Montecito may have been knocked off its pedestal of paradise but it’s the people who live here who are the real treasures.
Yes, you’ll see the names of many Montecito residents on leadership boards of Santa Barbara’s top civic and philanthropic organizations. But many more quietly go about their lives doing good deeds and shunning recognition.
Never has the need for angels been more appreciated than after the back-to-back blows of the past three months. Montecitans are sad, tired and on edge. Hearing everyone’s cell phone evacuation warnings go off at the same time at Tre Lune this past Thursday felt like a bad Seinfeld episode.
Launched by Berna Kieler, who started providing for people first from her own closet and then by asking her friends and neighbors for “the shirts off their backs,” the initiative has been an enormous success.
Kieler was joined by friends Cathy Link, Heather Sage and Susan St. James, who helped create a dedicated home for a Recovery Free Store where survivors could find wardrobe replacements. The shop opened March 3 in Montecito Country Mart, in a vacant space donated rent-free by landlord Jim Rosenfield.
The Recovery Free Store is exclusively for disaster survivors. The quartet wanted to create a warm and welcoming space, and the pop-up shop provides nourishing soup from the Organic Soup Kitchen, another grassroots organization.
Leaving Vons the other morning, I stopped by and was impressed at how professionally merchandised the store was. The staff and volunteers help people navigate their way through all the clothes, taking time to style some outfits as they go. The staff has worked hard to create a stylish setting while personally attending to those who have lost most of their wardrobes.
Survivors are asked to provide a driver’s license or utility bill with an address.
“Anyone is welcome in the store in support with friends and family or coworkers, or to shop for victims remotely,” Kieler said. “But we hope to get the clothes to those in dire need first.”
The March 31 store closing will be a community affair, featuring food from the Organic Soup Kitchen, music and a celebration honoring the volunteers and community partners.
Donations can be dropped off between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily through March 31 at the Recovery Free Shop, 1016 Coast Village Road. Hangers are appreciated.
— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.