SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Established last fall as a group of 15 volunteers, the Santa Barbara Latino Giving Circle is working to support local Latino-led organizations and the Latino community--an integral part of Santa Barbara County and its history.
The group, which has added members since the pandemic began, is part of the Latino Community Foundation, the largest national network of Latino philanthropists.
Each member pledges to give $1,000 per year, which the group gives to Latino-led organizations or causes that help the Latino community.
“It gave me a way to, number one: Identify with my background,” said founding member Theresa Huerta. "And number two: Funnel my family’s philanthropic dollars towards organizations that I knew represented me, and represented my family and our cultural needs.”
As a mother with a full-time job, Huerta also praised the group’s efficiency and organization, as well as the limited time commitment needed to contribute.
Latinos make up roughly 40 percent of California’s population, but founding member Arcelia Sencion says only about one percent of philanthropic dollars support Latino nonprofits.
Not only are Latino causes often overlooked, but SBLGC members believe many of the current programs for Latinos in Santa Barbara County fall short of what is necessary.
Founding member Julia Lara pointed to chronic child poverty and language barriers for Spanish and Mixteco speakers as issues not being taken seriously enough in the County.
“Many services that are provided our Latino families—especially immigrants—aren’t necessarily maybe what families need,” she said. “To have Latinos tell their own stories instead of having it told for them, or shared for them, I think it’s very important.”
The current health and economic crisis is also making the Giving Circle's cause more crucial than ever.
Frontline workers--especially those in restaurant, hospitality or tourism businesses--have been hit hard during the pandemic. A disproportionately high number of those workers are Latino.
“Agriculture and the hospitality and tourism sector are primary economy drivers, yet, often times they are the lowest-paying jobs,” Sencion said.
The SBLGC's first grant went to support the 805 Undocufund, which helps local undocumented immigrants pay bills and make ends' meet during the pandemic.
The group is looking for more people of all backgrounds to join.