Twenty New CASAs

“This will clear up our backlog,” said a jubilant CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Executive Director Maria Long on Tuesday, May 9, 2006. At 6 pm promptly, twenty new CASAs were sworn in by The Honorable Judge Thomas Adams in his courtroom at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Included among the twenty, was not only Maria Long herself, but a number of CASA staff members too. Each volunteer, all of whom will serve as a court-appointed advocate for a child in the court system, underwent a background check and received 30 hours of training.

CASA’s mission is to provide volunteer advocates to speak up for abused children in court and to ensure placement in a safe and permanent home. The twenty new CASAs sworn in on May 9th guarantee that every child in South County working his and her way through the system now has a special advocate to accompany them every step of the way.

All Saints’ Cinco De Mayo

The 9-man (4 violinists, 2 trumpeters, 2 guitarists, and a singer) strolling Mariachi band that played at the beginning of the All Saints By-the-Sea “Cinco de Mayo, A Taste of Santa Barbara” benefit held at Fess Parker’s Double Tree on Friday May 5th, was pretty darned good.

The Silent Auction team went above and beyond the call of duty to offer enticements such as: a night at the Four Seasons Biltmore, a haircut by Kevin Charles, and lunch or dinner in the Patio restaurant ($1,600 value); a basket of body lotions and other goodies from Jaqua, the sisters from Summerland; a personalized rose-garden plan and design or improvements to an existing rose garden from Rose Doctor Dan Bifano; three nights at a family beach house in Playa Azul that includes a bottle of wine and a Chinese massage (donated by Angela and Ryan Siemens); a Cocktail Cruise for eight from Zuma Charters; a thousand dollars of skin-care products from SkinCare, including a gift certificate from the aestheticians at Skin Resolutions; Mary Anne Contreras offered to teach the winning bidder and five of his/her best friends how to cook a full-course gourmet meal, hosted by Daryl Stegall and Gail Fanaro (retail value: $1,000); a wooden bicycle made in Germany from Mon Petit Bijou ($380 retail value); six golf lessons with Mark Minier at Glen Annie; Mangia Mangia donated by Santa Barbara Architecture, included two bottles of local wine and gift certificates to Via Vai, Ca Dario, Aldo’s, Pane é Vino, and home-delivered homemade tira misu ($450 retail value). Most of the items received full bids and then some – not all, but most.

There was more, lots more: the “Coast Village Cruisin’” package included a Cygnet haircut and facial from Salon Mango and lunch at Montecito Café; a birthday party for 12 ($350 retail value) donated by Arts Alive! included a flowing chocolate fountain, fresh strawberries, and an angel food birthday cake (Call Lida Pardisi at 695-8912 if you’d like to take advantage of another party at the friendly Arts Alive! complex). Tecolote BookShop donated a basket of offerings that included three books and a lunch at Montecito Coffee Shop. Montecito Tennis Shop donated $350 worth of tennis gear and a one-hour tennis lesson for two, followed by a lunch. A $350 purse from Pierre Lafond, a gift basket from Serafina that included a bathrobe, bath toys “sure to make washing up fun,” according to the accompanying literature, rounded up a plethora of other items.

An inventive DVD “Visual Yearbook” put together by Bruce Reitherman and Beth Bastian put All Saints teachers (including the bashful teacher/director Eva Smith) into a Dr. Seuss book – “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” – with songs like “Monster Mash,” “Hey, Good Lookin’” Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and “Forever Young” backing them up. Sue Young and Family and Flower Loft arranged the unusual and attractive floral centerpieces and other enhancements.

KTYD (99.9 FM) early morning man Matt McAllister emceed the live auction and pulled down another $20,000 in bids, including $2,500 for four nights at the Mollers’ Mammoth home, $3,000 for a “vine and dine” tour for twenty at Gainey Vineyards, $1,500 for a pair of Silverhorn earrings.

The Montecito Rotary Classic

The winning foursome in Montecito Rotary’s Third Annual Golf Classic held at Santa Barbara Municipal Golf Course on Friday May 12th was composed of Ken Hyatt, Brad Broom, Brian Spaak, and Brad Smith with Caeser & Seider Insurance. “At the dinner and auction, perhaps the most memorable moments,” says event co-chair Bill Lindberg, “occurred as several people nominated the ‘most dangerous shot’ incident for that prize. There were four strong contenders and the storytelling was phenomenal as well. Nineteen foursomes competed in the shotgun-start, best-ball tourney.

