Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Thomas Tighe

Thomas Tighe (courtesy of Direct  Relief International)

Thomas Tighe (courtesy of Direct Relief International)

Since Thomas Tighe arrived in Santa Barbara to head up Direct Relief International eight years ago, the nonprofit humanitarian medical organization has made cash grants of more than $30 million and furnished over $850 million of essential medicines, equipment, and supplies to support health services for low-income people in 88 developing countries and all 50 United States. Clearly, this is a guy who gets things done.

LD: How has Direct Relief changed since you first came to town?

TT: I hope it’s better. Really what I was hired to do was to take it to the proverbial next level–but don’t mess up what’s good about it. …With Direct Relief we’ve tried to stay true to our roots and be what we always were, but bring it forward and apply some new tools and some new energy to, sadly, the same issue. There’s still poverty that is chronic and deep and oppressive. …. The expansion to helping out much more extensively in the United States was something that was really modeled on what had been. We had always tried to fill the gaps here in Santa Barbara, but not get in the way of government or get in the way of business. It’s the same thing. Those gaps are all over the place, including our own country, so it’s been helpful to be able to do more without really fundamentally changing your sense of what the organization is all about.

LD: You’ve certainly been successful.

TT: I’m really sensitive to the fact that Direct Relief is 60 years old. I’m just the most recent person in my particular job but the organization is something that others have built and many have contributed enormously to. It’s always a little unseemly for me to receive disproportionate thanks for work that thousands of people have done. To give people on the board their due, there are 60 board meetings a year here. It’s an enormous commitment of time. Stan Hatch, our chairman, I’m sure he’s putting in over a thousand hours of his time. … The quality of the commitment is just huge and has been for a long time.

LD: Does the idea of global citizenship seem like it’s more in people’s consciousness now than it was eight years ago?

TT: I think so. There’s a general consciousness of world events that is probably actually worse in some regards, because you only hear about foreign countries when something really bad happens. The attention-grabbing events tend to be bad and it tends to actually foster fear about what is going on out there. But I think underneath that there is a recognition that the world is getting smaller. We’re getting so stitched together through forces of globalization in an economic sense that there are winners and losers and I think an appreciation for the underlying human common element has emerged today.

LD: Direct Relief is this incredibly successful, wide-reaching global organization, yet it is located in a warehouse in Goleta. Does it feel like this organization could be anywhere other than where it is?

TT: I don’t think if you were going to start it today you would start it here, because it is not in the hub of global health or pharmaceutical stuff. But I think one of the many good things about being here is it is an intersection of all sorts of interesting people who either live here now or live here part-time who have an incredible depth of experience and insight into things in the world. There is no company in the United States that wouldn’t want to have our board of directors. These folks have really achieved remarkable success in their professional lives in all sorts of different walks of life. So Santa Barbara is the common element. Having that type of talent in such a small place is extraordinary and we’ve really benefited from the location.

And it’s a great place to have meetings because people will come to them. (Laughs)

LD: Did you always want to do humanitarian work?

TT: I really wanted to be major league baseball player, but I was not even close to being good enough to being a major college player. It was not a well-planned career path that I pursued, but it was much more a series of composite events that have led me to be doing what I’m doing now. First and foremost was probably just joining the Peace Corps after law school, which was a really bad career move. I finished law school and I passed the bar and then went to Thailand for a few years. … Then going back to Washington I was lucky enough to go from being a Peace Corps volunteer to a lawyer on a senate committee that dealt with the Peace Corps’ oversight. … I was lucky to have a series of jobs I really liked, found interesting and led to something else that I really like and found interesting and they’ve led me here– which I love and find really interesting.

… My best advice I give people is to write for their college daily newspaper. It’s the best training. … Really almost any job, any policy job, you need to communicate well in writing. There’s a discipline and a skilled kind of thought process that you have to go through before you can put the words down. You actually have to get it before you can write it.

LD: That’s funny because a few of my interns over the years have joined the Peace Corps.

TT: It’s great training … just think how many times (as a writer) you’re assigned to something and you have no idea about it, but you knew how to find out, and then you had to convey to people who were like you the day before and hadn’t heard about it and you had to get it right and you had to make it accessible without dumbing it down so much that it became devoid of meaning and that’s really a critical skill.

LD: I guess no matter what business you’re in; you’ve got to tell your story.

