SBHS and DRI members
From left to right – Laura Pomerantz, SBHS parent; Lisa Carlos, Board member, Foundation; for SBHS; Thomas Tighe, CEO Direct Relief; Kate Murphey, Board President, Foundation for SBHS; Katie Lewis, Senior Program Manager, Direct Relief, and Damon Taugher, Director, USA Programs, Direct Relief gathered to celebrate the success of #SBHSStrong, which assisted over one hundred students at the high school, who were negatively impacted by the Thomas Fire and debris flow.

The Foundation for Santa Barbara High School is proud to announce the success of #SBHSStrong, a program to support school families who were negatively impacted by the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flows. Created just two months ago, The Foundation for SBHS’s new fund allocated a total of $107,850 to 115 students. Gifts targeted families who lost personal property or income due to evacuation orders and the inability to work because of business and/or road closures.

Thanks to a substantial grant of $100,000 from Direct Relief, the Foundation for SBHS was able to offer assistance to every affected family with a student currently enrolled at Santa Barbara High School. Other significant support came from parent donations.

“It became clear immediately that this was an unprecedented year for the Foundation and we needed to shift our focus to helping our fellow Dons,” said Kate Murphy, Board President of the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School.

“We are so grateful to Direct Relief for their extraordinary grant which allowed us to support our families with a financial gift during a critical time,” Kate continued. “What I treasure most about #SBHSStrong is that it helped our entire Dons community. Most of the nominated families suffered loss of income, and are not necessarily Montecito residents, allowing us to reach a segment within our community who have experienced an unreported, yet significant loss.”

“The last couple months have been extremely stressful for our family with the continued evacuations and nearly impossible financially. We are not used to asking for help and the support we’ve gotten from our community brings tears to my eyes,” said one Santa Barbara High gift recipient.

“I think the success of this initiative is due, in part, to the fact that it was so easy to apply for funds and readily receive a gift. Within the first week of launch we had disbursed more than $10,000 to qualified families,” said Marcy Porter, Santa Barbara High head counselor, who reviewed and approved all #SBHSStrong applications.

“The team at Direct Relief is so thankful to have joined with the Santa Barbara High Foundation to assist families affected by the January tragedy,” said Direct Relief CEO Thomas Tighe, at a celebratory gathering recognizing the success of the initiative. “SBHS faculty and staff were keenly sensitive to students’ and families’ circumstances, and the thoughtful manner in which they and the Foundation team provided assistance was both inspiring and very effective.”

Teachers and school counselors identified the vast majority (62%) of impacted families, while the balance of submissions came from other Santa Barbara High families or self-nominations. All requests were kept confidential and subject to a multiple-step approval process. Gift recipients received their checks along with an olive tree, representing the Dons colors of olive and gold, while also symbolizing friendship, deep community roots and hope for regrowth.

“I think the fact that so many nominations came from teachers and counselors speaks to the close relationships that the school staff has with students and to the strength of our community,” added Kate.

Families were thrilled to receive the funds, which most often helped offset lost income due to business and/or road closures. Eighty six percent of the gift recipients suffered loss of income, while 14% experienced property damage or complete destruction. Families reported using these financial gifts to support students’ academic needs, including college application fees, tuition, and purchase of computers, athletic gear, and other items needed for extracurricular activities. One family said that the money allowed them to pay the deposit required to remain in their rental home.

“I wanted to say how incredibly grateful and humbled me and my family are for this outstandingly generous gift! I lost my job of 16 years after the fire and mudflows in Montecito. I could never have the proper words to thank you,” expressed one anonymous gift recipient.

“Our deep thanks to the hard working and caring members of the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School, for the very generous gift and beautiful olive tree. It will be planted in our yard as soon as we can be back in our home. We are so fortunate to count ourselves as part of this community,” wrote another gift recipient.

A school-wide party was held on June 1 to celebrate the Dons community and give students a well-deserved break following a devastating winter. In a wonderful show of community support, 7-year-old Zayd Davis sold woven rubber bracelets in the aftermath of the debris flow with the intention of helping those who suffered. His father is Montecito fire captain Shaun Davis, who heard through a co-worker about the #SBHSStrong effort. When Zayd learned about this fund he decided to put his money towards the party to celebrate the success of helping nearly 100 Santa Barbara High families. Other sponsors included Deckers Brands, McConnells, Backyard Bowls, Debbie’s Delights, Ashley’s Dollar Store and Rumor Media.