David Peri grew up surrounded by acres of lemon trees in Goleta, learning about the environment and the quality of compassion from his father. One of many Italian stonemasons who came to build mansions in Montecito in the 1930s, his father was generous to the farm workers he employed and provided them with food and other necessities. He respected everyone regardless of social status.
Peri was raised to appreciate his heritage and to use his skills for others. His volunteer career began at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and continued at Marymount of Santa Barbara where he and his wife, Kitty, established the now famous annual auction.
As his children grew up, Peri focused on social justice and service to those in greatest need. Being a partner in a private accounting business allowed him to take the time he needed for volunteering. The late Naomi Schwartz, three-term Santa Barbara County supervisor, described him as someone “who has always been aware of the safety net of this community and the importance of keeping it strong.”
In the 1990s, when homelessness began to escalate in Santa Barbara, Peri became part of a growing coalition to tackle the problem. He was a founding member of Casa Esperanza, a public shelter and day center established in 1999, and helped to raise funds for the project. He was also a founding member of The Fund for Santa Barbara, a nonprofit community foundation that funds grassroots projects working for social justice, affordable housing, accessible education, economic renewal and a healthy environment.
Peri remembers when lemon groves began at Las Positas Road and extended the length of Goleta. As he grew up, development in the area began to grow rapidly. In 1995, he became a staunch supporter of the Pearl Chase Society to help preserve the rich history of his youth and the unspoiled beauty of the local environment. He currently serves on the board of the More Mesa Preservation Coalition, Gildea Foundation, Casa Esperanza, the Italian American Foundation and the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara.
He is currently raising money for the California Missions Foundation, which is working to save historical treasures. He is particularly interested in a more recent historical treasure: Arnoldi’s, a restaurant established in 1937 and the hub of Italian culture in Santa Barbara. Peri and other partners purchased the restaurant at 600 Olive St. and re-created the place down to the floor tiles.
Although Peri was named Santa Barbara's Man of the Year in 2008, he has not stopped volunteering.
“I believe that those of us who can should give back, as it is now more important than it has ever been,” he said.
He continues his support for the social safety net through the St. Francis Foundation, which awards grants for health needs, and supports a parish nursing program, which sends nurses to homeless centers and poorer parishes and clinics.
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Join the Santa Barbara Foundation, Noozhawk and KDB in celebrating those who enrich our lives by donating their time and talent, making a significant and positive impact in the Santa Barbara community, at the 71st Annual Man and Woman of the Year Awards luncheon. The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito.
Click here to purchase tickets online, or call 805.963.1873.
— Suzanne Farwell represents the Santa Barbara Foundation.