TT: You’ve got to make it accessible and without making it overly emotional or maudlin or anything. You’ve got to really do justice to the people we’re trying to help out because they’re great people, they’re not objects that should be pitied, they are just people who found themselves in a lousy situation. And the staff does it really well.

LD: Are you on the road very much?

TT: Maybe about 20 percent of the time … It’s a mixture of international travel, which is increasingly not as important because of the other folks in our organization are totally capable of representing the organization at any level of sophistication. … A lot of it is just talking to folks in companies or different organizations that might be interested in working with us or helping us out or figuring out a way that we can work together.

LD: Is it primarily people in the healthcare field or are there others that could potentially help out?

TT: It’s both. The healthcare companies have been great to Direct Relief for decades. Some of the companies that have really engaged with us in the past few years in an expansive way have been Google and Fed Ex. … I think we were one of the first nonprofit organizations that Google gave basically free advertising to on the Internet. So it’s allowed millions of people to find us that wouldn’t have found us because Google gave us an ad words campaign, and people find most of their information online.

Then Fed Ex has allowed us to get this incredible expansion to help out nonprofit clinics around the country, like we’d always tried to do with the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinic, fill gaps that arise in their program with resources that we could get donated. … So we’ve been able to expand that program now to all 50 states, it’s an over $100 million program run by Damon Taugher here on our staff. Fed Ex has delivered every shipment that we’ve sent domestically, free of charge, for the past three years. That’s been a few thousand individual shipments containing over four million full courses of prescription medicines for patients. Our costs of running that program are really low because Fed Ex has given us this incredible transportation subsidy.

So if we can find companies who are doing part of what we are trying to do and we can talk to them about doing it as an in-kind contribution, it sure keeps the need to raise money down. You know, we always need money to do something else with, but we don’t always need money to raise money to buy a good or a service.

LD: What you like to do when you’re not working?

TT: We have four kids, so spending time with my wife and four kids doing beach stuff or usually outdoor stuff. We like to spend time together and that’s such a treat in life to be able to spend time and particularly around here, there’s so much to do.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

TT: Hopeful, graying rapidly and enthused.

Vital Stats: Thomas Tighe
Born: August 21 in Waukesha, Wisconsin

Family: Wife Carrie, and children Travis (14), Andrew (12), Griffin (10) and Megan (7).

Civic Involvement: Montecito Union School, Santa Barbara Middle School, Visiting Faculty Member at UCSB’s Masters Degree program in Global and International Studies.

Professional Accomplishments: Peace Corps Volunteer; Lawyer in the U.S. Senate, worked with Foreign Relations and Veterans Affairs Committees; Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff for the Peace Corps; President and Chief Executive Officer of Direct Relief International

Little-Known Fact: “I was a novice Buddhist Monk when I was in the Peace Corps for a very short time, for about a week.”

Originally published on Noozhawk on April 28, 2008.

Ladies, Let Your Inner Diva Shine for an Evening

The dazzling divas of Momentum 4 Life will be back kicking up their heels for a good cause at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort on Friday, May 16th. This year’s women only festivities will benefit Alpha Resource Center‘s Family First Program, a parent-directed program which assists parents of children with special needs to gain knowledge and skills to enable their children to be all they can be through parent support, information, referral, and educational workshops.

Momentum 4 Life Founder Dawn Schroeder said the training group voted to support the Family First Program after hearing firsthand stories from ten different members who have children with special needs that received services from the Family First Program. “The vote was overwhelming in favor of supporting the needs and wishes of our group and Family First it was. It is so nice to be able to help each other out,” she says.

Founded by Schroeder in Santa Barbara, Momentum 4 Life provides a structure for individuals to form training teams to challenge themselves, train for an athletic event and give back to the community. Teams may consist of groups of women, men, co-ed or children and may train for triathlons, biathlons, 5K, 10K, half or full marathons.

As with the two previous “Divas” events (which supported the Breast Resource Center the first year and the Cancer Center last year), this year’s festivities will be a fun opportunity for a ladies night out.

In addition to the philanthropic motivation, Schroeder says, “The Diva event was formed as a way for women only to get out for an evening of fun and celebrate being a woman with glamorous hair, make up, skin care, beautiful nails, a limo ride, a red carpet walk, and singing like a diva in the karaoke contest. If this does not sound like the perfect fit for you, then relax and enjoy some appetizers, wine tasting, a massage, chocolate goodies, and have your palm or tarot cards read–there is something for every woman.”

