In the wake of the devastating Jan. 11 La Conchita mudslide, local organizations have pitched in to create opportunities for Santa Barbara residents to contribute to relief efforts.
The American Red Cross has provided numerous services, including shelter, food, clothing, medicine and counseling, to more than 150 disaster victims. Branches of the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust are also aiding victims by accepting donations to accounts opened by family and friends of the mudslide’s victims.
Lucy Popova, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross has served over 33,000 meals and distributed numerous comfort kits and cleanup supplies to displaced La Conchita residents since the disaster struck. She said all the services provided, including health and mental counseling, are free to the victims and are funded by donations made by the general public.
“The American Red Cross is very flexible and individualized,” Popova said. “We work one-on-one with the families and try to meet their immediate needs.”
The Red Cross, Popova said, has received six times as many donations in the last 30 days as it did during the entire month of January 2004. She said she thinks people felt compelled to donate to the La Conchita relief efforts following the devastation caused by the tsunami in Southeast Asia.
“After Christmas, and after the disaster and deaths [caused by the tsunami], people donated generously,” Popova said. “Then, a disaster hits so close to home; people can’t stand not doing anything… We have raised over $105,000, but we’re only halfway there — the total costs were between $250,000 and $300,000.”
Troy Baker, disaster action team leader for the American Red Cross and a materials engineering graduate student at UCSB, said the Red Cross is doing all it can to help the victims and their families.
“The Red Cross has a concern for the people,” Baker said. “For example, we handed out vouchers for hotels and groceries. Our job is to help the people after a disaster happens.”
Popova and Baker said the best way for people to help is to send money. Popova said individuals are discouraged from donating material goods.
“We just don’t have the man power to organize and store all these goods,” Popova said. “I suggest these items be donated to local charities.”
Santa Barbara Bank & Trust is also making an effort to send relief directly to the friends and families of the victims by letting them open a bank account where people can directly deposit money as donations. Debbie Whitely, spokesperson for SB Bank & Trust, said there are currently nine such relief accounts open.
“To contribute, the bank can give [the donor] a list of different accounts, where the person can decide which family the donation can go to,” Whitely said.
Whitely said people who wish to make a donation to any of these accounts can visit a Santa Barbara Bank & Trust branch and ask a teller to see a list of accounts.
Red Cross donations can be dropped off at or mailed to the Santa Barbara office, located at 2707 State St., or at www.redcross.org.