Nonprofits in the area and how you can get involved!
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Local not-for-profit organizations are the bloodline of the Santa Barbara community. Per capita, the county of Santa Barbara boasts more nonprofits than anywhere else in the U.S.—and with so many charitable organizations (up to 1,000!) calling Santa Barbara home, the possibilities are endless for college students looking to get involved in something they’re passionate about. Student Life takes a look at a handful of local nonprofits that serve the community in a variety of ways as well as offer volunteer or internship opportunities.
HOMELESSNESS. St. Vincent’s (P.A.T.H.S.), a residential rehabilitation service, strives to address Santa Barbara’s problem of homelessness by providing affordable housing, childcare, and counseling to homeless or low-income families. One of the oldest organizations in the area, St. Vincent’s has served the community for nearly 160 years, conducting outreach through education and financial assistance of families at or below poverty level.
Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, an organization that provides immediate relief, food, and shelter to the homeless, is another of Santa Barbara’s longest-standing Christian nonprofits. In addition to its nightly food service, the SBRM also conducts 12 month-long recovery programs (such as Bethel House) for men and women stuck in cycles of addiction, poverty, crime, and homelessness. The organization offers volunteer opportunities in the form of tutoring, food service, and chapel service leadership.
ANIMALS. The Otter Project is an organization that is dedicated to the preservation and recovery of sea otters through education, advocacy, and political lobbying. The group operates in a number of towns along the California coastline, including Santa Barbara, and offers a number of hands-on volunteer opportunities for students over 18 years of age.
The Santa Barbara Humane Society is an animal welfare organization that rescues homeless dogs and cats with the goal of finding them a “forever home.” The organization has a longstanding history, dating back to the 1800s, of championing protection and humane treatment of animals. Animal-lovers can help out at the SBHS by providing “canine companionship,” which includes daily walks, outdoor playtime, and affection for shelter dog awaiting adoption.
EDUCATION. The Museum of Natural History, a popular landmark in northern Santa Barbara, was founded in 1916 with the purpose of educating and inspiring the community about the natural world. It has a diverse array of exhibits, including a sea center, planetarium, and butterfly garden (volunteers can work at any of these—plus, they receive free museum admission).
SENIORS. Free Methodist Church operates the Cliff Drive Care Center, a program for senior citizens that provides educational opportunities, times of fellowship, and lunches every first and third Thursday of the month. The Thursday lunches are spaces where seniors can learn, interact, play games, grow, and share with one another. Cliff Drive also delivers lunch to isolated seniors in housing facilities.
The Friendship Center, a nonprofit operating in Montecito, is an “adult daycare” for seniors facing Alzheimer’s, dementia, physical or cognitive disabilities, or social isolation. The daycare provides engaging activities like games, live music, art classes, pet therapy, and gardening. It encourages volunteers of any age to get involved to foster intergenerational learning and interaction.
MINISTRY. Jesus Burgers, a ministry of Isla Vista Church, caters to party-goers in Isla Vista by handing out free hamburgers and bringing the love of God to Santa Barbara’s college party scene. It operates out of the Jesus Burgers House, a building adjacent to fraternities and sororities of UCSB. Westmont students are always encouraged to participate.
AT-RISK YOUTH. The Storyteller Children’s Center is an organization that provides preschool education to homeless or at-risk children in the Santa Barbara area. Storyteller also offers counseling to its young students and their families, many of whom are the victims of trauma or great stress, serving the community in the form of intervention and support services.
Girls, Inc. reaches girls ages 4 1/2 - 18 in Santa Barbara by inspiring them to be “strong, smart, and bold.” Through after-school educational programs and summer enrichment activities, the organization helps young girls resist peer pressure and gender stereotypes, develop self-esteem, avoid gang involvement and substance abuse, and prepare for the future. Girls, Inc. accepts short-term and long-term volunteers with a variety of experience levels.
Students looking to get involved with any of the above nonprofits should check the organization’s website for volunteer listings—or look into alternative local nonprofits that address other crucial issues the Santa Barbara and Montecito communities face.
IMAGE COURTESY OF SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY.