The Jesusita Fire Response Fund, a collaborative community partnership formed by United Way of Santa Barbara County in the days after the May 2009 Jesusita Fire, is disbursing the first installment of funds donated by individuals and organizations.

To date, the funds donated total $81,402.50. Disbursements to 10 fire survivors were made March 3, totaling $27,690. A second and final disbursement is planned for May.

In anticipation of the long-term recovery needs of residents affected by the blaze, United Way established the Jesusita Fire Long Term Recovery Fund.

The purpose of the fund is to assist with long-term recovery needs after the initial disaster response has passed.

“Previous experience has proved that planning for the long-term recovery of the community needs to begin right away, and this is a role Untied Way has been able to fill responsibly and effectively,” said Paul Didier, president and CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County.

The Jesusita Fire Long Term Recovery Fund is based on the same model as the 1990-91 Painted Cave Fire Fund and the 2008 Santa Barbara Tea Fire Response Fund, established in the two days after the blaze.

Jesusita Fire Response funds are being distributed based on a three-tiered screening and oversight system. Initially, a professional case manager — experienced in disaster recovery, working closely with those affected by the Jesusita Fire to identify needs — makes recommendations to the Screening Subcommittee, made up of 13 volunteer public and private organizations.

Upon that group’s additional review, recommendations are made to the Oversight Committee of local community leaders who provide direction and assurance that all monies are used appropriately.

Individuals and families affected by the fire who desire assistance must apply at the American Red Cross-Santa Barbara County Chapter, at 2707 State St. in Santa Barbara, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

United Way is acting as the organizing fiscal agent, handling the monies for the fund. It is not charging for this service, and 100 percent of all donations will go to services for Jesusita Fire survivors.

— Joel Goforth represents United Way of Santa Barbara County.