The worst of our local disasters brings out the best in human responses.
We witness this concept playing out, a lot, because we live in a paradise periodically plagued by huge natural calamities.
The most recent events involved the biggest wildfire in California history scorching thousands of acres, many of them high above the village of Montecito.
The Thomas fire was bad enough, but what came later was even worse — torrential downpours that dumped tons of water on the burn area, gathering up mud, trees, shrubs and other debris on a relentless rush downhill toward the Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, a wide swath of Montecito was in the river of mud’s path, destroying more than a half-billion-dollars worth of structures, killing more than 20 people, and turning one of the nation’s quaint retreats into a disaster zone.
The county has since rewritten its disaster-response protocols, and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has devised a new disaster-preparedness plan. Both changes are crucial.
That is especially true for the Foodbank, which stepped outside its normal role as a provider of food to nonprofit partners by handing out groceries and fresh produce directly to local community members.
That unusual approach was born of necessity. Normally, the Foodbank functions as a middle man of sorts, collecting the food and donations to buy food at wholesale prices, then distributing the food to more than 300 charitable agencies countywide.
But after the fire and mudslides, Foodbank reached out to an average of 1,000 people a day directly, distributing 95,000 total pounds of food, or an average of 19,000 pounds per day. Under normal, non-catastrophe circumstances, the Foodbank serves no one directly, distributing an average of 7,000 pounds of food per day to participating agencies.
In other words, circumstances are forcing both county government and Foodbank decision-makers to rethink their operational strategies — and it happens at an opportune time.
California is likely entering another serious drought episode, at least that’s what reputable weather scientists believe is coming. Long periods of drought equate to a greater potential for massive wildfires, a phenomena we have been witnessing for the past few years.
Each wildfire season brings new perils and bigger fires. And a drought ensures that a “wildfire season” really goes pretty much year-round.
Decision-makers at the Foodbank understand this concept, and have launched a new fund-raising campaign designed to restock warehouse shelves, and modernize the agency’s fleet of aging delivery vehicles.
We have a suggestion, and it may seem to be a bit on the wild side. But for now, just go with us:
Why not launch a GoFundMe drive? GoFundMe is a crowd-funding platform that facilitates raising money for various causes. And it can work minor miracles.
For example, the recently-fired FBI acting director, Andrew McCabe, started a social-media fund-raising campaign to help finance his legal battle with the Trump administration, and collected more than a half-million dollars. A few days earlier, after Toys R Us announced its bankruptcy and store closings, a crowd-funding effort quickly raised more than $200 million, thanks to a hefty pledge from a wealthy toy-maker/competitor.
Admittedly, those are unique situations, but the point is that we are better able to solve common problems if we act collectively — a lesson that too many of our elected leaders at the national level have yet to figure out.
The other important point is that those of us living on the Central Coast know a thing or two — or more — about living with disaster.