In what has become a welcome and enduring tradition in the region, Montecito Bank & Trust kicked off Thanksgiving week with its ninth annual Community Dividends luncheon on Nov. 21.
For those of you who’ve not heard of this event, it is one of the truly unique occasions that defines the Tri-Counties as a place that’s just a bit different when it comes to business and philanthropy. Because it is a subchapter S corporation owned by developer Michael Towbes, Montecito Bank & Trust is able to pass its profits to its owner without the extreme penalties of double taxation. Towbes, the leading corporate philanthropist in the region, is then able to turn around and make $1 million in gifts to area charities and nonprofits, and those gifts are known as the banks’ Community Dividends.
The selection process is rigorous with roughly 100 organizations per year being selected for grants. However, by sticking with the program through good times and bad, the effect of compounding is enormous — to date, grants to the community total $9 million. Organizations that have participated every year are now approaching something like $90,000 in Community Dividends “investments,” and dozens of organizations have received gifts in excess of $50,000 over the years. But equally important, Community Dividends sets the tone for the rest of us in this traditional giving season. Here are just a few of the thousands of ways that other organizations lend a hand in the holiday season:
• At CSU Channel Islands, 70 students from Rudy Estrada’s Small Business Institute and its affiliated programs will feed more than 100 people on Thanksgiving morning. They’ll begin in Santa Paula and visit a number of church, school and social services locations delivering store-bought and donated food. “This year, there seem to be more people that are needy,” Estrada said, adding that the students do much of the fundraising and soliciting for donated food.
• Our media pals at KCOY CBS 12 and FOX 11 have collected more than 2,000 turkeys plus $15,000 in cash and 6,000 pounds of donated food in support of the efforts of Food Bank of SLO County. The TV station partnered with radio outlets under the Knight Broadcasting banner and others to raise funds and make sure every family in need in the greater San Luis Obispo area was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
• In Santa Barbara County, Select Staffing joined Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and others in raising money for Foodbank of Santa Barbara. Select’s sponsorship of the third annual Santa Barbara International Marathon and Half-Marathon raised $1,100 in cash and 2,000 pounds of food donations in just eight hours. The sponsorship combined with other gifts and fundraising meant that Foodbank was able to provide $22,000 in food to Santa Barbara County residents in need.
• Vitamin Angels, a worldwide organization based in Santa Barbara, is raising $250,000 in public donations to feed undernourished children and infants worldwide. It currently is connected with more than 24,000 children in 40 nations. You can find out more about their efforts at www.vitaminangels.org.
Montecito Bank & Trust has stepped up to become a role model for corporate philanthropy in a period of economic difficulties. We congratulate Michael Towbes on his ninth year of Community Dividends and welcome the dozens of other organizations that are devoting a portion of the holiday season to giving back to their own communities.