[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

United Way of Santa Barbara County hosted an annual dinner at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Montecito recognizing local organizations and individuals for contributing to the community and United Way activities.

More than 200 guests gathered at the 90th Annual Awards Celebration for a cocktail hour before heading into the Loggia Room for dinner, awards and dancing. They enjoyed green salad with Point Reyes blue cheese and Asian pears, lemon grilled chicken breast with garlic rosemary whipped potatoes, and chocolate and salted caramel tart.

United Way President/CEO Paul Didier addressed the crowd and shared some praise for the evening’s emcee, Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, saying, “Salud and his staff organized the first annual Family Day and Health Fair at Bohnett Park on the Westside of Santa Barbara. Their effort resulted in providing heart health and diabetes screenings for nearly 500 individuals for those in need of this service.”

The Biltmore and Floral Ambiance were generous sponsorships for this acknowledgement of community leaders, and Cynder Sinclair, CEO of Nonprofit Kinect, assisted Carbajal in presenting the evening’s awards.

“Because of all of you, this year United Way saw an increase in the community campaign totals. Together we raised $2,023,257 with an average gift of $352,” Sinclair said. “More importantly, 80 percent of those dollars are unrestricted gifts to United Way and its local community work. Congratulations and thank you to everyone here for your support through gifts of time, talent and treasure.”

The awards presentation began with the Outstanding Day of Caring Partner, Mentor, which assisted with the largest single-day volunteer event in the Tri-Counties. This past September, volunteers completed more than $350,000 worth of work.

The next Day of Caring will be Sept. 28, starting with a free kickoff breakfast for 1,500 volunteers who then spread out across worksites from Carpinteria and Santa Ynez to assist and dedicate time with paint and garden projects.

“Please remember that although only some organizations and individuals are receiving awards today, all of you made a difference with your contributions of time, money and ideas,” Carbajal said.

A total of 30 awards were given to about 90 nominees in 30 categories, including businesses, schools, organizations and individuals for outstanding support of the United Way of Santa Barbara County and its numerous programs in the community.

One such program is the United for Literacy initiative in partnership with United Way to provide multiservice educational school programs to students from infancy to adulthood.

These year-round educational programs include learning materials, parent-child teaching methods and online services designed to improve student literacy and increase the number of high school graduates in Santa Barbara County.

United for Literacy’s three primary educational programs include Born Learning, a parent-based program that encourages daily engagement between parent and child from birth to 5 years of age.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides new and free age-appropriate books to low-income children from birth to kindergarten and the Power Reading program helps increase reading comprehension, speed and vocabulary with two accelerated and customized programs. Reading Plus for third grade through adult learners builds fluency, comprehension and, speed and vocabulary skills. And Lexia Reading for pre-kindergarten to third grade levels develops skills in phonics, basic vocabulary, word recognition and comprehension.

The evening also drew attention to the United Way’s Fun in the Sun program, a seven-week enrichment curriculum serving more than 250 low-income students each summer with an array of educational programs, including Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math (STEAM), financial literacy, health services and lunch bunch mentors.

The Young Leaders Society is another program made up of individuals or couples age 40 or younger who contribute an annual gift of $300 and then have opportunities to join volunteer projects, mentor programs, professional development and networking mixers, fundraising events and more.

United Way also helps low-income families learn about finances and save tax dollars, assisting adults and benefiting children from the top down, and also assist with discount cards for prescriptions and health services that improves health and wellness.

Upcoming this fall is another highly anticipated United Way fundraising event, the 17th Annual Red Feather Ball, a benefit for United for Literacy, to be held Nov. 2 at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. For more information about the event, contact Suzanne Danielson at 805.965.8591 or sdanielson@unitedwaysb.org.

“Through the collaborative power of partnership, United Way was able to maximize your impact in changing lives right here in Santa Barbara,” Carbajal said. “Together we can accomplish more than any one of us can do alone.”

2013 Annual Award Winners

» Outstanding Leadership Workplace — AGIA Insurance Services
» Outstanding Division Award Education — UCSB
» Outstanding Division Award Public — City of Santa Barbara
» Outstanding Division Award High Tech — ATK Aerospace Systems
» Outstanding Division Award Business — MarBorg Industries
» Outstanding Division Award Finance — Bank of America
» Outstanding Division Award Non-Profit — Casa Dorinda
» Outstanding Division Award Health — Cottage Health System
» Outstanding Division Award Professionals — Auto Club of Southern California
» Most Outstanding Employee and Corporate Campaign — Union Bank
» Outstanding Fun in the Sun Individual of the Year — Anne Smith Towbes
» Outstanding Fun in the Sun Organization of the Year — Assistance League of Santa Barbara
» United for Health Partner of the Year — Salud Carbajal and his field representatives
» Financial Empowerment Individual of the Year — Rachel Bishop
» Financial Empowerment Organization of the Year — UCSB
» United For Literacy Individual of the Year — Stan Roden and Phyllis de Picciotto
» United For Literacy Organization of the Year — Cleveland Elementary School
» Community Impact Individual Champion of the Year — Mark Alvarado
» Community Impact Organization Champion of the Year — Montecito Bank & Trust
» Westside Project Individual of the Year — Santos Escobar
» Westside Project Organization of the Year — BEGA Lighting
» Outstanding Day of Caring Partner — Mentor Worldwide
» Young Leader of the Year— Kelly Schon
» Largest Overall Campaign — County of Santa Barbara
» Outstanding Employee Campaign Manager 1-100 Employees — Christine Whitefoot
» Outstanding Employee Campaign Manager 100-250 Employees — Susan Martony Taylor and Vicky Johnson
» Outstanding Employee Campaign Manager More than 250 Employees — Ryan Lopez
» Alexis de Toqueville Award for Outstanding Philanthropy — Selby and Diane Sullivan
» Outstanding Volunteer of Time, Talent & Treasure for Individual Leadership Giving — Amber Ortiz
» Legacy Supporter of the Year — Ross Bixby

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.