emPower Central Coast Celebrates Program Expansion




Ameriprise Financial Awards $10,000 Grant to Foodbank of Santa Barbara County




By Erin Bushey for Ameriprise Financial | Published on 07.17.2014 1:58 p.m.


Judy Pirkowitsch

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has been awarded a $10,000 grant by Ameriprise Financial to help feed hungry families in the Santa Barbara area.

Ameriprise selected the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County for the award in support of its mission to solve domestic hunger.

The donation is one of 21 grants Ameriprise recently made to hunger-relief agencies across the country totaling $680,000 — enough to provide more than 5 million meals or feed 1,191 families of four for an entire year.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County was recommended for the grant by Judy Pirkowitsch, an Ameriprise financial advisor in Santa Barbara.

“Hunger is a serious reality for people in communities across the country, many of whom never expected they’d need help feeding themselves or their families,” Pirkowitsch said. “Ameriprise is committed to supporting nonprofits like the Foodbank because they are dedicated to those struggling with hunger.”

The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through its award-winning programs and a network of more than 300 member nonprofit partners. In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food support from the Foodbank. Last year, the Foodbank distributed the food and resources to support 8.5 million meals — half of which was fresh produce.

“Support from organizations like Ameriprise Financial enables the Foodbank to provide resources and tools to end hunger and transform the health of Santa Barbara County,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “What people are learning and gaining through our health and nutrition programs will benefit them throughout their lives and be passed down for generations to come.”

— Erin Bushey represents Ameriprise Financial.

SCEEP Finds Santa Barbara Businesses Save Thousands of Dollars By Going Green

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By Kelly Kapaun for SCEEP | Published on 07.15.2014 5:44 p.m.


A new study from the South County Energy Efficiency Partnership (SCEEP) finds that 76 businesses in Santa Barbara County have collectively saved an estimated 1.15 mWh — or $154,153 in annual electricity expenses — by participating in a free, voluntary countywide Green Business Program.

The Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County offers incentives and assistance to encourage businesses to implement voluntary actions to protect, preserve, and improve the environment, and helps create an energy action plan toward energy sustainability. The program certifies businesses and showcases them so consumers can make informed decisions about what businesses to support.

Businesses such as lynda.com, MedBridge, and Dining Services at the University of California, Santa Barbara have completed measures beyond what current laws require in areas of energy conservation, water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, pollution prevention, and environmentally preferable purchasing.

For example, lynda.com estimates savings of $35,000 a year from energy efficiency upgrades identified during their certification process, including updating its outdoor water irrigation system, starting a commuting solutions program to help employees find carpool partners, and monitoring energy consumption through adjusting settings on computers, printers, thermostats and water heaters. The company also installed weather sensors that turn off sprinklers during rainfall, which decreased water use by 30 percent.

“At each step, we’ve received free guidance from experts in water and energy conservation, which was extremely helpful,” said Dana Jennings, facilities supervisor at lynda.com. “Participating in the program established the beginning of our sustainability plan, and we’ll continue growing and building on our success.”

“Our goal is to make the program a really positive experience for businesses by offering assistance so they can make the connection between doing what’s right for our local environment and what’s best for their business,” said Frances Gilliland, program director of the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County. “The program includes unique businesses of all different sizes that are already making improvements in sustainability, so we provide the framework to take it to the next level.”

The Green Business Program is supported in part by SCEEP — a partnership of Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta and Santa Barbara, and the County of Santa Barbara. The SCEEP collaborative identifies opportunities for homeowners and businesses to take advantage of rebates, energy efficiency incentives, and other utility programs to save energy and money.

For more information on SCEEP, visit www.SCEEP.org. For more information on the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County, visit www.greenbizsbc.org.

— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing SCEEP.


emPower Central Coast Celebrates Program Expansion with Kickoff Event

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emPower program partners gather for the CentralCoast expansion kickoff. (emPower CentralCoast photo)



Published on 07.16.2014 1:57 p.m.


The County of Santa Barbara recently held a press briefing to discuss enhancements to its emPower energy efficiency program.

The briefing addressed details on expansion to San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, enhanced program services for homeowners and future goals for emPower’s growth throughout the Tri-Counties.


emPower’s goal is to help homeowners and contractors overcome obstacles to implement home energy improvements. Additionally, the organization aims to support job growth in the local residential construction industry throughout the Tri-County region.


“We have a great deal to look forward to with the Tri-County expansion,” county Supervisor Janet Wolf said. “Not only do we have a more robust team to bring services to more residents, but we have worked hard to make program improvements that will make it easier and more affordable than ever to upgrade old equipment and save energy.”


The expansion of emPower Central Coast is possible through new external funding that aimed to deliver the program’s innovative program offerings to new neighboring communities to help meet statewide energy efficiency objectives. Now Ventura and San Luis Obispo County single family homeowners will be able to take advantage of low-cost unsecured loans offered by local credit unions, high dollar rebates, qualified local contractors, extensive community education, and free energy coach advising and home evaluations.


