CalNonprofits Articles

When there's an emergency, we know that nonprofits will be there: the food bank, the shelters, the churches, the Red Cross. Less visible are the community nonprofits that went outside, above and beyond their ordinary missions in the Southern California wildfires.

We're inspired:

CAUSE distributing masks in the fields (photo from CAUSE)Protecting farm workers from unsafe air

Despite air quality warnings, farmworkers were still working in the fields in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, harvesting crops. When their employers weren't providing protective equipment, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) went out into the fields to distribute thousands of N-95 masks to farmworkers. CAUSE also gave out masks in low-income and Latino communities and called for local governments to make disaster information more accessible by translating their websites, alerts, and social media into Spanish.

“We aren’t normally a direct service provider,” explained Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at CAUSE. “However, we acted because we saw there were communities being left behind in the emergency response, and we wanted to fill in those gaps.”  Thank you, CAUSE 

Meals for first responders and displaced families

The San Buenaventura Mission and the LA Kitchen partnered with World Central Kitchen to provide temporary kitchen space to this nonprofit so it could organize emergency meals. In a few short weeks, more than 1,500 volunteers and local celebrity chefs worked together to provide over 35,000 meals to first responders and evacuees impacted by the fires.

With schools closed, what can children and their parents do?

The fires forced many schools to close early, creating school-day and after-school challenges for their working parents. La Casa de la Raza, a community center in Santa Barbara, bailed out parents by opening their doors and providing free childcare for a week with activities and food for children in kindergarten through 8th grade. They didn't have time to raise money for it, but they knew their families needed them.

Each school day, more than 28,000 schools meals are provided to students in the Santa Barbara school district. But those meals couldn’t happen when the schools were closed. In response, the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County partnered with the school district and other organizations to administer food pickup programs at 10 locations. Way to go.

What can a museum do in a disaster?

“When something like this fire hits, you have to throw out ‘business as usual’,” explained Denise Sindelar, Programs Director at the Ventura County Museum. At its Ag Museum in Santa Paula, the Museum made everything free. They distributed donated food, and offered activities for children while their parents used the museum as a meeting spot to check in with their friends and neighbors. At their Ventura site, museum staff sought to provide some sense of normalcy for families staying at the nearby Red Cross shelter through activities like art classes and ornament making. The museum has also announced plans to create a series of exhibits, videos, and stories about the fire, and is asking the community to contribute their own stories of heroism, sacrifice, and tragedy.

These are but a few of what we know are many examples of how nonprofits have met the needs of their communities during these difficult times. As we wrote earlier about the fires in Northern California, this ability to shift quickly and pitch in isn’t “mission drift” for nonprofits. It’s answering the question: “What does our community need us to be doing right now?

Where have you seen nonprofits go beyond their missions in order to meet immediate community needs? Share your inspiring story with us on Twitter: @CalNonprofits.


0 # Audrey Graves 2018-01-10 14:39
I work with the local YMCAs across Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Our branches came together and made a tremendous effort to aid the communities affected by the Thomas fire. We can't be more proud of our organization. Here are just a few ways our branches did their part

Ventura Family YMCA
- Currently offering free membership until March 31 to anyone who has lost their home and firefighters

Santa Barbara Family YMCA
- Offered free access to the facility for Red Cross workers and volunteers to shower

Lompoc Family YMCA
- Opened a donation drive to raise necessary items for those affected by the fire.

Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA (in Santa Ynez)
- Offered Red Cross workers, volunteers, and those affected by the fire free access to use their facility up until December 31

Camarillo Family YMCA
- Held a Breakfast with Santa on Sunday, December 17, where they offered free breakfast for 50 families affected by the Thomas Fire.
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0 # Nani 2018-01-05 14:02
The Boys and Girls Club of Ventura also offered indoor, FREE childcare for two weeks (I believe) before the district's winter holiday. Since school was closed, this was a Godsend for working parents.
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