Blue was the color of honor this St. Patrick’s Day as Montecito Bank & Trust celebrated 35 years of business with $35,000 in grants to local nonprofit organizations.

With $955 million in assets, nine branches throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and several community grant programs, the bank has come a long way from its humble beginnings in trailer offices on Coast Village Road, Michael Towbes, owner and chairman of the board, said at an anniversary celebration Wednesday at the bank’s flagship branch, 1000 State St.

Bank employees nominated and voted for various organizations, and the top 10 received a $3,500 grant, up from the customary amount in honor of the bank’s anniversary — to the day — on Wednesday.

None of it would have been possible without Towbes’ “philosophical vision and limitless generosity,” bank president and CEO Janet Garufis told a gathering of nonprofit representatives, employees and longtime friends of the bank.

Representatives of the various groups thanked Towbes and the bank employees for their support, and it was announced that this year’s Santa Barbara Triathlon would benefit one of the recipients — the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.

The foundation provides financial and emotional support to families with children going through cancer treatments and helped 27 families last year, according to Marni Rozet, its executive director, and founder Nikki Katz.

“I’m so moved and touched by everybody here,” Katz said.

Several dog-and-cat programs received funds, including the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, the Dog Adoption & Welfare Group and C.A.R.E.4Paws. ASAP and DAWG provide no-kill shelters, medical treatment and adoption services, while C.A.R.E.4Paws organizes outreach to end pet overpopulation and encourage responsible ownership.

The Channel Islands YMCA, Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara and Court Appointed Special Advocates all deal with youth and family issues and provide services throughout the region.

Dan Oriskovich, the community banking sales manager, spoke on behalf of Angels Foster Care as a foster father, saying, “You’d be surprised at the need.” Angels places infants and toddlers younger than age 2 with foster families until they are either reunited with their biological parents or adopted.

Dave Pintard, whose nephew, the late Eric Pintard, inspired the Santa Barbara Foresters’ Hugs for Cubs program for children battling cancer, thanked the community and Towbes for their support, which keeps the program running and making a difference.

The Parkinson Association of Santa Barbara and Solvang’s Elverhoj Museum of History and Art also received grants.

All but two of the recipients were animal or children-related, which prompted Towbes, 80, to joke that the bank’s senior employees were not only outnumbered but underrepresented.

Montecito Bank & Trust’s first day of business was March 17, 1975. In 2009, the bank earned $8.9 million in net profit, 46 percent more than 2008. Total gross loans were up 7 percent to $561.5 million, and total deposits were up 20 percent to $798.8 million from 2008.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at