Earlier this week, I was in Montecito, Calif., helping a friend raise awareness and money for his community. It was about three weeks after the early morning of Jan. 9 when a sudden rainstorm unleashed devastating early-morning flooding on the coastal community in Santa Barbara County. In minutes, 18 people died and dozens of homes were destroyed.
Since then, most of us have returned to our lives. But that’s not the case in Montecito, where the flooding was the second major disaster in months. Late last year, the Thomas Fire, the largest wildlife in California’s history, burned the hills above Montecito, wiping out the trees and vegetation which normally would have held back the rains and blocked floods. With nothing to stop it, the water poured down the naked hills, slamming into neighborhoods in the middle of the night.
While the TV crews and nation’s attention have moved on, the town of 10,000 people is still struggling. Many streets are still blocked and unusable, restaurants remain shut, and while some businesses are open, others are still closed. Many grocery shelves have only limited numbers of items.
My friend’s home wasn’t damaged, but while I was there, a steady stream of friends and neighbors visited and I heard stories so sad my heart ached. Those people looked the victims they are vacant eyes, and as they told their individual tales of that horrible evening they cried. They lost their homes and everything else: family heirlooms, record collections, irreplaceable art. Many of these people had insurance and will rebuild and resume their lives.
But many other people aren’t so lucky, they had apartments, blue-collar lives, and little resources, including limited bank accounts. Those are the people who often are the backbone of a community — the neighbors who work in the local grocery, the coffee shop, the dry cleaners.
My friend wants to help his neighbors in the 93108 zip code, and he knows many of them have been out of work since the floods because the businesses where they worked were damaged and closed, or perhaps the businesses were undamaged, but the roads around them were closed.
So he set up a fund — www.93108Fund.org — with the goal of providing a one-time cash gift for those hourly wage workers. At that website, people who work in Montecito can fill out an application to seek a gift which will partially help them make up some of their lost wages.
Today, he and his neighbors gave out the first checks and the gratitude was overwhelming. One young, single mother lost 90 hours of wages, another has a part-time job which pays for school, and she had lost 60 hours of work.
My friend and his neighbors are to be congratulated for what they’re doing. It’s the kind of generosity which both builds neighborhoods and helps them stay together after tragedies like fires and flood. It’s the best of America.
The author of this article is Bridgett Luther (Read Bridgett’s bio here > OR Visit her LinkedIn page here >)
Ms. Luther is a founder of The Disruptive Factory as a champion for disruptive technologies that create thriving industries as well as the Founder of Win.Win.Give. She is also the inventor creative genius behind Passport2Good.