Bank employees campaigned and advocated for 10 worthy organizations, including All for Animals, the Alzheimer’s Association-Central Coast Chapter, the American Heart Association, the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, FOOD Share of Ventura County, Life Without Limbs, the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties, Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura & San Luis Obispo Counties, the Santa Ynez Valley Fruit and Vegetable Rescue, and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara.
Each bank employee chose a nonprofit he or she deemed worthy and worked to persuade peers to vote for it, with each person getting 10 votes. The bank has honored the organizations with the most votes since the program started in 1993, according to Michael Towbes, Montecito Bank & Trust’s chairman and founder.
“There have been some very large organizations and very small organizations that have received these grants over the years, and some are household ones and there are others that, frankly, I haven’t heard of,” Towbes said. “I think that’s what makes it very interesting — whether I’ve heard of them or not, the employees believe enough to lobby their friends to vote for it.”
Each associate explained his or her connection to the honored nonprofit before showing a video explaining its purpose. Cox Communications produced the videos.
Montecito Bank & Trust’s Goleta branch manager, Heidi Cougoule, said she joined the American Heart Association when her best friend’s younger brother died of heart disease at age 7. Executive Director Lisa Dosch received the award on behalf of the organization.
“We’re grateful for everything Montecito Bank & Trust does for us. It’s one of our most treasured partnerships,” Dosch said. “Your staff provides leadership in the community. We appreciate Janet’s personal passion and leadership, we’re grateful for your continued support, Mr. Towbes, and we’re lucky to have Heidi on our committee.”
Westlake Village assistant branch manager Margie True introduced Life Without Limbs, a nonprofit started by Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. Vujicic travels around the world to share his experiences and faith.
“He was born without arms and legs, and elevated his work to a life without limits,” True said. “I’ve heard Nick speak many times, and I’ve been moved and inspired.”
Board member Laurie Barene accepted the grant on behalf of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“Granting someone with a life-threatening illness is more than granting wish; it has an effect on friends and family, and it takes the children to a happier place,” she said. “Without the kindness and support from Montecito Bank & Trust, we couldn’t grant wishes like we do.”
The Anniversary Grants program originated 20 years ago to mark the anniversary of the bank, which opened for business on March 17, 1975. Organizations are eligible to receive an award only every three years.
“Thank you, Mr. Towbes, for starting this 20 years ago,” said Cheryl Rollings of Planned Parenthood. “You are a role model and inspiration, and this community is so lucky to have you and your generous philanthropy.”
Montecito Bank & Trust also grants $1 million annually to area nonprofit groups through its Community Dividends Program.
“Of the 10 organizations that were here, the work you do is so important,” Montecito Bank & Trust President and CEO Janet Garufis said. “It makes the community where we serve a better place to live and work.”