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Join Santa Barbara Foundation Donors in Disaster Relief

When Scott and Cindy Ackerman left Santa Barbara for South Florida, they knew it would be different. They were prepared for the humidity. They were prepared for the change in scenery. They were not prepared, however, for hurricane season.

"We now live in Palm Beach and had to evacuate for Hurricane Irma, which was by far the worst storm,” said Scott Ackerman, donor to the Santa Barbara Foundation. “In addition to severe property damage and flooding, we lost electricity, air conditioning and water for five days. Our losses were nothing, however, compared to the losses experienced on the Gulf coast of Florida, which is why we give to relief efforts."

2017 marks the first year in recorded hurricane history, which dates back to 1851, that two Category-4 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, ravaged the United States in the same year. Additionally, this year has brought nearly double the average number of hurricanes to date and the season is not over yet. In addition to these hurricanes, the current administration is already spending nearly $200 million per day out of the Disaster Relief Fund, overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to address wildfires and earthquakes and has asked Congress for $30 billion in emergency disaster aid. However, due to the number of disasters and the extensive amount of damage and destruction caused by each, the government’s impact only spans so far. This has made the role of private donors and their gifts to humanitarian relief organizations, like locally based Direct Relief, increasingly important.

“We give to Direct Relief through the Santa Barbara Foundation because we know that our money is going directly to emergency relief and tragedies in local areas across the country,” said Carole Fox, donor to the Santa Barbara Foundation. “They are always the first ones to respond and they do it quietly, without fanfare, while also having a real impact.”

In 1948, an Estonian immigrant to the United States, William Zimdin, began sending relief parcels of food, clothing and medicines back to friends and family during post-World War II reconstruction. This effort, which started as the Zimdin Family Foundation, was renamed Direct Relief in 1957. Since then, Direct Relief has provided aid both on an ongoing basis and in response to emergencies across the world, with a specific focus on medical assistance. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit 12 years ago, Direct Relief started a program that pre-positions emergency health kits at partner community health centers and clinics in at-risk areas. So, when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were approaching, Direct Relief was already on the ground in Texas and Florida to connect with partner healthcare facilities, actively assessing medical needs. This adaptability and quick response is why dozens of Santa Barbara Foundation fund holders, like Carole Fox, allocated resources to Direct Relief’s hurricane response efforts.

“Direct Relief is deeply grateful for the outpouring of generosity from people throughout the Santa Barbara County community to assist those who have had their lives impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” said Heather Bennett, Direct Relief’s Director of Partnerships and Philanthropy. “We are keenly sensitive to and focus on the serious health risks that exist in the wake of these storms, and support from individuals, foundations, and companies translates directly into people having access to medications and health services needed now and in the months ahead.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation is actively engaging its donors and local foundations in learning more about the impact that a catastrophic disaster would have on our region.

“The role of philanthropy in disaster relief has grown substantially over the last decade. We are now working alongside government agencies and non-profit organizations to better prepare, respond and recover as the economic, environmental and social effects of disasters are exacerbated,” said Barbara Andersen, Chief Strategy Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “This is especially true for the role of community foundations because our day-to-day focus on and investment in local partners and community-based organizations positions us well as a hub for coordination and collaboration during emergencies.”

For more information about how you can support disaster relief efforts through the Santa Barbara Foundation, please contact Barbara Andersen at
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101