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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 3:40 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

Lompoc Man Driven to Provide ‘A Little Help’ To Those In Need

After taking financially disadvantaged people to assorted appointments, the Rev. Thomas Brandenberg seeks help with gas costs

The Rev. Thomas Brandenberg drives Lompoc residents to medical appointments, grocery shopping, schools and other locations through A Little Help. He could use a little help — in the form of gas money — to keep up the effort Click to view larger
The Rev. Thomas Brandenberg drives Lompoc residents to medical appointments, grocery shopping, schools and other locations through A Little Help. He could use a little help — in the form of gas money — to keep up the effort (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Rev. Thomas Brandenberg knows people sometimes need a little help, so he provides it the form of free transportation. 

At no cost to his passengers, Brandenberg drives Lompoc residents to medical appointments, grocery shopping, schools and other locations through A Little Help.

The goal of A Little Help is “to provide safe, efficient, accessible transportation for the financially challenged.” 

“I give you a ride whenever you need it,” said Brandenberg, 62, adding he had such faith his program would start that he printed cards before purchasing a van.

One customer is a 92-year-old man who needed groceries, and Brandenberg has picked them up from the store and delivered the items to the man's house.

He doesn’t keep his trips just in Lompoc — traveling to Santa Maria for Social Security Administration appointments, surgeries and doctor’s appointment or the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara for assorted purposes. 

Brandenberg estimated he spends between $10 and $20 a day in gasoline. 

Some customers leave a tip, with one lady giving 65 cents. 

“I know she was giving me her all,” he said, adding the Walmart worker would have had to walk home at the end of her night-time shift without his help.

He generally had tried to keep his driving before 5 p.m. to ensure he is well rested.

“I feel good when I get home,” he said. “I’m tired.”

Asked what type of help he needs to continue fulfilling his mission, he answered, “Just gas.” 

He primarily has spent his own money to purchase the minivan and buy insurance, getting a few donations to help cover fuel costs, but needs more.

For information about sending gas cards, call Brandenberg at 305.397.9398, a cell phone number he kept after moving from Florida.

When his van needed tires, Camarena's Tires in Lompoc assisted Brandenberg.

His efforts have earned Brandenberg a certificate of recognition from California Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, noting his “incredible generosity and selfless service to Lompoc’s less fortunate.”

“I think that it’s absolutely fantastic,” Mayor Bob Lingl said. “It’s a need that he’s fulfilling in the community where he takes people around.”

Talk has started about forming a nonprofit organization to help with donations.

“He’s an amazing gentleman doing some amazing things for our community,” Lingl said.

The mayor noted that A Little Help is just one way Brandenberg has aided the community. He also hosted a barbecue locally trying to attract youths from different groups together to form friendships, instead of rivalries.

“Quite an amazing guy,” Lingl added.

Each rider gets a piece of Brandenberg’s heart, as he cheers for and counsels those who are dealing with huge hurdles to get their lives back on track. 

“I’m proud of all the people who have overcome the circumstances, the situations and move into their houses,” Brandenberg said, adding that he checks up on those who have struggled to get out of trouble.

He knows because he was once there. Asked about his past, he said simply, “It’s bad.”

“But you know what I did have? I had a grandmother that never stopped caring for me. The day I got baptized and the day that I really changed my life,” he said. 

His past included drug abuse, jail time, gambling and being a self-described thug. 

“All those things that seem like they were bad have become the things and tools I can use that are good, because I can tell a person really what is going down,” he said, adding it opens the door for him to talk to young men about where their lives are going.

He also credits the help retired firefighter John Kennedy gave while he struggled with homelessness in Santa Barbara, providing the boost Brandenberg needed for his independence.

“I love what I’m doing because someone did what they did for me,” he said “I would never be where I am spiritually, financially as a person if that person hadn’t given me a little help. That’s the thing that makes me do what I do.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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