At the event, emPower announced new program improvements, including more attractive features to the emPower Home Upgrade Loan, increased utility incentives up to $6,500, and new upgrade options that make it easier than ever for customers to choose the right energy improvements for their needs.


“The families living in the homes with energy improvements are experiencing lower utility bills, and better comfort, durability, safety and property value,” countySupervisor Salud Carbajal said. “Every home upgrade project supported by emPower also brings valuable stimulus to our local economy by creating jobs for contractors and encouraging the expansion of green building businesses.”


Since its inception, emPower’s outreach efforts have led to 4,500 interested individuals to engage with the program resulting in nearly 100 completed projects, home energy activity in close to 400 homes, and vital boosts to the local economy through the participation of local contractors and credit unions. emPower envisions that the broader service area and new offerings will bring substantially higher rates of participation and success.


— Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing emPower Central Coast.

Empower Santa Barbara County expands to include all of the Central Coast





EmPower Central Coast energy coach Jason Scheurer conducts energy-efficiency tests on locals homes. The incentive-based program recently expanded from Santa Barbara County to include the rest of the Central Coast.


More people will have access to energy-efficient upgrades, thanks to an expansion of a program that began in Santa Barbara County.

EmPower Santa Barbara County has become emPower Central Coast, expanding its services to Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties as well as increasing the number of energy efficient services it provides.

“We’re really excited to be bringing the program to residents in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties and increasing energy efficiency education outreach,” said Angie Hacker, emPower Central Coast’s program manager.

The program, which began 2-1/2 years ago, has been fully funded externally with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Now state agencies have come aboard.

“Because we had an innovative program already up and running and increasing energy efficiency for so many residents, the state was willing to give us additional funding,” Hacker said.

The California Energy Commission, along with Southern California Gas, PG&E and SEC, will provide the additional funding.

Along with the expansion into the tri counties area, emPower’s additional grant funding allowed the program to increase its utility incentives from a maximum of $4,500 to $6,500 and increased its Home Upgrade Loans.

Hacker said there are roughly 5.8 million homes needing energy-efficient retrofits in the state.

The program provides free energy coaching to help homeowners reduce energy consumption and stimulates the economy by creating jobs through its innovative energy saving solutions that partner with local businesses, Hacker said.

She said emPower Central Coast’s expansion is necessary because affordability is a major obstacle for many homeowners that might want to make energy-efficient improvements. So far, emPower Central Coast has held 100 outreach events in Santa Barbara County.

One of the most popular aspects of the program is the energy coaching, which emPower Central Coast has provided to 250 residents. The program had one energy coach, but the popularity of the free service allowed the agency to bring on a second coach.

The coaching services allow residents to understand how excessive energy consumption costs them money and how upgrades and other energy efficient retrofits can save them money.

When Santa Maria resident Ralph Foster and his wife, Rosalie, bought their current 1,680-square-foot house in 2000 after retiring from the railroad industry, they began to notice trouble with their heating system. For years the couple had trouble with the heating system, but coming from Omaha, NE, it wasn’t a pressing issue for the Fosters.

“The heating system hasn’t been working well since 2000, but here on the coast you don’t need it as much, not like in Omaha,” he said.

A few weeks ago Foster discovered emPower Central Coast when he was searching for a heating contractor online. Out of curiosity he looked into the program. Foster said he had participated in a similar program to install solar panels a few years ago. The positive experience with that program prompted him to participate in emPower Central Coast.

“They go through the house and tell you where the heat is coming in, where it is leaving. Every different aspect you can look at it from, they look at it,” he said.

Foster received a furnace system, efficiency upgrades to the ducting support, and transitioned his lighting to LED lighting to limit some of the energy leaks.

“I learned a lot of things from the contractor. He was willing to explain a lot of things better than some contractors, so I felt good that there was a good explanation for everything,” he said.

That education is a big part of what drives emPower Central Coast to reach out to the community.

“The hope is to get people some education about what’s going on in their house so they can make better decisions on energy efficient improvements,” Hacker said.

Since the program launched, 400 people have made some sort of home energy improvement to their houses, and 100 reported complete upgrades through the program.

For more information about the emPower program, visit empowersbc.org.


Contact freelance writer Shelly Cone through the managing editor at [email protected].


Free lunch programs available in Lompoc this summer

July 15, 2014  |  News  | 




Angelina Betone, 6, enjoys her lunch at the Boys & Girls Club of Lompoc Valley.

Gianna Cruet [email protected]

As part of its effort to reach out to children in Lompoc, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is currently offering free, healthy lunches around town this summer.

