The Santa Barbara Zoo has been closed since March 17th to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, the private nonprofit is facing the worst financial crisis it’s ever experienced in 57 years of existence.
"It's been really tough, 97% of our revenue's are reliant on the public walking through those gates,” Santa Barbara Zoo vice president of advancement and marketing Elaine Mah Best said. “That's not a possibility right now."
In an effort to raise much-needed funds while engaging the community, the zoo hosted a “Drive By, Wave Hi!”donation parade this afternoon.
"We were looking for a way to raise much needed funds for the zoo,” Best said. “It also give the community an opportunity to come out and do something fun."
People were able to dress up in animal costumes, decorate their cars and drive around the zoo's parking lot while dropping off donations.
Even though the public can't visit the animals quite yet, they were still able to support the private nonprofit without even leaving their cars.
"It's actually a way for the zoo to give back to the community because we created something super fun for Moms, Dads and the kids,” Santa Barbara Zoo board member Eileen Dill said.
Locals displayed their support while driving through with generous donations.
"It's a positive way to not only help the zoo but get out and be cheered up by all of these wonderful animals,” Santa Barbara resident Sue McCue said.
The zoo’s temporary closure has created an abrupt and devastating interruption to its normal admissions driven revenues.
Recently, leadership made the difficult decision to lay off more than 100 part-time and full-time staff members in an effort to reduce the demand on limited resources.
This decision was not made lightly and layoffs did not apply to the essential staff caring for the animals and other key staff members essential to continuing operations throughout the closure.
"It's extremely important that we keep donations and funds coming in to keep caring for our animals,” Dill said.
Today’s event allowed the entire community to bond together over their love for animals.
"Kids are coming by and donating their allowance and raising money through drive-by lemonade stands,” Best said. “It feels so good to know that the next generation is supporting the zoo."
"Santa Barbara is an amazing community and I think they showed up today for the zoo,” Dill concluded. “That should be hope within itself."
In total, 80 cars drove-by and donated $12,829 to the zoo this afternoon.
For those looking to help support the Santa Barbara Zoo during these difficult times, you can donate online by visiting their website.