Friday, November 16 , 2018, 11:26 am | Fair 67º


United Way Fire/Flood Funding Helps Habitat for Humanity Rebuild Homes

Habitat works directly with families to repair damages

Volunteers help impacted families who lacked enough insurance to cover damages
Volunteers help impacted families who lacked enough insurance to cover damages (Habitat for Humanity)

As families vowed to rebuild their homes following the horrific Montecito mudslides, many were met with another tragedy: finding themselves under insured.

Volunteers, community organizations and donors from around the globe have stepped in to help meet this shortfall, and one of the groups that has its boots in the mud is Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County.

Habitat for Humanity is working directly with families for long-term disaster relief and rapidly moving onto providing home repairs to the most vulnerable populations.

To assist in its efforts, United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Long Term Recovery Committee selected Habitat for Humanity as one of 18 community organizations to receive initial disaster relief funding from the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund, a total of $801,000.

“Thanks to this additional funding, our organization has an expanded capacity to serve families on a long-term basis,” Jon Peterson, Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County CEO, said of the $50,000 contribution.

“The impact of the fire and floods has resulted in much loss, but we feel fortunate to still be able to address the needs of those most affected,” he said.

Marco Farrell and his parents, Jeff and Gabrielle Farrell, are one of the families being served by Habitat for Humanity.

Realizing the Farrell’s insurance would not cover all the damages brought on by the storm, and upon learning that Jeff Farrell served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, the organization was motivated to start rebuilding the family’s home, brick by brick.

“They were incredible, from day one,” Marco Farrell said.

He said his family was surprised Habitat for Humanity had chosen to help them. “They ended up saving a lot of our valuables. It’s given us hope and internal strength to know that all these people were coming to help and volunteer their own time,” he said.

He recalled waking up at 4 a.m. Jan. 9 to torrential rain pounding down on the Montecito home he had grown up in.

Seeing the glow of the Thomas Fire through his window, Marco decided to go outside to see if the fire was heading in their direction. But when he went out, he heard the sound of rushing flood waters flowing through their neighborhood.

“I heard this horrendous noise and knew what it was,” he said. “I started running yelling, ‘Flash flood, flash flood!’ I ended up running home and telling my mom to wake up my dad. The mud hit the house and broke open the kitchen door and instantly, we had knee-high mud.”

“I did have about five or six seconds of extreme fear, but I kicked into survival mode and knew I had to save my parents,” he said. “I just focused on surviving by the second.”

The family waited in the mud for 90 minutes until a firetruck from Santa Maria came to rescue them and their three-legged dog, Lucas.

“The destruction from the Thomas Fire and ensuing flooding is nothing short of staggering, bringing very real consequences for our entire community,” said Steve Ortiz, United Way of Santa Barbara County president/CEO.

“But throughout the aftermath, we’ve seen amazing people and organizations step forward to help neighbors return to a state of normalcy," he said. "We’re proud to support Habitat for Humanity’s work and thank everyone who has contributed to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund.”

The United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund has grown to more than $4.4 million, and the next round of Santa Barbara County disbursements is focusing on individuals and families directly.

The phase two distribution is being carried out in partnership with organizations who provide case management for the individuals impacted by the disasters.

Every dollar contributed to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund will be used to fund services that address the needs of the individuals and families affected by the disasters.

For more about recipient agencies, as well as application materials for individual and family assistance, visit

— Angel Pacheco for United Way of Santa Barbara County.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >