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Santa Barbara Community Heroes Deserve Our Thanks


During this season of giving, I want to dedicate this blog post to some of our community heroes who give unselfishly of themselves to Santa Barbara and surrounding communities all year long. These are very special individuals who passionately advocate for change, defining their lives by what they can create for others. They listen. They guide. They encourage. And they do so without giving it a second thought.

READ: Giving Back: Montecito Realtor Cristal Clarke in the News

Below is a list of just some of the individuals who make Santa Barbara the lovely and caring community that it is today. And I personally want to thank each and every one of them for the good work they do.

Onalisa Hoodes and Maddy Segal
Finders of Lost Dogs
Countless lost dogs have gotten home thanks to Santa Barbara community heroes Onalisa Hoodes and Maddy Segal, the guiding forces behind the all-volunteer Facebook page Santa Barbara Lost & Found Pet Resource and Network. When you see the logo that’s pictured at the top of the page, you know you’ve found the place to instantly get the word out that your beloved pet is missing. Once there, panicked owners can also get support, advice, and phone numbers to help in their search. And if you are missing a pet, be sure to check the page ASAP because those critical first hours are very important. 

READ: It’s a Baby Boom at the Santa Barbara Zoo

“Nobody knows what to do when they lose a dog,” Hoodes told the Santa Babara Independent in an article about local heroes. “We wanted to create a place for owners to go when they feel so vulnerable and overwhelmed.”

For more than three decades, Hoodes has worked as a top administrator at the Santa Barbara Police Department. About 10 years ago she became involved in dog rescue and was introduced to two nonprofits, Dog Days Search & Rescue (DDSR) and From Lost to Found. That’s where she learned the techniques she uses to get pets back, including scent trails, traps, and the tried-and-true method of big, bright posters. 

The most important thing Hoodes tells people is to never chase a dog. “It’s counterintuitive, but it’s the worst possible thing you can do,” she explained, adding. “The work is exhausting and emotionally draining, but it’s worth it when you can be part of reuniting a lost pet with its owner.”

Among Santa Barbara's Community Heroes: Opera Santa Barbara General and Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas

Courtesy of Opera Santa Barbara

Kostis Protopapas
There’s more to music than meets the ears. In fact, music has been proven to decrease pain perception and reduce the amount of pain medication needed. It also helps relieve depression and gives people a sense of better control over their pain. That’s why locals found the work of Opera Santa Barbara General and Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas so important during COVID-19, and why Protopapas is one of my community heroes.

READ: Santa Barbara: Oasis of Arts and Culture

Back in December of 2020, in the depths of a pre-vaccine surge, Kostis created drive-in opera —live performances on an outdoor stage in the parking lot of the Ventura Fairgrounds. While the majority of orchestras and opera companies were relying on Zoom and other digital media, Opera Santa Barbara was selling tickets and parking cars for special concerts. 

When vaccinations made a safe return to indoor performances possible, Protopapas again set the pace with exciting and innovative productions. Already this season, the company has scored artistic and popular triumphs, with more productions scheduled in 2022.

Local community heroes Aaliyah and Bella Rubio at one of their Youth Makers Markets.

Aaliyah and Bella Rubio
Creators of  Youth Makers Market
These young sisters embraced their own creativity during the COVID-19 shutdown and created the Youth Makers Market as a result. Inspired by other small-business creators on TikTok and with the help of their mother, Cecilia Rubio, the dynamic duo made a business out of their favorite hobbies and as a result, created a Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop called The Youth Makers Market. Through monthly markets the sisters are connecting diverse families, neighbors, visitors, and local youth makers, all designed to foster our local economy.

READ: 6 Shopping Strategies of the Affluent Buyer

At age 13, Aaliyah sells the beaded jewelry she makes: from bracelets and necklaces to rings and anklets. She got the idea by watching videos on social media during her free time during the lockdown. And voila! Her new hobby turned into something that was not only fun but also taught her how to be a young entrepreneur. Her sister, Bella, 11, followed suit by putting her creativity to work on jars of Honey by Lyla. She makes and sells natural honey; caring for her own beehives.

Today, Youth Makers Market offers space for other like-minded youth, encouraging them to create small businesses of their own. And the idea is striking a chord. For more information on shopping or joining community heroes Aaliyah and Bella to sell your handiwork, check their website.

Community heroes Jacob and Joseph Mansbach, Brothers Fighting Food Insecurity

Image courtesy of JOINJACOB, Foodbank Santa Barbara County

Jacob and Joseph Mansbach
Brothers Fighting Food Insecurity
Brothers Jacob and Joseph have been battling food insecurity and, in the process, have raised $125,000 over the past decade to support the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. That’s enough to feed over a million meals! Now Anacapa School students, Jacob (a senior) and Joseph Mansbach (a sophomore) are more determined than ever. And today they have an army of locals behind them.

It all started back in 2012 when 8-year-old Jacob personally raised $4,500 for the Foodbank by running the Santa Barbara Triathlon with his dad. Shortly after that first race, his brother Joseph, who’d reached 8 years old, joined the cause. Together, they’ve enlisted dozens of families to run triathlons while raising more money for the Foodbank along the way. They topped the $125,000 cumulative mark after this year’s race, though they had to adopt a digital fundraising strategy since their usual in-person campaigns were hampered by the pandemic.

In 2014, the brothers expanded their reach with Saturday Family Day at the Foodbank calling on other local youth to join. To date, more than 2,000 kids have volunteered at both the North and South County locations, sorting produce, and putting goods in crates. Altogether, their volunteers have logged more than 7,000 hours and helped distribute a half million pounds of food. 

And they have no plans to stop. “More and more, I really saw the impacts of the work we are doing and the impact that food insecurity has on our community,” said Jacob. “For me, it’s such an important problem to solve.”

Among longtime community heroes, Hospice of Santa Barbara

Gary Simpson
Hero of Hospice
Gary Simpson is more than just the owner and president of the Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center. Over the years, he has helped provide critical support to many beloved local charities, including Hospice of Santa Barbara (HSB). Since 1974 Hospice of Santa Barbara, Inc. has been providing compassionate care and support to those impacted with serious illness and the bereaved in our community. As the second oldest hospice program in the United States, the organization continues to build today on its distinguished history, thanks to local leaders like Gary.

A long-time supporter and champion of HSB, alongside his partner, Jill Nida, Gary donates his time fulfilling the important organization’s promise of providing compassionate care for anyone experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness or grieving the death of a loved one. As part of the Shining Light Society, Gary joins other volunteers serving those in need right here in Santa Barbara.

Even during in-person limitations due to the pandemic, HSB offered telehealth appointments, contactless deliveries (including medical prescriptions and groceries), phone check-ins, and virtual gatherings. In mid-2020, HSB began partnering with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics to serve low-income COVID-positive patients and their families. This would not have been possible without the generosity of our Shining Light Society members.

And Gary puts his money where his mouth is. Both he and his mother, Eleanor Simpson, provided for Hospice of Santa Barbara in their estate plans.

11 Reasons Volunteering Matters

If you want to make a difference, volunteer your time, and become one of our Santa Barbara community heroes, there are many opportunities for you to consider. Clearly, volunteering matters. But the benefits go far beyond altruism. A growing body of research shows that volunteering your time provides many benefits, some of which you may find surprising. Here are 11 of them:

  1. Changing lives 
    Whatever you decide to do, remember that your efforts are making a tangible change in a person’s (or animal’s) life. Even more, you’re also spreading hope. 
  2. Inspiring others 
    You raise awareness for an organization and its cause simply by volunteering. You might tell others about your efforts or even post something about it on your social media platforms, which spreads the word and encourage others to get involved. 
  3. Personal satisfaction 
    According to scientific evidence, volunteering has many positive effects on your body, triggering the mesolimbic system — the part of your brain that generates feelings of reward. Psychologists call it “helper’s high.”
  4. Make new friends
    You’ll be volunteering with like-minded people. That makes volunteering an excellent way to find your “tribe.”
  5. Building confidence 
    The act of volunteering is linked to higher self-esteem and overall well-being. Experts say that the more connection you feel, the higher your self-esteem. 
  6. Networking 
    Volunteering is a social activity, so it can build up your list of important contacts. You never know who you’ll meet!
  7. Rewards and fulfillment 
    People who volunteer report feeling rewarded and more fulfilled. That’s because helping others enriches their sense of purpose and empowers them.
  8. Value to a resume 
    For young people, volunteer experience can set you apart from other applicants for jobs and colleges. Your volunteer experience tells the world that you are ambitious, care about your community and are willing to put in the work that brings change. 
  9. Pay it forward 
    Kindness is contagious. Helping another person gives us a good feeling and inspires other to do something altruistic too. 
  10. More time 
    Volunteering won’t literally give you more than 24 hours in a day, but it makes every minute feel more fulfilling. In fact, research shows that those who volunteer their time feel like they have more time. 
  11. Gratitude 
    You’ll gain perspective on your own situation when you help others. That alone can make you appreciate what you have.  

There are many other Santa Barbara community heroes who use their talents and volunteer their time to make living in Santa Barbara so special. I would like to take a moment during the season of giving to thank each and every one of them for their tireless efforts all year long. Please use the comments section below to add any of your suggestions to highlight in future blog posts regarding local heroes. Meantime, if you are looking to move in the area, please give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or drop me an email at Cristal@Montecito-Estate.



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