The Foodbank took over the Summer Food Service Program — called Picnic in the Park — this year when the Lompoc Unified School District was unable to continue it in 2014 due to remodeling efforts, said community programs manager Kyli Gallington. The program is an extension of a national school lunch program put on by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Foodbank started its temporary program in June and will only be filling in for this summer, Gallington said. The program lasts Monday through Friday and will end Aug. 8. The four sites offering free lunches include Anderson Recreation Center, the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Lompoc Family YMCA at La Honda Elementary and Coast Valley Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

One reason the Picnic in the Park program is so important is because Lompoc has the highest percentage of children experiencing food insecurity in the county, Gallington said.

“Food insecurity is looking at, ‘are you able to have enough food to cover a family?’” she said. “Has anyone had to skip a meal because there wasn’t enough food to feed the entire household? It’s higher in Lompoc than anywhere else in the county. That tells us that, as a foodbank, we really need to target Lompoc for all of our children’s programs.”

The lunches are open to the public, and children up to the age of 18 may attend the Picnic in the Park lunches without registration, Gallington said. Several of the sites have seen consistently high numbers in attendance, she said.

“When this opportunity came up, we were more than happy to step in,” she said. “In the absence of (the LUSD), it’s been great to be able to fill that need.”

Another important aspect of the Picnic in the Park program is ensuring that children are provided healthy food, Gallington said.

“We want to make sure good and healthy food is available,” she said. “We want to make sure there’s a good source of food for all the children in Lompoc. We’re happy to be in Lompoc this summer, and we think kids are enjoying the program.”

Through the Orfalea Foundation, the program will also begin offering free food literacy classes for kids this Friday, Gallington said. The Picnic in the Park sessions generally offer both food and site activities, so the class will accompany the program, she said.

Recreation Manager JoAnne Plummer said many children do not have the opportunity to eat nutritious meals when they are out of school, which was one of the reasons the school district started the program.

“A lot (of them) aren’t getting proper nutrition,” Plummer said. “Whether or not they’re having a healthy lunch, or lunch at all, this fills that gap for both.”

For more information about the Picnic in the Park program, call the Anderson Recreation Center at 875-8100 or contact the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County at foodbanksbc.org.

Copyright 2014 Lompoc Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


CenCal Health Offers Tips to Stay Healthy this Summer

July 15, 2014  |  News  | 




Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, July 14, 2014 — The summer is full of fun activities, travel and water sports. However, some of these activities can be dangerous if you do not take the right precautions. The sun can wear us down, cause heatstroke, sunburns and other health related issues. In addition, road trips, BBQs and picnics can often lead to unhealthy food choices. CenCal Health has collected a list of healthy tips that will make the summer healthier:

Protect your family from the sun: Wear wide-brimmed hats, always apply water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and reapply every two hours.

Keep cool: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loosely-fitting clothing. If outdoors, try to stay in the shade between noon and 3 p.m., the hottest times of the day.

How to treat sunburn: If you do get sunburn, taking cool baths or showers can help relieve the pain. After getting out of the tub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, but leave some water on your skin. Next, apply a moisturizer containing aloe vera or soy to help trap the moisture in your skin. Try to avoid the sun while your skin is healing.

Pack healthy snacks for road trips: Finding healthier snacks at road stops can be difficult. Pack apples, grapes, raisins, whole grain fiber-rich crackers or another favorite low fat, low sodium healthy snack to take with you.

Drink plenty of water: During the hot summer months, heat and sweat can leave your body dehydrated. It is incredibly important to keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least eight to nine glasses of water a day. If you get tired of water, add some low-calorie flavoring to water such as a piece of fruit, or opt for healthy alternatives like green tea or coconut water. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as these tend to dehydrate you.

Stay active: Summer is a great time for being active. Even if you live where it gets hot or humid, there are ways you can stay in shape year-round. Be careful when you exercise in temperatures of 80 Fahrenheit to 85 Fahrenheit. Find shade, take regular breaks, and drink plenty of fluids. When the heat gets unbearable, try indoor activities at your local YMCA or rec center like basketball, swimming, yoga or racquetball.

Organize active outings with friends and family: Sometimes the heat makes us want to stay indoors, which may lead to inactivity. Pick one outdoor activity — going on a hike, taking a nature walk, playing games such as tag with your kids, cycling, roller blading, or swimming — to shed that cooped-up feeling of gym workouts.

Keep picnic’s healthy: To prevent food borne bacteria from paying a visit to your picnic, keep eats as cold as possible during transport—40 degrees or colder. Transport picnic foods in the passenger seat; your trunk can reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours, and if you have doubts, throw it out.

Healthy BBQ: Try barbecuing lean meats. Fish, especially oily fish like tuna and salmon have great nutritional benefits including omega-3 fatty acids. Rub a fillet with lemon juice and parsley or rosemary for enhanced flavor. Try grilled corn on the cob. Leave the husks on, and grill for about 30 minutes over medium flame, rotating occasionally. Remove from grill, let cool for about 5 minutes, remove husks and enjoy.

