November 23, 2023
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Direct Relief International rooted in Santa Barbara


In a region that takes pride in its philanthropic organizations, nothing stands out like Direct Relief International.

Founded as a humanitarian organization by immigrants who fled the horrors of World War II, DRI is the nation’s ninth largest U.S. charity, according to Forbes, and by most measures one of the most cost-effective organizations of its type anywhere in the world.

While it carved out its reputation for delivering drugs and medical aid quickly to foreign lands hit by disaster, Direct Relief has also made a big impact on families affected by fires, floods and earthquakes in the tri-county region.

Thanks to an extraordinary public-private partnership, Direct Relief will continue to be based in the Santa Barbara area for decades to come.

On Sept. 29, it broke ground on what it called “the largest distribution hub for humanitarian medical aid in the United States” and announced a $40 million fundraising campaign to support the new facility.

“This is a pivotal moment in Direct Relief’s history and essential to its future,” said CEO Thomas Tighe, who probably is too modest to take credit for building the 21st Century Direct Relief into a global powerhouse in disaster recovery.

The public part of the effort is a land purchase in which the city of Santa Barbara sold a 7.99-acre parcel that will allow Direct Relief to build a 155,000 square foot facility that is four times larger than its current headquarters.

Santa Barbara, which rarely sells off property it owns, has said that it will use the proceeds to create a series of small industrial and commercial spaces for lease to startups and other ventures.

The new facility will include state-of-the-art technology for inventory and distribution of medical supplies. DRI already has raised $25 million toward its goal from FedEx, the Zegar Family Foundation and others.

By 2018, DRI will have a new home — and the Central Coast will have retained one of the global nonprofits that truly serve our local communities.

Jack Nadel

Jack Nadel

Remembering Jack Nadel

Jack Nadel was a quintessential Los Angeles entrepreneur who found a second life as an author, blogger and philanthropist on the Central Coast.

Nadel made his mark after World War II as a savvy trader who had a great instinct for market trends and a flexible approach to business. One of his early big breaks was exporting dark blue wool for caps for the Chinese communist armed forces. Union Bank financed the transaction, which helped put him on the map.

A pragmatist who offered tales and techniques for getting deals done, Nadel had an extraordinary talent for finding talented people. In his book “The Evolution of an Entrepreneur,” many of his best lessons are about finding simple ways to track results and hold people accountable — without spoiling the fun that comes with working in a team.

In Santa Barbara, Nadel and his wife, Julie, were known for their generosity. They provided large gifts to Sansum Clinic and its cancer center as well as programs focused on women’s health.

Nadel died Sept. 25, just short of his 93rd birthday. The Business Times offers condolences to the Nadel family and particularly to his granddaughter Elizabeth, who worked on our staff as a graphic designer from 2012-2015.