SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - First responders will be receiving meals from local restaurants under a new program that's funded through donations.
The Santa Barbara Police Foundation is coordinating the effort through the contributions that come in from community members.
It's called "Food for the First Responders."
The first meals have been delivered to Cottage Hospital, the Santa Barbara Fire Department and the Santa Barbara Police Department. Other agencies will be on the delivery schedule starting next week.
The restaurants involved have also provided food for the foundation's fundraisers. In this case, the foundation is purchasing the food, full price, in order to keep the businesses operating and employees at work during stressful times.
This afternoon's lunch was a variety of Mexican dishes made by the Los Agaves restaurant.
Other restaurants will be in the line up in the weeks ahead, including breakfast items and various foods for all working shifts.
The foundation buys supplies for first responders that may not be in their annual budgets. It also has counseling programs in the "At Ease" program. Calls for that service have gone up in recent months.
Santa Barbara City Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike De Ponce said, "in times like what we are going through right now to have this type of gesture this type of kindness and thoughtfulness all the while celebrating the local restaurants, we give gratitude for the generosity here today for that."
He said this is a special community and donations have been helpful in many ways for the front line crews for years.
The foundation has held fundraisers with impressive demonstrations, food and music for hundreds of supporters who have made thousands of dollars in donations.It was also part of the 805 Kick Ash Bash after the devastating Montecito mudflow in 2018 to help front line responders along with community needs.
Money raised through annual events goes for equipment that may not be in the annual budget.It has helped all the responders and at times specialized equipment for K-9, SWAT and air units.
Funds have also paid for special counseling assistance through the "At Ease" program. In these stressful times the calls are up.
Santa Barbara Police Lt. Aaron Baker said assistance helps in many ways. "Emotional, financial, mental health day in and day out worrying about what is happening at your own home at the same time being here at work."
When it came to the delivery at Cottage Hospital because of the protocols for the hand off took a different look.
Actor and Supporter Billy Baldwin was there and he said, "the COVID unit only came up to the window because they are all isolated and just waved to us. We were all giving them the heart sign that we love them."
The first meals came out of the kitchens at the Los Agaves and Flor de Maiz restaurants. The foundation is paying full price to help keep the restaurants open and employees working.
Owner Carlos Luna said, "everyone is helping everyone and I think we went through this process and we gonna get back to normal."
Baker said the collaboration is a sign of the community unity. "Businesses that we know and have supported us in the past, those we know that the foundation is turning back and supporting them and helping to keep their business afloat, people that we know."
The plan has other locations and agencies ahead.
"We are going to be going out across the city and the county, the Sheriff, police, fire department of course all the first responders at the hospital, the nurses and doctors," said Baldwin who was at all three stops.
For more information go to : The Santa Barbara Police Foundation