If you’re stuck on what to give for Mother’s Day–which is May 11th, the weekend before the event–tickets are still available for $75 before May 1 and $100 after that date. In addition, Tiffany & Co., who is sponsoring the event along with Mentor Corporation and Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, will have a special promotion: a $25 purchase of a key to Tiffany’s vault could yield exclusive “bling” items worth between $500 and $700.

” This event will help so many in many different ways,” says Schroeder. “First and most importantly it will benefit Family First and their excellent efforts and resources. And it will help every woman who attends to feel special, important and valued–especially the week after Mother’s Day–we want to honor the mothers of special needs children and extend the Mother’s Day weekend a little longer to all mothers who deserve more than just the one day a year. It is a feel good opportunity for everyone.”

For more information or to buy tickets online visit www.SBDivas.com.

Originally published in Noozhawk on April 25, 2008.

Rumbling about Taxes

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

It wasn’t a coincidence that there was an earthquake Monday night just a few minutes after we e-filed our tax returns. There’s always a bit of rumbling when I do my taxes–or more accurately, when my husband does my taxes for me.

Not everyone understands the intricacies of my professional life as a columnist and all of the legitimate expense write-offs that I am entitled to. Luckily my husband and I are on the same page here: we believe that as loyal U.S. citizens we have the obligation to prepare our tax returns with the same level of consistency and creativity that Congress shows in spending our money.

I think we’ve finally got it down to a science.

The first step, year after year, is for my husband to buy a tax-deductible copy of TurboTax at Costco, bring it home, spend seven hours trying to put it on the computer, and then declare that, “our electronics are all obsolete and there’s absolutely no way we can do our taxes without buying a new computer.” Thank God it’s a business expense.

Once the technical support side is taken care of, which usually takes a few weeks for Zak to kick the tires of different operating systems, laptops versus desktops, etc., the next step for my husband is grumbling about my accounting system. I honestly don’t understand what his problem is. Whenever my purse feels extra heavy, I empty out all of the receipts into a snazzy little gift bag labeled “receipts.” There is no reason to uncrumple them or sort through them at this point, since it’s much more fun to do it every year in April. Or so he tells me.

For example, last year, during our fun-filled, nine-hour receipt sorting session, my husband invented seven extremely colorful phrases, which later showed up in my columns, thus making the case of Firestone he consumed during his “recovery period” 100% deductible this year.

And by the way, that snazzy little gift bag filing system was purchased from the PTA at my son’s school: another tax deduction!

Once the receipts are sorted, it’s time to fill in the blanks. This year we’re claiming four dependents: Koss, our only child; Beta, our fish; Josie, our dog, who we had for a total of five days; and Leslie, my inner child, since she plays such a key role in my work.

I don’t know why I have to keep repeating myself every year. Of course, every latte, lunch, massage and mani-pedi should be considered a business expense, since all of those things are regular fodder for my column. Come to think of it, we’d better take a larger deduction for my most critical writing supplies–wine and chocolate.

Finally, 677 Trader Joe’s receipts later, my husband sends off the file to the IRS. It feels like everything we have is taxed, including our patience. Thankfully, most of it is deductible.

Sure, we could be audited. That kind of aftershock has happened before. But I would like to point out to all of those extremely good-looking, smart, funny and sensitive IRS agents, that I know a stripper who wrote off the cost of enlarging her ta-tas and a bodybuilder who got a tax write-off for waxing his back, so writing off the cost of the plasma TV I had to buy to get my husband to do my taxes again this year doesn’t seem so earth-shattering after all, does it?

Send your tax tips to Leslie at at email. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 18, 2008.

New Book Guides Parents In Understanding Autism

Autism Booklets There is no one-size-fits-all treatment or approach to the developmental disability, but help is available.

In honor of April’s celebration of Autism Awareness Month, the Santa Barbara chapter of the Autism Society of America (ASASB) (www.asasb.org) has released a new guidebook for parents. Spearheaded by board president Marcia Eichelberger and vice president Sandy Shove, “Autism and Your Child: A Guidebook for Parents,” offers a concise package of valuable information for parents of children who have just been diagnosed with Autism.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

According to data from the ASASB, ten Years ago, one in 10,000 individuals had Autism. Two years ago, one in 500 individuals had Autism and last year one in 250 Individuals had Autism. Today it is believed that 1 in 150 individuals have Autism. The overall incidence of Autism is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, life, and educational levels do not affect the chance of Autism’s occurrence.

