May 27, 2023
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Montecito Bank & Trust gives out $1.2M in annual Community Dividends


Montecito Bank & Trust CEO Janet Garufis and Anne Towbes, the widow of co-founder Michael Towbes, at the bank’s annual Community Dividends event on Nov. 22. (Brooke Holland photo)

In recognition of community enrichment through compassion, 179 Central Coast nonprofits received a boost from Montecito Bank & Trust after persevering through 20 months of pandemic-related changes.

The bank awarded those nonprofits from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties with a total of $1.2 million at its 19th annual Community Dividends program on Nov. 22. The organizations that received Community Dividends serve youth and education, as well as offering social services, medical and health services, and support for the arts. The complete list is published in the bank’s latest Community Impact Report.

“The value of your good work continued to be amplified in the second year of the pandemic because of the innovative ways you were able to adapt and meet the critical needs of our communities — you brought hope and healing to many,” Montecito Bank & Trust CEO Janet Garufis told the crowd.

Community Dividend recipients and the bank’s board and leadership team and other staff, along with other business and civic leaders, gathered at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachside Resort for the award ceremony.

Montecito Bank & Trust is the largest bank based in the tri-county region, with assets of more than $2.29 billion, 265-plus employees and 11 branch offices.

Its practice of investing a portion of its profits back into the community started under its co-founder, Michael Towbes, who developed the Community Dividends program when he was the bank’s chairman and CEO. Towbes was the bank’s sole shareholder when he died in 2017, at the age of 87.

“We all love this day, but no one loved it more than Michael,” said Towbes’ widow, Anne. “Community Dividends was important to him.”

Montecito Bank & Trust has granted more than $19 million to nonprofits in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties through its Community Dividends program.

Three years ago, the bank expanded the program to honor Towbes. The total amount given out depends on the success of the bank in each year. This year, Montecito Bank experienced significant growth, and that meant awards of $150,000 to recipients of the annual Michael Towbes Community Impact Dividend.

The grants went to two organizations: The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County received $100,000 to support its 3D printed affordable home project, which is part of the organization’s Housing Innovations Program to research and demonstrate technologies that reduce the cost of affordable housing and to encourage sustainability through the use of natural, climate resilient and fire-resistant building materials.

“We are here to help people get into affordable homes, so they’re not leaving the community and going to work elsewhere,” said Yvette Lounsbury, the organization’s homebuyer loan administrator.

The Bridge Clinic, which opened its doors in 2019 in collaboration with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and Cottage Health, received $50,000 to provide medical and behavioral health services to people with substance use disorders. The grant will increase access to treatment at the Bridge Clinic location nearby Cottage Hospital’s emergency department in Santa Barbara.

“We have saved over 1,000 lives,” said Nancy Tillie, chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. “Every day, a new person walks into the Bridge Clinic that has experienced trauma and is in the process of trying to find themselves into recovery.”

Both the Community Dividends program and the Michael Towbes Community Impact Dividend mainly focus on supporting organizations or programs serving low- and moderate-income earners and families in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

“Together we have the power to transform our communities to ensure everyone can achieve their potential,” Garufis said. “I look forward to seeing the impact we can make together today and tomorrow.”