As Jeff Harms speaks about his home renovations, his face lights up.
“It was an ugly peach color,” he laughs. “People would ask me about it.”
Jeff has spent the last few years making his charming two-bedroom house a home with his husband, Joel, and cat, Jackson.
As a local landscape architect, Jeff has an eye for natural beauty. The tremendous joy he has for his home pales in comparison to his pride for the beautiful Coastal California landscape.
“[It was] tucked away in a wooded oasis along a creek, surrounded by indigenous trees,” he explains with passion. ”The creek created a soothing melody of sounds in the night and the rhythmic croaking of the frogs calmed me to sleep.”
But now the place he once called home is destroyed. His beautiful landscape now a memory.
Jeff is one of over 100 Montecito residents whose home was destroyed in the torrential rain and mudslide earlier this month. Jeff was out of town when the storm hit and was devastated when he heard the news. His top concern was the safety of his community, an integrated town of friends and family. He wanted to make sure his friends knew he was safe, and that they too were accounted for.
The first thing Jeff did was list himself as safe on American Red Cross’ Safe and Well, a site for people in disaster areas to register their status and let their loved ones know they’re all right.
“You never know who is worried for you,” Jeff says, as he shares his condolences for those who had been affected.
With an unremitting feeling of lost connection, Jeff made a visit to the Local Assistance Center in Santa Barbara. Connecting over 30 agencies, including the Red Cross, the center serves as a hub for information and resources for those affected.
Jeff came looking for an answer to the question on everyone’s mind – what now?
As Jeff shares photos of his home, you can see the devastation in his face. His once beautiful home and landscape has been swept away in the mudslide. It’s unrecognizable. But still, he’s not concerned about himself. He wants to know that others are safe – the coffee shop barista he saw in the morning, the regular server at his favorite restaurant to name a few.
In the aftermath of this historic storm, Jeff and so many simply miss their sense of home, their sense of community. The Red Cross is doing our part to provide support to people like Jeff and his neighbors. Those who have been affected can go to the Local Assistance Center to work with a multitude of agencies that are ready to help the community get on the road to recovery.
The Local Assistance Center is open until February 3, 2018 at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, 1 N Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, 93103 during the hours of 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday. The center will be closed on Sunday.
Additional information is available at redcross.org/pacificcoast or by contacting (805) 687-1331.
The remains of Jeff’s property after the disastrous mudslide earlier this month. Photo provided by Jeff Harms.
Story by Jocelyn Hillard (Connecticut/Rhode Island) and Cindy Huge (Central California)