The Santa Barbara Tea Fire Response Fund distributed the last of its money to fire victims yesterday, almost a year to the day after the inferno scorched over 200 homes.

The remaining $44,101 was given away at yesterday’s ceremony, marking the final installment of the $435,000 charity fund raised in wake of the Tea Fire, which burned close to 2,000 acres and destroyed 210 homes in hills above Montecito. The charity was established by United Way of Santa Barbara County and local community members to provide financial assistance for those affected by the fire.

Santa Barbara Tea Fire Response Fund volunteer spokesman George Leis said the fund is now exhausted.

“I am happy to report that we have successfully dispersed all of the money that the community has generously donated to the fund,” Leis said.

Community members donated most of the money in the days and weeks after the fire. Funds were issued in five categories starting in February: money for housing needs, work needs, household goods, medical issues and school supplies.

Local chef Carlos Lima, who runs a catering business, was one of the beneficiaries of the fund after he lost many of his catering supplies to the fire. In return for the financial assistance, he catered an event to benefit the Red Cross. Lima received a special recognition at yesterday’s ceremony.

“It is really wonderful to give back to the community,” Lima said at a press conference. “Thank you, Red Cross, United Way and Santa Barbara. Thank you.”

To receive money, fire victims sent applications to the fund. Each application went through three screenings, including review by a Tea Fire Response Fund Oversight Committee. Members included Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and County Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

“Community is a sense of all of us working together to help,” Carbajal said.
“It’s really gratifying to see that that is the kind of community we live in.”