More than 1,000 volunteers wearing light pink shirts flocked to parks, schools, community centers and homes throughout Santa Barbara County on Saturday, ready to lend a helping hand.
United Way of Santa Barbara County held its 27th annual Day of Caring, a nationwide effort to support community organizations by connecting thousands of volunteers with beautification and improvement projects that otherwise might not be completed.
In 2017, volunteer hours were estimated to have been worth $300,000 in services to the local community.
The single-day volunteer effort matched community members with more than 50 projects from Carpinteria to Santa Ynez, including a handful of Montecito cleanup and improvement projects, said Steve Ortiz, president and CEO of United Way of Santa Barbara County.
“We are here to improve our community,” he said. “It’s great to see the power of volunteerism in Santa Barbara County.”
Some projects included orchard care at Fairview Gardens, estuary restoration near the Ellwood-Devereux Open Space with UC Santa Barbara and a Montecito neighborhood cleanup organized in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County.
An army of volunteers descended on Montecito to provide essential cleanup services for houses damaged by the deadly Jan. 9 flash flooding and debris flow. The destruction included 23 deaths, hundreds of damaged houses, blown-out roadways and a mile-long stretch of Highway 101 closed for nearly two weeks.
In the Montecito Oaks neighborhood, just above North Jameson Lane east of Olive Mill Road, volunteers were putting down fresh mulch in the front yard of a house in the 1300 block of Santa Clara Way.
“This family is going to have a long road ahead of them in rebuilding and repairing,” said Rose Levy, Habitat for Humanity’s program manager. “They are going to be doing it themselves so it’s taking a while.
“They have young kids and were rescued from their roof, so we are trying to make sure their ground, earth and soil is ready to go.”
The residents were not home at the time but the work continued anyway.
Wearing labeled N-95 mask and gloves, Santa Barbara resident Raquel Alvarado used a shovel to unload mulch.
“This is supporting the community and doing our part to give back,” said Alvarado, a first-time Day of Caring volunteer. “A lot of us can’t give back financially, so putting in our time and labor is the other option.”
Jonathan Hernandez hauled material in a wheelbarrow nearby. It, too, was his first time volunteering for the Day of Caring, having heard about the opportunity through Procore, where he works.
“I thought it would be cool, and want to help in any way that I can,” the Carpinteria resident said.
(DP News video)