Despite the growing prevalence of Autism, there are a wide variety of strategies and treatments being used with varying degrees of success. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment or approach, which makes it especially difficult for parents to access the information they need to help their children.

“I often tell people, ‘if you know one person with Autism, that means you know one person with Autism,'” says Shove, explaining that therapies and treatments that work for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

Part of the motivation for putting together the guidebook was their own extremely frustrating firsthand experience wading their way through the maze of information.

“When Sandy and I, when our children were diagnosed–mine was diagnosed about 12 years ago and Sandy’s was diagnosed about 8 years ago–there was nothing available for the doctor to even hand to us. There was no website, there was no support group, there was nothing,” says Eichelberger.

The guidebook is the result of many years of work “compiling resources, securing grant funding, participating in county-wide and tri-county inter-agency meetings, and inviting input from parents and professionals alike,” Eichelberger says. “We are particularly proud that it is available in both English and Spanish, and is available in both hard copy and on our website.”

In addition to publishing the guidebook–which includes sections explaining what Autism is, the diagnostic criteria, what to do if you think your child has Autism, where to go to get more help, and a particularly moving section called “Voices of Experience,” with parents sharing their personal stories–ASASB recently started its first auxiliary chapter in north county.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, ASASB is co-sponsoring the Cambridge Center Conference on Autism: Evidence Based Practices on Friday, April 25th at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton. “We’ve had an amazing response to the conference,” says Shove.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for local parents and professionals to hear first-hand from international experts in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis,” says Eichelberger. The conference covers a wide range of topics designed to help parents, teachers and caregivers of people with Autism.

Keynote speakers include: Andrew Bondy, Ph.D., BCBA, on “Teaching the Language of Emotions to Children with Autism;” Gina Green, Ph.D., BCBA, on “Evidence-Based Practice: What is it and Why is Everybody Talking About it;” Rob Holdsambeck, Ph.D., BCBA, and Hank Pennypacker, Ph.D., on “Adding Precision to Measurement and Reality to Predictions in Treatments of Persons with Autism;” Jane Howard, Ph.D., BCBA, on “Improving the Social and Communication Skills of Children with Autism Using the Science of Behavior Analysis;” and Janet Twyman, Ph.D., BCBA, on “Early Literacy Instruction for Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” (www.behavior.org)


Additional Information About Autism

If you think your child might be Autistic:

∑ First check out the list of typical childhood development milestones. (http://www.asasb.org/Milestones.cfm) If it turns out that your child does have developmental delays, early intervention services are your greatest gift to your child, because most major research on learning concludes that intervention before age five has the greatest chance of reducing/eliminating developmental delays–including Autism.

What are some of the common concerns that parents have for kids that eventually get diagnosed with some form of Autism?

∑ The most common concerns expressed by parents to pediatricians prior to the diagnosis of autism are:

1. Lack of speech and/or had words and lost them.

2. Child seems deaf.

3. Child does not make eye contact with parent/caregiver.

4. Child has unusual, odd behaviors including severe tantrums, self-injurious behavior, is difficult to control, engages in self-stimulatory behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.).

5. Child ignores or does not play with other children.

There are great differences among people with autism.

∑ Some individuals may exhibit only mild language delays, while others may have no functional speech. Regardless of language skills, social interactions are typically a challenge for most individuals with autism. They may have average or above average verbal, memory, or spatial skills, yet find it difficult to be imaginative or join in a game of softball with their friends. Others more severely affected may need greater assistance in handling day-to-day activities like crossing the street or making a purchase.

∑ Contrary to common belief, many children and adults with autism will make eye contact, show affection, smile, laugh, and express a variety of other emotions, though perhaps in varying degrees. Like others, they respond to their environment in positive and negative ways. The autism may affect their range of responses and make it more difficult to control how their bodies and minds react.

∑ People with autism live normal lives and some of the behaviors associated with autism may change or disappear over time.

“The parent to parent connection is really critical,” says Shove.

∑ One of the most important services offered by ASASB are support groups.

∑ There is no pressure to share any more of your personal story than you want to with anyone.

∑ Our speakers come to share information. Follow-up questions and answer time is available and time to chat with others, but you can leave at your convenience.

∑ There is also an online listserve for parents of children with autism SBATA@yahoogroups.com. To join send an email to info@asasb.org.

–Source: Autism Society of America, Santa Barbara

Originally published in Noozhawk on April 17, 2008.

