With an unprecedented amount of large-scale natural disasters over that last several months, many striking right here in California, we’re even more grateful for our volunteers, donors and partners. This incredible level of response demonstrates the need for preparedness and what it means to have a kit, make a plan and be informed. And, while we are fortunate that we did not have to respond to a major California earthquake through all of this, being prepared for an earthquake of any size should always remain a top item on all of our lists.
One long-time Red Cross partner, the California Earthquake Authority, places a high priority on educating California homeowners and renters about how to stay safe during an earthquake, and how to reduce the risk of earthquake damage and loss. One of the programs they promote, the Brace & Bolt Retrofit, stands to benefit qualifying California residents with critical financial assistance in preparing for earthquakes.
For qualified persons, the Brace & Bolt Retrofit will cover up to 50% of the cost of retrofitting a California home for earthquakes. More specifically, expenses cover the bolting of a home to its foundation to keep it from sliding off during an earthquake, and a subsequent bracing of the house’s supports. CEA’s program also provides homeowners with a list of qualified retrofit contractors.
But, that not all. Each year, CEA plays an instrumental role in the Great California Shake Out and, every year since 2012 they have shown their commitment to Red Cross emergency preparedness and disaster relief by hosting the Get Prepared California! Auction.
This year, the auction runs from April 2nd to April 30th and, as in the past, it will raise funds to help support American Red Cross disaster relief and preparedness efforts—right here in California.
The money raised will help us distribute blankets, provide hot meals at shelters or out in communities affected by a disaster via our Emergency Response Vehicles and, offer hygiene items to people who may have lost everything.
Thanks to the generous support of bidders and the efforts of CEA and iHeartMedia, after six years, the funds raised to date by the annual auction have exceed $1 million dollars—with more than $171,000 being raised during the 2017 auction, alone.
Check out just a few of the incredible prizes you can win at this year’s auction:
On a bright and sunny Saturday, March 31st at Oak Canyon Community Park in Ventura County, CA, I had the honor of joining local Red Cross event-base volunteers Anurag Karra (North Hollywood Highly Gifted Magnet High School), Sriram Potluri (Oak Park High School), and Aneesh Ankareddy (Oak Park High School) for a 5K Walk-a-Thon.
The youth-led event benefited American Red Cross Disaster Relief as a local community response to the Thomas Fire in December 2017-January 2018. After what I considered very little back-and-forth on getting the event organized, these young men pulled off a high quality fundraising event that was successful from various points of view, including number of participants, food and refreshments, and money raised for the Red Cross. Anurag, Sriram, and Aneesh even expressed a desire to hold a similar 5K Walk-a-Thon event next year, or they even may lead a smoke alarm installation event in Ventura County!
Did you know? 25% of Red Cross volunteers are age 24 years or younger. Being young is no barrier to being able to help people in need, in your community and around the world! Youth volunteers and Red Cross Clubs throughout the region play a vital role in serving the Red Cross and our community. They raise funds for everything from local disaster relief to the international Measles Initiative, as well as educate their local communities on emergency preparedness. These dedicated Red Crossers learn lifelong skills through their volunteerism, and provide important services to our most vulnerable communities.
Learn more about youth volunteer opportunities in your local Red Cross chapter. Inspired by these teens’ philanthropy? Consider making a donation or let us know your fundraising ideas in the comments!
Regional Philanthropy Officer
Pacific Coast and Ventura County chapters
A series of personal items are laid out on a bed. It looks like typical scene of someone packing for an overnight trip; there is a bag, a change of clothes, and a laptop. But this is not a typical suitcase.
Look closer and you’ll realize that a pair of tan slip on shoes are written on with a black marker:
Fire Shoes 12-4-17
These are the only personal items that Dawn Reily was able to grab at a moment’s notice when the Thomas Fire forced her family to evacuate last December. With her parents, her daughter Jade, and 18 animals to also evacuate, these items are all Dawn was able to grab for herself in the minutes before fleeing their home. These everyday items are now cherished possessions from the disaster that destroyed her Ventura Skyline home on December 4, 2017.
As the Thomas Fire approached her home, Dawn knew right away where to take her family: the Red Cross shelter at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Once they arrived at the shelter, they were greeted by Red Cross volunteers who provided cots and a safe place for her family to sleep. Dawn, a former Humane Society employee, immediately went to work through the night helping set up the animal shelter next door and supporting other families as they came to the shelter with their pets.
