SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Proceeds from a bagged lunch are helping some of Santa Barbara's most vulnerable children.
Storyteller Children Center's Lunch with Love event highlights another group of The Helpers in our community.
We found nearly a dozen of them in Duo Events' Haley Street kitchen Thursday morning. The culinary power team was busy cooking and packaging organic soups for a special delivery event.
"So today we actually have 41 lunches going out," said Susan Cass, Storyteller's Executive Director. "And, over the course of the four day delivery we have gotten 135 orders."
Lunch with Love is Storyteller's pandemic variation to its second annual fundraiser. Donors contributed $85 dollars per lunch bag, complete with a round loaf of homemade bread and a bottle of local wine. Money raised supports the therapeutic, year-round preschool that has served Santa Barbara's homeless and at-risk children for 33 years. The doors reopened last July.
"We have been serving our full enrollment of 52 children and therefore their families, their siblings," Cass said. "So the ripple effect of that work, of those 52 children that we serve, really extends out into a larger number in the community."
Cass said a four month closure at the start of the pandemic was worrisome.
"One of our concerns was really the overall health and safety of the families. Food insecurity was a big thing. Rental assistance for the families. So, we have been trying to support them throughout the pandemic," said Cass. "When families are going through additional stress, additional trauma, there's always a concern."
Duo's organic soup -- a comfort food -- was the perfect choice for the pandemic fundraiser. Cass was among those making deliveries throughout Santa Barbara County, including to one longtime supporter in Hope Ranch.
"I commend you," said Kim Blankenhorn. "Eight months of taking care of these families during COVID, its absolutely amazing."
Blankenhorn said Storyteller and its mission has been an important cause to her family for years.
"Epecially during the pandemic. A lot of these children have not had an education or had somewhere to go. Families have been out of work. It's just been really tough. The fact that Storyteller has even been open for most of the pandemic, helping these families stay afloat, provide support services for them, is absolutely amazing."
Cass carefully arranged the rest of the tagged bags in her back seat before setting off for her next round of deliveries.
"It's really been the support of our community members, our partners, our donors who've allowed us to continue with our mission supporting our homeless and at-risk youth and their families. For that, I am truly grateful to our community and very proud to be a part of it."
Click the highlighted link to learn more about Storyteller Children's Center.