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Montecito Bank & Trust Employees Award $15,000 to 10 Nonprofit Groups

Annual Anniversary Grants connect employees with the organizations they happily serve

Montecito Bank & Trust on Wednesday awarded $15,000 in Anniversary Grants to 10 area nonprofit organizations.

Bank employees campaigned and advocated for 10 worthy organizations, including the Breast Cancer Resource Center, the Carpinteria Education Foundation, Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, Cupcakes for Cancer, Dream Foundation, Girls Incorporated of Carpinteria, Hospice of Santa Barbara, Hospice of the Conejo, K-9 PALS and the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society.

“Anniversary Grants represents the voice of our associates,” said Janet Garufis, the bank’s president and CEO. “They determine who will receive these awards each year and are passionately involved in the selection process.”

Each associate explained his or her connection to the honored nonprofit organization before showing a video explaining its purpose. The videos were produced by Cox Communications.

Tyson Blades, Montecito Bank & Trust’s creative director, “wouldn’t have been standing here today” without Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital’s help when he suffered a stroke during his childhood.

“Because our bank associates have a personal stake in selecting the Anniversary Grant recipients, they make an effort to educate their colleagues about the important work of the nonprofits with whom they are personally connected,” said Michael Towbes, Montecito Bank & Trust’s chairman and founder.

Nicole Batlowski, a bank human resources specialist, told the story of her aunt’s struggle to survive breast cancer, saying it was her “honor to fight for her bravery and beautiful heart.” Batlowski dedicated the grant for the Breast Cancer Resource Center to her.

Another recipient, Cupcakes for Cancer, was founded by a 16-year-old high school student, Blakely Colvin, who started baking cupcakes to raise money for a young boy named Kevin, who was stricken with cancer in 2007. To date, she has raised more than $65,000 as her concept has caught on across the nation.

Erinn Lynch received the grant on behalf of the Dream Foundation.

“The bank’s generosity is helping these dreams happen and helping families gain peace and closure in their loved one’s last days,” said Lynch, the organization’s communications director.

“For people to have the belief in our services is the greatest honor. The ripple effect of their generosity spreads across the nation.”

Paul Pettine, board president of the Carpinteria Education Foundation, accepted the grant on behalf of the nonprofit organization.

“Without the continued support of Montecito Bank & Trust, the students would not have the opportunities or benefits they have,” he said.

Maria Prescott, executive director of Hospice of the Conejo, said a grant like this means the world to a small nonprofit organization.

“When receiving a letter from Montecito Bank & Trust in the mail, your heart rate increases, hands shake and endorphins release,” Prescott said. “It’s like getting a letter from admissions of Stanford or UCLA.”

The Anniversary Grants program was begun 19 years ago to mark the anniversary of the bank, which opened for business on March 17, 1975. Organization are only eligible to receive an award every three years, Towbes explained.

Montecito Bank & Trust also grants $1 million annually to area nonprofit groups through its Community Dividends Program. More than 160 organizations received awards last year

“Like the late John Wooden said, ‘You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you,’” said Ruthie Tremmel, who is retiring this year as executive director of Girls Incorporated of Carpinteria.

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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