“We don't quite have our bottom line yet,” he added, “but the event promises to be the most successful ever.” Proceeds have been targeted to benefit the Lobero Theatre Foundation, the MUS/YMCA land swap, and Montecito Rotary Foundation.

Montecito Rotary President Kristine Mollenkopf credits co-chairs Kyleen Dawson and Bill Lindberg for doing “absolutely everything” so that her “sole and only responsibility was to write a President’s Message for the brochure.” Kristine did, however, donate a whiskey flask for a Scottish package that was to be auctioned off that evening.

Gotta Know When To Hold ‘Em

Poker players lined up a little after 4:30 pm to test their card-playing talents (and endurance) for this year’s Cold Spring School Foundation’s “Aces Up” Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament and Auction, held at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum at the beach end of Castillo Street. It’s a fine location for a cowboy-themed event (everyone dressed in Western gear), requiring as it does, attendees to pass through a collection of historical traveling contrivances and into a faux Western town built under the eaves, and plenty of open outdoor space allowing room for instance, for a huge tri-tip fire pit if and when required. This night, New York Strip Steak and baby red potatoes were on the buffet menu.

Parental involvement seems nearly unanimous as 210 attendees jammed the rafters (there are only 194 children registered at Cold Spring School, from “about 136 families!”). Bob and Laura Collector, present and former CSS parents, opine that participation was critical. “Montecito Union School has all the commercial [property], plus three thousand properties to draw from,” Bob says, “whereas we’ve only got a thousand [homes]. If we don’t raise $250,000 every year,” he adds, “a lot of our programs go away.” Bob is President of the Montecito Association.

Corporate sponsors of the event included Ed Epsteen & Associates, Village Properties, Westmont College, Hub International, Invest West Financial, and Regency Centers.

Among the entertainment highlights were the “Three Amigas,” dancers Olivia Caesar, Lauren Wolf, and Maddy Marquis; the trio plan to reprise their performance during this year’s Cold Spring School Spring Sing on Thursday May 25th. The girls report that music teacher Pam Herzog choreographed their dance number.

Dr. Bryan McCabe, the Cold Spring School Principal/Superintendent is wearing his grandfather’s bolo tie.

Spring sing coming up on May 25th, and the sixth-grade school musical – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on June 7th and 8th.

The Village Properties Fund

A noted and visible supporter of Cold Spring School is Village Properties and the one hundred agents – to the tune of over $250,000. Owners and founders Ed Edick and Renee Grubb have been donating to both MUS and Cold Spring School for the past ten years. “From the beginning,” Renee stresses during a short interview. “What better thing to do than support the two local schools in Montecito?” she asks. Ed says that the money came “from Village Properties (which gives $25,000 at the beginning of the school year), individual real-estate agents, private contributions, and from the Orfalea Foundation as well.”

“People come to Montecito for the school districts, so why would we not support that?” Ed adds. Village Properties has recently expanded its outreach to the junior-high level.

“When you first start a company, you get bombarded with all kinds of charities,” Renee explains, “and so, early on, Ed and I decided to make children our focus.”

The Village Properties Teachers Fund began four years ago. “It’s basically a simple concept,” says Renee: “A teacher goes to our website, fills out a request, submits it, and in less than a month it is most likely granted.”

Some of those requests have included a full-size human (plastic) skeleton for a sixth-grade science teacher at Adams Elementary, electronic hole-punches (the manual ones proved to be too difficult for first-graders), workbooks, encyclopedias, thesauruses, and a “lot of creative things that the School District would never think of funding,” says Renee, including $60 to pay for a teacher’s pet rat to go to the vet.

Village Properties is not only a Christie’s affiliate, but is also affiliated with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World – the largest relocation company in the United States. “We have national advantages with local management,” says Ed.

“Without even doing it on purpose,” Renee says, “we’ve done it right, locally.” We’ve decided to support the community and not only the Teachers Fund but also all kinds of other events such as this. We’re happy to. We love all of Santa Barbara, and Santa Ynez.”

