Since the beginning of the year, Community Bridges has been busy helping Santa Cruz County and North Monterey County residents who have been devastated financially, emotionally and mentally by the recent unprecedented spate of storms and floods.
We walked door-to-door in the immediate aftermath of the January floods in Watsonville’s older adult communities; worked one-on-one with hundreds of storm-impacted residents to help them weave through the stringent applications for federal assistance; purchased thousands of dollars worth of hygiene products, blankets and water for Pajaro evacuees hours after they fled home to the safety of the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds; organized key advocacy efforts through news media interviews and individual outreach to urge our political representatives to bring FEMA aid to the Pajaro Valley; and, yes, provided direct financial assistance to Pajaro Valley residents who were impacted by the recent storms and are in dire need of aid.
Community Bridges has had a strong presence on the front lines and worked tirelessly in the background to ensure that everyone in Santa Cruz County and North Monterey County impacted by the storms in January and March has a realistic opportunity at an equitable recovery.
Community Bridges and its partners have distributed roughly $550,000 in direct assistance to south Santa Cruz County and North Monterey County residents in the 95076 zip code that were impacted by the spring storms alone. Although we have not distributed financial assistance as quickly as we’d like because of the enormity of the need, this number will undoubtedly climb in the coming weeks and months as staff at our Family Resource Collective and our community partners—Community Action Board, Inc., Monarch Services, Catholic Charities, and Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance—continue to work their way down a list of more than 1,600 participants who completed our Damage Assessment Form in search of assistance. We are also beginning to separate cases in Pajaro and Watsonville to ensure we can transparently share direct client assistance in each community.
At the same time, Community Bridges has been determined to ensure that 100% of the funds donated to our Pajaro Storm Relief fund will be used as hundreds of donors envisioned: direct financial relief for Pajaro residents. We have partnered with Community Foundations of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties and other local foundations to make that vision a reality, and they have committed to funding our emergency response services that sprang into action in the immediate aftermath of the floods, and a portion of our long-term case management work that will be critical to helping storm-impacted families navigate the rebuilding process in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Many people in Pajaro are currently feeling anger, frustration and sorrow, and they are right to feel this way. Know that Community Bridges is committed to helping as many people as possible during this humanitarian crisis. We are working as quickly as possible to follow through on this commitment and will always live by our community value of transparency.
Ray Cancino is CEO of Community Bridges. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.