• Local Non-Profits Play Critical Role as Economic Driver in the Santa Maria Valley

    Santa Maria is fortunate to be home to numerous non-profits. From serving the disadvantaged to providing resources forsmall businesses, there are countless ways these organizations give back to those in need.

    While many see the value non-profits give to the populations they serve directly, our non-profits also have a direct impact on the local business community and, by extension, the economic health of the Santa Maria Valley community. We spoke with a few local organizations about how the important work they do is strengthening our local economy.
    Santa Barbara Foundation connects small businesses with financial support
    The Santa Barbara Foundation’s (SBF) mission is to mobilize collective wisdom and philanthropic capital to build empathetic, inclusive and resilient communities. Nearly every Santa Barbara County nonprofit organization and essential community project has been supported by the Foundation during its almost 93-year history.

    “During the ongoing pandemic we have seen the increased need to be connected,” explained Petra Gomez, Program Manager for the Santa Barbara Foundation. “As your community foundation we have worked tirelessly to convene funders, government agencies, non-profits, businesses, and others to connect resources. Most recently we have launched our COVID Impact Report that shares our work since the pandemic reached Santa Barbara County in March 2020. Some highlights include $4.1 million through our non-profit COVID-19 Response Grant program and $1.5 million in support for small businesses – and we are still working to provide additional support.”

    Additionally, the Santa Barbara Foundation continues to tackle community needs in the areas of childcare and workforce development through their funding, capacity building and partnerships. ““As your community foundation, we use our resources to match donors to giving opportunities with the overall goal to make a positive and lasting impact across Santa Barbara County,” Petra said.

    SEEAG connects youth to Santa Maria’s largest industry
    SEEAG’s (Students for ECO-Education & Agriculture) mission is to educate students and the greater community about the farm origins of our food and agriculture’s contribution to our nutritional well-being.

    “SEEAG's students, young and old, are put on a new trajectory to appreciate local farmers and ranchers, farm workers and the farmland that provides us all with sustenance,” explained Mary Maranville, CEO and Founder of SEEAG. “We believe there is nothing more important than feeding your family and SEEAG’s programs cultivate the next generation of new agricultural ambassadors and stewards of farmland who will help support and preserve local farms and ranches, the largest economic driver in Santa Maria Valley.”

    In addition to workforcedevelopment opportunities for local youth, SEEAG hosts and annual Farm Day event which attracts 5,000+ visitors to the Santa Maria Valley to learn more about the booming agriculture industry in our community.
    Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley addresses youth needs to build strong future leaders
    Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley’s mission is to partner with all members of the community to achieve resilience against substance use, reductions in violence and promote a healthy and safe environment for our youth and families.

    “Today more than ever we can see what happens to the economy if we do not have a healthy work force,” explained Edwin Weaver, Executive Director for Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley (FBSMV). “To get a stable, healthy, equipped work force we must invest in the children and youth of our community. They need to live a life free from drugs, alcohol abuse, violence and the stress of homelessness. In order to do this and focus on their education they need our support. As their parents head out to their jobs, they need to know that their children are safe and are given the opportunity that this great community can offer them.”

    Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley provides help along the way for those children and their families that are struggling to make it by filling in the gap when other services are not able to assist, and help prevent young people from getting derailed and losing their way.

    In 2021 FBSMV was able to successfully house over 57 18-24 homeless adults through their street outreach program. Their 35 full -time employees are all Santa Maria Valley residents, where they shop, pay taxes and raise their families contributing to the prosperity of our community.
    From connecting businesses to financial resources to building a strong future workforce, the work of our local non-profits serves the local community well beyond the scope of their organizations’ work, strengthening the local economy for years to come.

    The above examples are just a small sample of the great work the non-profit community is doing in the Santa Maria Valley. If you are looking for ways to get involved in helping build a stronger Santa Maria Valley, visit santamaria.com/list/ for a more extensive list of local non-profits.