Marinating your meat: A common mistake is soaking raw meat, shellfish, fish, or poultry in marinade before grilling and then returning the cooked food to the same dish or using the soaking marinade for basting. Dispose of all soaking marinades after using and put the cooked meat on a clean plate.

**Healthy tips courtesy of hellomagazine, the American Heart Association, health.com and webmd.com

About CenCal Health
CenCal Health is the largest local insurer in the region, providing health coverage for approximately 20 percent of residents in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. CenCal Health coverage is accepted by the vast majority of local health providers. CenCal Health also provides education and assistance to its members in order to reduce potential health problems, including diabetes and asthma, amongst others. For more information, visit www.cencalhealth.org. Find CenCal Health on Facebook.

Rona Barrett Foundation kicks off fundraising campaign

July 15, 2014  |  News  |  ,



The Rona Barrett Foundation is launching a three-year, $3.5 million fundraising campaign to complete the construction of the Golden Inn and Village, a senior housing project that will provide affordable care to Santa Ynez Valley’s most vulnerable seniors.

The facility is located at the corner of Refugio Road and Highway 246.

Phase 1 of the Golden Inn and Village includes the construction of 60 affordable independent living units for low-income seniors, an adult community center and 27 affordable units for facility employees and community workers who serve residents and qualify for housing assistance.

The cost of Phase 1, is $33.5 million, $30 million of which will be financed through income streams generated by the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County.

“With the critical need for affordable housing for economically disadvantaged seniors rapidly growing in our region, we are committed to raising the $3.5 million necessary to complete the GIV,” said Rona Barrett.

In June, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning changes and lot splits on the facility’s site. The approval allows the HASCB to apply for federal and state tax credits to complete construction.

Phase 2 of the project, which will include the staffing of the 60-unit Assited Living and Memory Care Unit, is planned for a later date.

The Rona Barrett Foundation is a non-profit organization seeking to provide affordable housing and supportive services for seniors in need.

Copyright 2014 Santa Ynez Valley News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Home energy program goes regional

July 10, 2014  |  News  | 





Bank of America Funding Leads to High College Success Rates at Santa Barbara City College through the Gateway to Student Success Program

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SBCC Foundation receives $7,500 grant from Bank of America to support Gateway for Student Success Program

Santa Barbara, CA, July 1, 2014 – The SBCC Foundation just received a $7,500 grant from Bank of America for the Gateway for Student Success Program. Because of generous donors like Bank of America, the Gateway Program at SBCC is able to provide proactive academic and counseling support for challenged and ‘at-risk’ students, particularly in the English and Basic Math Skills classes where attrition rates are most problematic.

Through Gateway, tutors are assigned to one class section and work with the instructor and students during class, as well as outside of class during tutoring sessions in the Cartwright Learning Resources Center and the Gateway Center on campus. The relationships between instructors, tutors, and students allow for ongoing support and follow-up with each student.
Annually, the program works with over 10,000 students who consistently have success rates (course completion with a C grade or better) of 79-84% compared to the college-wide rate of 67-70%.

The grant from Bank of America will help the Gateway for Student Success Program continue providing critical services to high-risk SBCC students, equipping them with the tools and support they need to succeed in College,” says SBCC Foundation Director of Development, Gretchen Hewlett.

“We know that when young adults succeed, they lay the foundation for sustainable financial stability as well as helping their communities thrive,” said David Prichard, Santa Barbara market president, Bank of America. “That is why Bank of America has made workforce development a top priority for the types of local nonprofits we support. SBCC’s Gateway for Student Success program continues to provide a tremendously effective combination of resources and personal attention to young adults starting their college education so they gain the right kind of experience necessary to thrive in today’s competitive workforce down the road.”

Bank of America’s consistent support for the Gateway Program has helped thousands of students to graduate from college who would not have been able to do so otherwise. Bank of America is creating critical change in each student’s life – but the overall impact on this community is immeasurable. Education is an investment that contributes to the direct economic success of individuals, benefits the economy, and attracts and supports business.

One unique element of the Gateway Program is the triangulated learning process. Instructors identify students they feel may fall short of course completion and work with the tutors to ensure student success. The instructor guides the tutor, the tutor assists the student and the tutor reports back to the instructor, so that there is ongoing support and follow-up with each student.
With guided support and assistance, students are able to keep up with their courses, graduate from college and move into successful careers. Through Gateway, 82% of students are successful in their Gateway classes – a success rate well above the average college population.

About the SBCC Foundation
The mission of the SBCC Foundation is to support SBCC students and programs through sustained philanthropy. For more information, call (805) 730-4401 or visitwww.sbccfoundation.org.


Candice Nyholt/Chris Davis, (805) 687-3322