiz.
Because the coronavirus pandemic has forced the community to take extra precautions and practice social distancing, nonprofits have had to find new ways to continue fulfilling their missions as they meet the unique needs that have arisen from the health crisis, business closures, and shelter in place orders.
One such nonprofit, Easy Lift, has provided Dial-A-Ride services to seniors and people living with disabilities for the last 28 years.
Although they have seen about a 45% drop in ride requests due to the closure of recreation centers and businesses, passengers are continuing to request rides to access dialysis and cancer treatments, prescription pickups and trips to grocery stores, said Executive Director Ernesto Paredes.
“With that drop off, it’s allowed the rest of our fleet to pivot and really be of support in the community to other nonprofits,” said Mr. Paredes.
To that effect, Easy Lift has begun working with the Foodbank to deliver food to its distribution centers, as well as deliver meals to seniors around the county. Easy Lift is also delivering food to the Friendship Center, and has stepped in to serve the clients of Help of Carpinteria, another transportation nonprofit that has had to pause service as many of their drivers are seniors.
While the coronavirus pandemic is a truly unique challenge for Santa Barbara, nonprofits have drawn from experience to look ahead and see where the most need in the community will be.
When Michael Baker, CEO of the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, learned that schools would be shutting down, the first thing that came to his mind was food insecurity.
“If schools are out, these kids don’t eat. Now they’re going to be closed and add to that mom and dad might be out of work, so now there’s less money and they have to find a way to provide even more meals,” said Mr. Baker.
Over the last two weeks, Mr. Baker and his executive team have worked with the Foodbank and others in the county to turn its Carpinteria, Westside, Goleta, Buellton, and Lompoc clubs into food distribution centers, serving thousands of brown bag lunches to families in need.
Santa Barbara schools have also begun to serve breakfast and lunch, but the United Boys and Girls Clubs continue to assist, distributing lunches over the weekend and even delivering meals to those unable to make it to their school or another distribution site.
As nonprofits have adjusted, foundations in the area have been proactive in creating collaborations and gathering information about what problems organizations are facing and where they are seeing the most need.
“They’ve all reached out to me individually and said, ‘What are you seeing as this pandemic hits our county?’” said CEO of Hospice of Santa Barbara David Selberg. “We’ve been able to begin to have those dialogues.”
With support from groups like the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort, the hospice has been able to continue its practical services like transportation and medical support as they transition other services online, using phone calls and video chat to provide counselling and hosting support groups on their website.
“They believe in our work,” said Mr. Selberg. “They really give to us from the heart.”
While organizations aren’t able to bring the community together for fundraisers or other events, Santa Barbara remains creative, said Mr. Paredes.
“They have never been more supportive and united as they are right now,” Mr. Paredes said of the many foundations in the county. “They’re not wasting time trying to collect money, they’re investing their money immediately.”
Despite the economic downturn, organizations have been able to utilize their resources to serve thanks to Santa Barbara’s generosity.
“This county gets it. There’s a reason there are 2,000 nonprofits,” said Mr. Baker. “People step up. It’s a great place to live.”