The massive Thomas Fire, now the 4th largest in California history, continues to burn in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. To date, the fire has destroyed a total of 921 structures, damaged 200 and is threatening 18,000 more. Over 95,000 residents have evacuated their homes in both counties. Over 240,000 acres have burned with current containment at 25 percent.
In response to an outpouring of support, United Way of Santa Barbara County is joining forces with United Way of Ventura County with a joint fund to directly support those individuals and families affected by the fire in both Counties—The United Way Thomas Fire Fund.
Local community partners have determined that the United Way organizations, in both counties, are uniquely positioned and qualified to manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund and provide a report to the community on how the funds were used. After the wildfire is contained, a committee of representatives from community- and faith-based organizations will be convened to assess needs and allocate money from the fund in Ventura. In Santa Barbara County, United Way of Santa Barbara County will coordinate with local partners such as the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Santa Barbara County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SBC VOAD) to determine the most appropriate SBC VOAD member organizations and individuals to receive funding, based on the direct need of those affected. United Way of Santa Barbara County may also work to address additional support for individual victims if the wildfire emergency expands into more populated areas.
“The financial and emotional costs of the loss of homes and businesses in Ventura County, including Ojai, is immense and difficult to comprehend,” said Eric Harrison, CEO, United Way of Ventura County. “We will do all we can to ensure a solid path to recovery for our residents.”
“While Santa Barbara County is fortunate in that it has not yet lost a vast number of structures, the level of stress and financial toll for thousands of evacuees will be great and includes missed work for residents, relocation costs, food, clothing property damage, childcare and healthcare,” said Steve Ortiz, President & CEO, United Way of Santa Barbara County.
“By combining our resources, we believe that we can reach more people and groups/organizations, including those outside our region, who are looking for ways to support those affected,” said Harrison and Ortiz in a joint statement.
To date, $2.25 million has been raised.
Both organizations will utilize the Ventura County systems of donating to the Fund that have already been established. One-hundred percent of the donations will support those in communities affected by the wildfires. Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at www.unitedwaythomasfirefund.org, www.unitedwaysb.org or www.vcunitedway.org or by calling 805-485-6288. Checks may be sent to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.
United Way of Ventura County
In the aftermath of a disaster, United Way’s Ventura County Volunteer Center will serve as an online, call, and walk-in center for spontaneous volunteers. The Volunteer Center will register volunteers and coordinate with the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services to place them where they can do the most good for the community. 2-1-1 Ventura County will also be available 24/7 to register volunteers, answer questions, and connect those in need with the resources to help them.
United Way of Santa Barbara County
United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has the unique and positive vision that “in our community, everyone has a hopeful future.” Since 1923, UWSBC has served Santa Barbara County community through funding, volunteer development, and by utilizing its own unique initiatives that involve dozens of local non-profit and public sector agencies. UWSBC’s local community driven Power of Partnership™ priorities help children, families & seniors with a focus on Education, Income and Health.