Beneficiaries of 59th News-Press Holiday Fund announced

SCOTT STEEPLETON, NEWS-PRESS ASSOCIATE EDITOR
November 14, 2006 8:12 AM

One rescues birds and animals, while the other ensures a safe place is provided for abused and neglected children. The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) have different objectives, but they have at least one thing in common: both nonprofit organizations are the beneficiaries of the 59th News-Press Holiday Fund.

They were formally announced at the newspaper's Lifetime Achievement Awards banquet Saturday at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, which included a stand-up comedy set by Jay Leno.

The paper has held an annual fundraising drive for local nonprofits since the 1940s, but the giving began a decade earlier with the Christmas Cheer Fund.

Today, there are more than 1,000 nonprofit groups in Santa Barbara County -- about 650 on the South Coast -- each lending a hand to someone or something in need.

Last year, the Holiday Fund raised almost $78,000, up $6,000 from the year before. Donors include individuals, businesses and organizations eager to make the season and beyond brighter for people who could use a lift.

And this year, birds and animals will also benefit.


The Wildlife Care Network began with a group of people concerned for sea life, following a 1969 oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast. Since its incorporation in 1988, the group has helped about 3,000 songbirds, seabirds, birds of prey and mammals each year, said Fiona Day, executive director.

"The animals come in for a wide variety of things. During the spring and summer, we see quite a lot of songbirds and mammals," said Ms. Day.

"But the bulk of the reasons they come to us is unfortunate interactions with humans. Birds will get oiled, entangled in fishing lines, or they'll get fishing hooks stuck in their bills."

Other animals get injured from attacks by cats and dogs.

As the population grows, so do the interactions, and that's where the other aspect of the Wildlife Care Network comes in.

"We also do really stress educating the public on how to live harmoniously with animals," said Ms. Day.

The group is getting a new main public drop-off center at 139 N. Fairview Ave. up and running, and it also has a seabird facility elsewhere on Fairview. It also operates a help- line; people who witness a wildlife emergency can call 966-9005.

Caring for the animals takes countless volunteer hours and about $200,000 in operational costs each year. The majority of the money comes from private donors, while the oil companies also contribute.

"We get no state or federal funding," said Ms. Day.

This year's other Holiday Fund beneficiary is the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County, one of 42 such groups across the state whose mandate is to assure that children in the juvenile dependency system have a safe, nurturing home.

"They've been removed from their home by child welfare services because of abuse and neglect," said Maria Long, executive director.

Sometimes a child is placed with an aunt or uncle, and a safe environment is relatively certain. "But CASA steps in when the judge or the children's attorney sees they need an extra set of eyes on a case because it's more complex."

The most recent statistics show that in the past 18 months, 172 CASA volunteers have provided services to 246 children countywide.

CASA


CASA is a state-mandated organization, yet no state funds are used. Virtually all of its $827,000 annual budget is from foundations and private donors.

The volunteers, said Ms. Long, "investigate a child's entire world. They make sure they are safe in foster care, they make sure any of the child's medical needs are met. They make sure there are no problems going on in school."

Becoming a special advocate is not easy.

"They go through extensive training and screening. They are fingerprinted, we do background searches with the FBI and the Justice Department, through Megan's Law sites. We even check their DMV record," said Ms. Long.

Without the CASA volunteers, added Ms. Long, the outlook for many children who have been removed from a home would be bleak. "They're really heroes."

CASA wasn't around when Ms. Long, now 43, lost her parents at age 16 and ended up in foster care.

"My experience was smooth in comparison to what I see because the foster parents who took care of me were social workers," she said.

She started volunteering with CASA Marin County in the 1980s and joined the local group a year ago. CASA of Santa Barbara County has been in operation for 11 years.

She might not have benefited directly when she was being cared for by others, but Ms. Long said she knows how it feels to be out in a new home.

"The food is different, the smells are different," she said. "And once you're 18, you're considered a legal adult and you're out on your own.

"When they have a CASA, it better prepares them for when they're put on their own."

The Wildlife Care Network
The Wildlife Care Network is a nonprofit, volunteer group that rescues and rehabilitates injured wild birds and small mammals in Santa Barbara County. Since incorporating in 1988, the group has helped over 3,000 native animals each year. Songbirds, seabirds, birds of prey, and mammals large and small are cared for throughout Santa Barbara county.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County)
The Mission of CASA - the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County is to assure a safe, permanent, nurturing home for every abused or neglected child by providing a highly trained volunteer to advocate for them in the court system.

The goal of CASA of Santa Barbara County is to prevent abused, neglected, and abandoned children from becoming lost in the Juvenile Dependency system and working to find them safe, permanent homes as soon as possible. They work carefully to match a CASA volunteer with a child to ensure that the child's best interest is served.

News-Press Holiday Fund
The News-Press Holiday Fund was established in 1949 by former News-Press owner Thomas Storke, who was shocked at the cost of a wheelchair after he broke his leg. Since then, the fund has brought in more than $2 million in donations.
All of the money raised goes to the charities. Throughout the drive, the News-Press periodically publishes the names of donors. Contributions may be mailed to: News-Press Holiday Fund, P.O. Box 1359, Santa Barbara 93102-1359.

You should know
SANTA BARBARA WILDLIFE CARE NETWORK
139 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta, CA
For information or to report injured wildlife in Santa Barbara County, call 966-9005.
Website: http://www.sbwcn.org/

COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASA)
South County Office: 402 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara, CA
805-879-1735
North County Office: 120 E. Jones St., Santa Maria, CA
805-739-9102
Website: http://www.sbcasa.org/


E-mail: ssteepleton@newspress.com


ęCopyright 2006 Santa Barbara News-Press