With grackles happily chirping in the treetops and fresh-faced fourth-graders sitting cross-legged on the Hollister School lawn, Bacara Resort & Spa on Wednesday announced a $125,000 challenge grant to finish off Computers for Families’ $4 million sustainability campaign.

“We are grateful to be able to again stand up as gracious neighbors and extend this commitment and hospitality into our community,” Bacara executive director Annie Montalvo said in making the announcement.

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Hollister School students artfully assembled an oversized thank-you card for Bacara Resort & Spa and hotel executive director Annie Montalvo. (Wendy Jenson photo)

“We are proud to work with Computers for Families to break the digital divide so that all children have an opportunity to excel with the proper tools that will open doors for them in the future.”

The Hollister campus was a fitting setting for Computers for Families, which got its start in 1997 as a pilot program at the school, 4950 Anita Lane, in the Goleta Union School District. The idea was to provide computers, training and Internet access to students from low-income families on the South Coast. Since then, more than 7,000 refurbished computers have been distributed and the program has become a nationally recognized model.

But the annual fund-raising jointly undertaken by the Santa Barbara Partners in Education and the Santa Barbara County Education Office was exhausting. Rather than continue to run a new all-volunteer campaign each year, county schools Superintendent Bill Cirone; attorney Joe Howell of Howell, Moore & Gough; and retired SBCC President Peter MacDougall hatched a plan to establish a $4 million endowment, which would ensure the program’s continuity into perpetuity. That was in 2005, and the campaign has since raised $3.75 million.

Enter Bacara, which last year donated $100,000 to the sustainability campaign. On Wednesday, Bacara president B.J. Hoppe and Montalvo were on hand at Hollister to announce that the hotel and the The Dworman Foundation were making an additional $125,000 challenge grant that would match, dollar-for-dollar, any donation made to CFF in the next six months.

“The Bacara challenge is a major step forward in our effort to sustain Computers for Families,” Cirone told assembled dignitaries. “The generosity of Bacara owner Alvin Dworman and president B.J. Hoppe, first with a $100,000 gift and now issuing the challenge grant that will help close out the campaign, is a testament to their commitment to our community and the mission of Computers for Families.”

Hoppe said CFF’s mission is vital.

“The power and impact of this model program is profoundly important in the lives of our community’s most impoverished children,” she said. “It is key to giving local children the ability to one day become successful members of the technology-based world.”

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After the festivities, students found the icing on the cake to be … the icing on the cupcakes. (Wendy Jenson photo)

To commemorate the occasion, Hollister students had decorated posters thanking Bacara and they presented Hoppe with an armload of flowers. Not to be outdone, Hoppe brought cupcakes from Bacara’s pastry chef.

Business, education and political leaders were welcomed to the Hollister campus by principal Ryan Sparre, Goleta schools Superintendent Kathy Boomer and fourth-grade student Jose Torres, who led the crowd in a crisply cadenced Pledge of Allegiance. Among those in attendance were Howell and MacDougall; 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal; 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf; Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett; Goleta City Council members Roger Aceves and Jean Blois; Hope School District Superintendent Gerrie Fausett; Santa Barbara School Districts Superintendent Brian Sarvis; Ed Heron, a Santa Barbara school board candidate and Partners in Education’s immediate past president; and George Wolverton, publisher of the Pacific Coast Business Times and a Partners in Education board member.

Carbajal said the value of CFF extends well beyond computers.

“In addition to assisting in the education of children of disadvantaged families, it gives them equal opportunity to succeed,” he said. “These computers are the key to mastering technology they’ll encounter years from now.”

Boomer expressed awe at the achievement of Computers for Families and the success of the sustainability campaign. She said she cherishes her opportunities to sit down with families and explain how the program works.

“The look on the parents’ faces is one of such joy,” she said, outlining how the lines of communication open and parents and children, and their schools, grow closer together. “It changes these families forever.”

Click here to make a donation to the Computers for Families Sustainability Campaign. Click here for information on how to donate used computer equipment.

— Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com.

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.