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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 6:49 pm | Fair 51º


Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Finds Its Own Lifeline in Online Donations

Santa Barbara nonprofit launches new Web site before Saturday's fundraiser at Rancho Dos Pueblos

One of Santa Barbara’s oldest and more successful nonprofits has rolled out a new Web site ahead of its biggest fundraising event of the year.

The 45-year-old Santa Barbara Rescue Mission will hold its ninth annual fundraiser at the Rancho Dos Pueblos estate at 2 p.m. Saturday with the theme “Take Me Out to the Bayou.” Rebecca Wilson, the mission’s communications director, said guests can select gifts from a silent auction boutique and hear music by the Dixie Daddys with Southern barbecue presented by Lorraine Lim Catering.

County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone will be honored for his work on the board of the Hazelden Foundation, the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Santa Barbara Fighting Back Task Force.

Meanwhile, the Rescue Mission’s new Web site, www.sbrm.org, is making waves.

“We have experienced a 58 percent increase in online giving this fiscal year,” Wilson said. “Due to this heightened activity, we invested in the creation of a new Web site. Greg Lawler and Tad Wagner combined their talents to give us a site that is donor-centric.”

Wilson said the Rescue Mission’s online presence pushes it into the next generation of Web 2.0 with social capabilities and functions for better interaction with constituents and the retention of those visitors.

“What an interactive Internet site offers is the opportunity for a lifetime engagement with the donor,” she said. “Although many receive our appeals in the mail, the Web site and electronic messaging provide another impression that is becoming more relevant than the more traditional forms of marketing.”

Rolf Geyling, president of the nonprofit since 2007, said the Web site connects donors to the lives they are affecting through their support of the Rescue Mission’s work in ways not previously possible.

“Thanks to technology, our communication can be more instant and continuous than direct mail and other historic methods,” he said.

The Web site was converted to an industry-standard open source CMS (content management system), which allows staff to manage various facets of the content on the site.

“The new site conforms to Web standards, which make the site easy to index for search engines, which in turn makes the content and mission of SBRM more accessible for donors searching the Web for ways to contribute to a worthy organization,” said Lawler, of Greg Lawler Consulting.

Through the years, hundreds of men and women have turned their lives around, from being drug or alcohol addicts to returning to society as sober, productive members of their communities with the help of the Rescue Mission’s state-certified programs. The mission also helps provide temporary shelter for the city’s growing homeless population.

“With 80 beds for men and 20 for women and children, we are the only emergency shelter that is open 365 nights of the year from Santa Maria to Ventura,” Wilson said. “In 2009, we provided 144,905 meals and 55,471 safe nights of shelter for individuals with no place else to turn.”

While substance abuse has a significant effect on the South Coast and is often a contributing factor to homelessness, the Rescue Mission focuses 85 percent of its resources on recovery efforts, which use outpatient and residential modalities, Wilson said.

The mission’s 12-month residential recovery program strives to bring individuals from decades of addiction, institutionalization and homelessness back to sobriety, health and wholeness, Wilson said.

“Certification through the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs ensures that participants receive the highest standard of treatment in a non-medical facility,” she said.

The recovery programs, for 45 men and 24 women, are operated at 24 W. Arrellaga St. and 535 E. Yanonali St.

In 2009, 32 people completed the recovery program, joining more than 400 graduates since 1997, Wilson said.

“Our most significant accomplishment is the long-term change we see in our graduates,” she said. “In contrast to national statistics that show only 21 percent of those who complete addiction recovery programs not returning to dependency within five years, more than 52 percent of our graduates maintain recovery over this same time period.”

Noozhawk business writer Ray Estrada can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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