“This is our home and we’re not leaving,” Ed adds, “so you have to take care of your own.”

When asked whether they too would be swallowed up by the big boys, Renee admitted they’ve “had offers… but we’re still here.”

“We’re too young to quit,” adds Ed.

Easy Lifting at the Chumash Casino

Ira and Linda Distenfield are longtime supporters of Easy Lift Transportation, so when they decided to launch The PR Store concept after selling their hugely successful national franchise, We The People, Easy Lift became their first client. “We have helped them with their communications with their clients,” Ira says, “but at the same time,” he continues, “they said to us, they may have some needs to do a little fundraising.” That’s when he and Linda went to the Chumash Tribe, met with tribal spokesman Frances Snyder, who not only allowed Easy Lift to hold a fundraiser on the Casino grounds (on the patio at Willows restaurant), but also donated 380 tickets (80 of which were sold as $500 VIP tickets) to “An Evening With Bill Cosby” on Thursday May 11th. All except ten tickets were sold to friends and supporters of Easy Lift, making for nearly $60,000 in proceeds.

“[The tribe] constantly wants to give,” says Ira, “so I’m very happy to now be a great proponent of the Chumash. The flowers were also donated by Chumash.

Ernesto Paredes, new Executive Director of Easy Lift Transportation, took over from Bob Westwick just eight months ago. Ernesto, who has a degree in Gerontology from USC, had previously worked for Easy Lift for ten years before becoming Executive Director of CASA, a job he resigned from to take up this position.

Easy Lift began 26 years ago as a project for Easter Seals, recognizing there were people who couldn’t just “jump on a bus” to get somewhere. “They needed to get to businesses, to services, to programs,” says Ernesto. Former Santa Barbara City Council members Sidney Smith and Lyle Reynolds were key to the creation of the concept, says Ernesto.

Clients pay $2 per ride for visits to doctors, lawyers, businesses, stores, etc. “Each ride costs us probably thirty-five dollars,” Ernesto calculates, “depending upon the destination.” The $2 charge is “purely symbolic,” he says. “Without Easy Lift,” Ernesto continues, “people would be home-bound a lot more; our idea is to provide independence. People don’t want to be a burden, especially on their adult children.”

Easy Lift serves some 1,100 individuals – about 175 to 180 per day – and operates 18 vehicles, including buses and vans, and covers an area from “Winchester Canyon to Carpinteria and everything in between” (but not Santa Ynez Valley).

If you or someone you know is a candidate for Easy Lift’s services, you are invited to call 681-1181 to find out if you qualify. Medical records are not required.

Volunteers should also call 681-1181; they will receive a background check and a driving test. “The driving is the meat and potatoes of what we do,” Ernesto says, explaining that volunteers are needed to supplement Easy Lift’s cadre of highly qualified paid drivers because it’s difficult to hire somebody for one or two days a week, which is sometimes required on high-traffic days.

Up On “On The Town”

The cast of high-schoolers that performed in this year’s Santa Barbara High School musical “On The Town” was nothing short of remarkable. It is difficult to point out one outstanding performance when everybody was so darned good. The comic timing, the duo dancing and singing, the snappy dialogue, the sets, the jazz ensemble headed up by the talented Richard Weiss, all were funny, polished, and professional. There were no embarrassing silences; everyone knew their lines… always. The music came in and out precisely on cue, and both the medley at the beginning of the show and the rendition of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” before the second act were, for such young musicians, implausibly good.

The sets were simple and sophisticated: a skyline of Manhattan center stage behind a gate with barbed wire on top (the Navy Yard); to the right, a giant cutout of the Chrysler Building, complete with working revolving doors; later, the “stage” onstage dressed as three different nightclubs; the “moving” subway cars complete with garbage under the seats; to the left on steel girders, like a building under construction, was the jazz orchestra, headed up on one level at the piano by Richard Weiss and the reed section; above that on a higher level, the horn section. Ingenious.

Director Otto Layman outdid himself with this elaborate production and deserves kudos for coordinating a group of nearly fifty high-schoolers – most with limited stage experience (though there were exceptions) – and turning them into a cadre of disciplined stage performers.