Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade


Volunteers helping to dig out bad soil/Photo by Amanda Chin

During my time interning with Dateline NBC, I had the opportunity to visit Montecito, a community in Santa Barbara. A few months prior to my visit, a devastating mudslide had killed 21 people in that area. Thousands of homes and businesses were affected by this debris flow, which made it California’s most deadly flooding event in several years.

When I traveled to Montecito, I spent the day filming and talking to members of a nonprofit organization called Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade. Abe Powell, the founder of Bucket Brigade, hoped to gather a group to help residents of Montecito get their homes back. In just a short while, his small team grew into over 3,000 volunteers. Together, they worked over a span of a few months to dig out almost 80 homes that were full of mud.

A home that was completely destroyed due to the debris flow/Photo by Amanda Chin

Not only did I have the opportunity to speak with Abe and see how hard the volunteers were working, I also dug a bit myself. The day that I visited, the the volunteers were focusing on digging out a woman’s house that was completely filled with mud.

Volunteers digging out mud from woman’s house/Photo by Amanda Chin

When I spoke to the volunteers, they seemed grateful that this organization was getting so much coverage, especially since all of these community members were taking time out of their weekend to come and help. Not only did they express how much they wanted to help the community, but they felt they had a duty to do so. It was one of those things where you needed to be there to actually understand the magnitude of the tragedy that this town went through.

Because singer-songwriter Jack Johnson was also there that day helping out, I was able to tag along on a tour with him where community leaders showed us the destruction around town. You could see the tall trees and notice how high the mud was because there was still a mud line on the tree stumps. Community leaders would tell me stories of families that they knew who had lost someone from the debris flow.

Jack Johnson and his wife helping to dig out mud from the woman’s home/Photo by Amanda Chin

The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade volunteers still very active on their social media accounts, specifically Facebook. To this day, they are still continuing to help clean up the community. They were also just named District 19’s Nonprofit of the Year, which was presented by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade volunteers posing in front of a thank you sign/Photo by Amanda Chin

Do you know of any nonprofits in your area that have helped your community in times of great need?

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