(Community Partners in Caring photo)

The importance of Giving Tuesday lies not only in its capacity to drive financial contributions to nonprofits but also in fostering a culture of compassion and civic engagement.

Santa Barbara’s Giving Tuesday transcends the ordinary, embodying the spirit of generosity that defines the city.

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in this international day of giving, which takes place on November 28th, 2023.

Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this Giving Tuesday!

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Hilda Zacarias, Executive Director at Community Partners in Caring, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated t0 recruiting, screening, training, and matching volunteers with seniors aging in place with little to no support and serving mildly disabled individuals who cannot access transportation.

Community Partners in Caring

Answer: The mission of Community Partners in Caring is “To provide volunteer support services that allow our senior and mildly disabled population to live independently while maintaining dignity, respect, and quality of life.”

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service, and who are its founders?

A: Established by twelve volunteers in 1997, Community Partners in Caring is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit volunteer caregiving organization based out of Santa Maria, CA serving Santa Barbara County. We recruit, screen, train, and match volunteers with seniors aging in place with little to no support and serve mildly disabled individuals who cannot access transportation.

Community Partners in Caring was the recipient of the 2021 Nonprofit of the Year by Assembly Member Steve Bennett and the California Association of Nonprofits as well as being named the Senior Program of the Year by the Central Coast Area Agency on Aging. We help folks like Delia, 90 and David, 86 who have been married more than 50 years. They lived a youthful, vibrant life until a few years ago, Delia lost her ability to drive due to eyesight loss. David has been her right hand, both for driving and for care, including meal preparation and housework. Earlier this year, David lost his ability to drive and is having difficulty walking, and they found themselves stranded in Northern Santa Maria. They enrolled in Community Partners in Caring last summer and their volunteer Monica loves taking them, sometimes alone and sometimes together, to doctor appointments and errands. This is what the founders envisioned – seniors aging in place supported by their community.

(Community Partners in Caring photo)

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?

A: Our founders established this agency because they discovered that many seniors and disabled individuals could not access support services because they either had no family/friends to support them or they lacked the financial ability to hire people to help. They experienced barriers to reaching public transportation and isolation. Our agency is a support system for these seniors, for their caregivers, and for those living with mild disabilities struggling to maintain their independence.

We continue to be inspired daily by the stories shared by our volunteers and those we serve. During the pandemic Community Partners in Caring pivoted services – increasing deliveries of groceries, food, medications, and other essentials while maintaining safe distance and COVID-19 protocols. We also saw an increase of health-wellness checks, reassurance calls, and safe medical related rides through private vendors when volunteers were not available.

Staff also provided direct services when volunteers were not available, a first in the history of the agency. For 2021-2022 CPC volunteers provided 7,957 services to 442 enrolled clients. Our staff team and 102 active volunteers drove 38,651 miles, provided 1,228 reassurance calls, delivered 3,579 food services (Brown Bags, grocery shopping, or Instacart), and coordinated 212 additional rides through partner vendors when a volunteer was not available. We also implemented fresh soup delivery in partnership with the Organic Soup Kitchen in Santa Barbara to targeted low-income seniors.

Q: In what ways does your nonprofit utilize its funding?

A: We are fortunate that our Volunteer Caregiving Program qualifies as an “alternative transportation” program and is eligible to receive State and County funds to provide transportation services to our community members. While these funds are highly restrictive, it is the 25% of our budget raised through foundations, community and client donations, and small grants, that allows us to leverage these public dollars to provide a wide variety of additional activities – friendly visits, reassurance calls, as well as working with partners to provide transportation when demand exceeds our volunteer capacity. 80% of all funding is used to pay for our CPC staff members who recruit, screen, and train volunteers to be matched with our registered clients. We also utilize another 7% for our volunteer retention/support and outreach, 7% for occupancy for our call center, and the balance for overall expenses (insurance, bookkeeper, etc.).

Q: Describe your organizations staffing models and internal operations. Has anything changed since the start of your nonprofit?

A: Remember “index cards?” That was how CPC used to keep track of both volunteers and clients. Our volunteers would receive calls and work through the index cards to match the request with a volunteer for assistance. Now, we have a web-based program – Assisted Rides which helps us with managing our volunteers and our clients. Volunteers are able to assign themselves to a requested service directly! That means that a volunteer can provide as many or as few rides as their schedule allows! What has not changed since we began is the dedication of our volunteers – we have both clients and staff who started as volunteers. Now they serve as a testament to the community of the important of this small but mighty nonprofit – Community Partners in Caring!

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

A: Volunteers can begin the process by visiting our website www.partnersincaring.org and clicking “volunteer.” You will be asked to submit an application. Due to our vulnerable population volunteers must undergo a rigorous background and fingerprint check prior to beginning training. Once volunteers are onboarded you will get to choose how many hours you would like to volunteer and what type of volunteer service you would like to give – transportation, grocery shopping, friendly visits and/or reassurance calls, among others. We are able to provide a modest stipend for the cost of each mile traveled.

If you are a senior or know a senior or a person living with a mild disability who could benefit from our program you may also visit our website www.partnersincaring.org and click “Need our Services?” to start the process. You can also contact our Call Center at (805)925-8000.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: Every nonprofit plays an important role in supporting our community. Community Partners in Caring stays mission focused on serving seniors and those living with mild disabilities so THEY can remain independent and supported in their own homes. AARP reports that over 90% of seniors want to remain in their homes – “aging-in-place” and we know that stable housing is a critical factor in creating this safety. Another important difference is that we are not an income-based program. While 69% of our clients are classified “low-income” only 7% are sufficiently low-income to qualify for Medi-Cal – that means our folks can’t afford to pay for the extra help required as we age nor are they low-income enough to qualify for assistance. It is in the gift of our volunteer’s time that makes the difference every day!

Q: What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?

A: We have over 650 clients registered for services throughout Santa Barbara County. The average age is 77 (ranging in age from 39 to 101 years old!) and over 74% are women! The average age of our amazing Volunteers? It’s 60 years young! So, if you’re a senior or just retired and want to make a difference in someone’s life – come volunteer with Community Partners in Caring – spread your joy!

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: In a world where kindness and compassion can make all the difference, Community Partners in Caring (CPC) stands as a shining example of how community support can transform lives. At the heart of their mission lies the story of Joan, a remarkable woman whose journey embodies the essence of care, resilience, and the power of human connection. Once a professional model and dancer for a decade, Joan’s life has been a testament to grace and poise.

(Community Partners in Caring photo)

Retirement brought a transition from the spotlight to a role as a home health aide, where she dedicated herself to serving her community. But life’s unpredictable twists soon cast new challenges her way. Joan’s spirit remained unbroken even as she faced the hurdles of aging and health issues. “Attitude makes a huge difference,” she says, emphasizing how maintaining a positive mindset has not only nurtured her mental well-being but also influenced her physical health. It was in these moments that Joan turned to Community Partners in Caring.

Joan’s relationship with CPC has been nothing short of life-altering. As she navigates this new chapter, CPC has stepped in as a lifeline, offering not just practical assistance but also genuine companionship. With the support of friendly volunteers, Joan’s grocery needs are met, and her sense of independence is preserved. For Joan, CPC is more than just a service provider; it’s a beacon of hope and an extension of her community. She eloquently expresses, “CPC has been a lifesaver.” This sentiment echoes the experiences of many who have found solace and strength through CPC’s commitment to fostering a network of care. Joan’s journey, intertwined with the support of Community Partners in Caring, reminds us of the profound impact that genuine care and empathy can have on an individual’s life. As we celebrate Joan’s unwavering spirit and CPC’s dedication to creating a compassionate community, we’re reminded that, even in the face of life’s challenges, the human capacity for kindness can shine brightly.

Joan’s story invites us all to reflect on the importance of supporting one another, especially during times of vulnerability. The bond between Joan, her precious dog Dancer, and the volunteers at CPC is a testament to the strength of human connections. It’s a testament that speaks volumes about the transformative power of Community Partners in Caring. Community Partners in Caring knows that Joan is not alone, thousands of Santa Barbara County seniors find themselves isolated and unable to transport themselves to medical services, grocery shopping, and other daily tasks. Our caring volunteers provide that critical link.

Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?

A: We count on our donors to provide those critical unrestricted dollars. We have a board of directors who provide financial and program oversight and a dedicated and highly qualified staff who make every dollar count in serving our community. Your contributions today will be a testament to the most valuable gift to the organization – our volunteers! Without the volunteers, we would simply not exist. If you would like to become involved in helping your neighbors, please join us at Community Partners in Caring, where we all believe that caring for our neighbors is caring for our community.

Click here to support Community Partners in Caring’s mission to provide volunteer support services that allow our senior and mildly disabled population to live independently while maintaining dignity, respect, and quality of life.

Check out Noozhawk’s Guide to Giving for a full list of nonprofits to donate to this giving season.

If you would like to include your nonprofit in our Good for Santa Barbara section and Giving Guide click HERE.