The next morning Dawn looked up at the hillside in the direction of her home and knew it was gone. She wrote on Facebook that day, “Our mind wanders about what you will miss that you didn’t take out of the house and between what you are grateful to still. Jade just said, ‘If someone asks me what I miss, I’d say the whole thing. The feeling of being home.’ I agree.”
On Wednesday, December 6, Dawn went to see the remains of their home for the first time. As an artist, Dawn not only lost her home, but her livelihood. Decades of work and sketchbooks were reduced to ash.
The frame of a bedroom chair is all that remains.
The frame of a bicycle is visible in the rubble.
These bottles were part of Dawn’s art studio.
Dawn’s father sifts through the remains of their home, looking for anything that can be saved.
Dawn’s home was reduced to ash and twisted metal after the Thomas Fire destroyed the neighborhood.
Slides containing precious family memories are destroyed in the Thomas Fire.
A painted rock gives an optimistic reminder amidst the destruction of the Thomas Fire
Dawn’s home was reduced to ash and twisted metal after the Thomas Fire destroyed the neighborhood.
Tea cups and other small collectibles are sad souvenirs and reminders of the Thomas Fire.
“We came around the corner and completely lost it with anger, fear, and every emotion you can think of,” said Dawn, “We were walking around our house, my daughter was crying about losing her ballet shoes.”
Once the initial shock of the fire wore off, Dawn and her family began the long and painful road to recovery. But they had support from their loved ones, the community, and organizations like the Red Cross and United Way. They found out about the Red Cross Service Center that had opened at the Ventura County Credit Union and went to see what resources would be available.
“It was awesome,” said Dawn, “Jade got a Mickey Mouse doll, there were refreshment there,” said Dawn, “You just don’t even think. It’s so hard to process. People ask what you need and you just need everything.”
“Having a place to talk and get information and be surprised at the fact that you’re eligible for assistance is so helpful. You’re at a loss for what to do and how to start. It’s overwhelming. To have someone know what the next steps are and what to do is a godsend,” she said.
Donations made to the Red Cross and United Way in the aftermath of the fire allowed these organizations to provide critical financial assistance to families like Dawn’s as they began to recover. With these funds, Dawn was able to purchase new art supplies to revive her business and start generating income, and purchase other important resources for their family.
“Everybody that has helped us, we called them our angels. All these angels came forward to help,” said Dawn.
Despite losing almost everything but the clothes on her back, Dawn is now giving back to the community that supported her. She is working on a poster that represents the strength and resilience of the Ventura County community.
“We live in such a beautiful, strong community and we will rebuild and we will be stronger for it,” said Dawn, “Part of my healing process is by teaching and being open, talking about it, and if someone can gain strength by my experience, then I’ve done my job.”
She plans to donate the proceeds from the poster sales back to the organizations she felt gave so much to her: the Red Cross, United Way, Food Share, and Project Understanding.
“Out of the ashes rises the phoenix. It’s like rebirth,” said Dawn, “I feel like a different person.”
Giving Day is Wednesday, March 28.
The Red Cross is asking everyone to support families like Dawn’s who are impacted by disasters on Giving Day – Wednesday, March 28. Your donation can #Help1Family and provide hope and urgent relief such as food, blankets and other essentials to people who need it most. Giving Day is a 24-hour fundraising campaign supporting the work of the Red Cross, helping people across the country in need of emergency assistance. Donate now by visiting redcross.org/givingday, or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.
Gayle Labrana, a teacher and former Peace Corps volunteer, felt inspired to lend a hand after recent fires and an unprecedented mudslide devastated her hometown.
After her daughter was evacuated from her home during the Thomas Fire in early December, Gayle sought a way to give back to the community. She reached out to the Red Cross after watching a call for help on the local news.
“Seeing there was something I can do got me away from the TV and on my way to being part of the solution,” Gayle said during a break from a weekend-long training session in Santa Barbara.
Gayle jumped into volunteering wherever she was needed. Just days after becoming a volunteer, she helped at an evacuee shelter for three days. She then took training to become a Red Cross caseworker, an instrumental member of the recovery team, and Home Fire Campaign volunteer.
In just a few weeks, she has given over 40 hours of her time and is excited to get more involved.
“Meeting people from all aspects of life balances us all out [in this time of need],” she shares. “I am more thankful after this experience.”
Gayle is particularly interested in learning about community planning and preparedness.
“I feel protected and prepared to help out. As a community, we can endure anything that comes up.”
Over the last three weeks, the Pacific Coast Chapter has seen a tremendous outpouring of volunteer support. Nearly 300 new volunteers have participated in orientation, training and/or completed a shift.
The Red Cross is continuing to provide supplies at multiple sites through the day with updated times, 9am-3pm daily.
Distribution points include 1) US Post Office, 2245 Lillie Ave., Summerland, CA 93067 and 2) Montecito Fire Station #2, 2300 Sycamore Canyon Rd., Montecito, CA 93108.
Updated January 27, 2018
If impacted by the Montecito Mudslide, call 805.669.6638 for an appointment with a Red Cross caseworker who can help you navigate the road to recovery.
Si fue afectado por el deslizamiento de tierra, llame 805.669.6638 para una cita con un trabajador de la #CruzRoja.
Santa Barbara, Calif., January 24, 2018 — The American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast is continuing to provide support to hundreds of residents impacted by the Montecito mudslide. The Red Cross, working with its partner agencies, is committed to making sure that everyone impacted by this disaster is offered resources and a plan for long-term recovery.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Red Cross is providing financial assistance to qualified residents impacted by the mudslide. Those who live in the evacuation zones are encouraged to meet with the Red Cross at the Local Assistance Center to determine if they qualify for financial assistance. Those who have already met with a caseworker should return to the Local Assistance Center for updated information. Those who do not qualify for financial assistance will receive other Red Cross services including access to referrals, snacks and water, clothing vouchers, and health, mental health and spiritual care services.
Caseworkers are available to meet with the public at the Local Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. The center is open weekdays 11 am-6:30 pm and Saturday 10 am-2 pm. The center is expected to be open until February 3.
Additionally, Red Cross nurses and crisis counselors are available to meet the medical, emotional and spiritual needs of those feeling the impacts of this disaster.
As repopulation continues, the Red Cross will visit neighborhoods to distribute relief supplies, including drinking water and clean up supplies.
Residents may also pick up supplies at multiple sites daily from 8 am-8 pm. Distribution points include 1) US Post Office, 2245 Lillie Ave., Summerland, CA 93067 and 2) Montecito Fire Station #2, 2300 Sycamore Canyon Rd., Montecito, CA 93108.
As of Wednesday, January 24, 2018, the Red Cross has served more than 7,250 meals and snacks, distributed nearly 3,400 comfort and clean up items and provided more than 1,400 health- and mental health-related contacts.
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.
Mary Hartberg is one of many answering the call to get involved after a string of disasters has left her community reeling.
Her goal in doing so is to demonstrate the gratitude she has for coming through wildfires and the mudslide unharmed and to “bring normalcy and stability in times of chaos”
The January 9 Montecito mudslide is one of the biggest disasters in Santa Barbara County history and followed several wildfires last month.
Mary is one of hundreds of new Red Cross volunteers who have come forward to help. Along with about 100 others, she attended a Disaster Worker Institute hosted by the American Red Cross Pacific Coast chapter.
The weekend training, held January 19-21 at the Santa Barbara Community Church, featured a variety of classes for new Red Cross workers and those looking to hone their skills.
“Recent wildfires and the mudslide have impacted so much of our community and we remain vulnerable to landslides and flooding,” said Executive Director Kimberly Coley. “We continue to stay on alert after the December wildfires created instability in the landscape of the region.”
Volunteers from Santa Barbara and surrounding areas learned about shelter operations, logistics, casework, disaster assessment, psychological first aid and more.
“What you are doing is awesome,” said Jim Caesar, campus emergency manager for the University of California Santa Barbara, in a short address to the volunteers. “The power of a hug, the power of friendship, the work you’re doing for our community is really appreciated. You are plugged into a great organization that works with a lot of great partners. To do the mission of the Red Cross, we need you to be here. ”
Mary lives in an area that was under mandatory evacuation during the Thomas Fire, the largest in California history. During the Montecito mudslide, her area was under voluntary evacuation.
“The fire was scary but with the mud we were so exhausted from the previous evacuation that we decided not to evacuate,” she said.
Mary assured us that she and her home are all right and that she feels a sense of gratitude.
“I’m fine, and I want to do what I can to help the community and that’s why I’m here.”