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$1 million dividend luncheon helps local nonprofits make it through 2021

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - An annual luncheon by Montecito Bank & Trust – with envelopes full of funding for nonprofits – may have more meaning now than ever.

Impacts from COVID-19 have left many nonprofits struggling and fundraising in many cases has not been the same as what they saw before the pandemic.

The 19th Annual Community Dividends® Program Luncheon benefits 179 nonprofit organizations from Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

The bank says many of these organizations have played a critical role in serving the growing needs of our local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The luncheon brings many of those groups together for a lunch, a speech of encouragement and the distribution of the checks by representatives of the bank at each table. It also helps to unite groups that would not normally have a chance to see each other in person.

Community Dividends was the inspiration and idea of the late Michael Towbes, the bank founder.

This year the bank announced the recipients of the 3rd annual Michael Towbes Community Impact Dividend, created in 2019 to honor his impact and legacy. $50,000 went to the Neighborhood Clinics. $100,000 went to the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County.

Remembering her late husband, Ann Towbes said, "his focus was on being smart, economical and heartfelt in his giving which is how he felt the bank should be focused as well."

She recall Michael Towbes saying he wanted the bank to continue to grow and be able to give more money to the community.

 During the COVID crisis funding has fallen off for many groups and together with the Paycheck Protection loans during the shut down months and community dividends nonprofits have stayed effective.

Montecito Bank & Trust Chief Executive Officer Janet Garufis said with the funding the nonprofits "are making all kinds of  plans they otherwise would never had thought possible. "

Bank President George Leis said, the PPP coordinated by the bank during the height of the pandemic, "provided real cash support at a time when our city shut down and donations might have slowed down and it really was life saving." He said combined with the community dividends many nonprofits have a much more stable funding plan going forward.

Ed France with Leading from Within, works to help nonprofit leaders. "Grants like this make it possible for us to offer quality development to people serving in the nonprofit sector," he said.  

The Easy Lift Foundation helps the mobility challenged. Executive Director Ernesto Paredes said "when we get money from Montecito Bank and Trust it is almost like the  Good Housekeeping Seal of  Approval and it really helps bring other funders to the table  so it is wonderful."

Some past recipients were back on the list and some new groups were added. "We were trying to include new friends who really had a great need in this time, " said Garufis.

She commended the groups present for their operations and service to the community, many that invented new ways of reaching out, managing their funds, and helping the public. Throughout the last year, she saw the impossible become "possible," with the way nonprofits handled their services.

"I am inspired by your resilience," said Garufis.

As the recipients were picking up their gifts, Leis said the event was "heartwarming."

The luncheon was held in Thanksgiving-style setting in the rotunda at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront resort.

For more information go to: Montecito Bank & Trust

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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