Legacies: Hospice of Santa Barbara

“A PLACE WHERE COMPASSIONATE CARE is freely given”—that’s how retiring executive director Gail Rink describes Hospice of Santa Barbara, which officially opened its doors in 1974, making it the second-oldest hospice program in the United States.

Now tucked away on a serene Riviera hilltop, the nonprofit organization offers a wide array of supportive services—all 100 percent free of charge—for people diagnosed with terminal illness or facing the loss of a loved one.

Offerings include individual, couples, family and group counseling and support groups tailored to address specific circumstances such as organ transplant, suicide or the loss of a pet. Educational programs and complimentary health and wellness therapies are also included.

The 6,500-square-foot building—designed pro bono by local architect Barry Berkus as a testament to his late wife Gail and the comfort Hospice of Santa Barbara provided when she was dying—looks and feels more like a high-end health spa than a place designed to deal with death and grief.

In many ways, it is.

“This is part office, part spa, part chapel,” says Rink. Stressing humanistic rather than medical treatment, Hospice of Santa Barbara emphasizes the emotional, social and spiritual care needs of the terminally ill and their families. Stephen Jacobsen, former senior pastor of Goleta Presbyterian Church, took over the stewardship from Rink this fall, although she will stay on as a consultant until the end of the year.

“In my 30 years of work here, there has been a continuous stream of people saying how much Hospice meant to them,” says Jacobsen, who has served as a board member of Hospice of Santa Barbara, as well as Interfaith Initiative, Isla Vista Youth Project and La Casa de Maria Retreat Center. “For me, in this part of my professional life, it’s like a golden opportunity to take everything I’ve learned and learn a lot more.”

There’s a nice synergy in the relationship between Goleta Presbyterian Church and Hospice of Santa Barbara.

“When Hospice of Santa Barbara was founded in 1974, Goleta Presbyterian Church gave us the seed money to start it, and the pastor at that time, Don Hawthorne, became the board president,” says Rink.

From 1990 to 2001, Hospice of Santa Barbara partnered with Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care, which can sometimes be confusing. Explains Rink, “Hospice of Santa Barbara is a volunteer hospice that provides emotional, social and spiritual support for the terminally ill and the bereaved. The emphasis of a medical model hospice (such as Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care) is the nursing piece. They are covered through insurance and insurance defines their mission, whereas all of our services are free, and we receive no insurance reimbursement.”

“Yes, it is thanks to the generosity of people who support us that we have no billing department,” says Jacobsen.

“Historically that has really been important in this organization. Our board has always been committed to providing free services,” Rink adds.

Looking to the future, board president Roger Heroux says, “The vision is to grow because there is a lot of work to be done. Not only do we want to grow and expand the clinical aspects of this organization, we want to penetrate the Hispanic community in a big way…. (Also) we’ve got to make sure that our infrastructure is solid…to make sure that we’ve got the capability internally to deal with the growth. And finally we want to collaborate with a couple of like-minded organizations that will serve as a good referral source to us, but who also share our commitment to this process.”

“I think that it will be a different kind of leadership,” says Rink. “I’m a fundamental program person and have been in the business a long time (27 years as a hospice social worker/counselor) and Steve has been affiliated with the business for a long time. I built the fundamentals, he’ll build the future.”

To find out more about Hospice of Santa Barbara, call (805) 563-8820 or visit www.hospiceofsantabarbara.org.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in the Winter 2008/09 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine. To read the story as it appeared, click here and here.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

“Curve Road And Blue Sky” by seaskylab, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Curve Road And Blue Sky” by seaskylab, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my heart of hearts I know that if vacations lasted forever they wouldn’t be vacations. But that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Even though I typed my way through four states in the past couple of weeks–so I wasn’t 100% “on vacation”–there’s something about getting away from home for a while that makes me thrilled to just keep on living. Vacations are so refreshing. Kind of like spending a night curled up with a box of chocolates, a Matthew McConaughey DVD and a glass of merlot.

Then there’s getting home to reality.

Reality is a huge stack of junk mail, which I feel obligated to read.

Reality is wondering why we packed enough luggage to clothe a third-world nation, thus leaving me with a ginormous pile of laundry, which I feel obligated to wash.

Reality is a refrigerator full of moldy food, which I should have thrown out a week ago.

The air in the house is stale, and the counters littered with vacation pocket detritus. Why did I scrawl the words “traveler’s knee” on this scrap of paper? Could I not hear those stupid rocks screaming “Tourist trap, hide your wallet!” the first time I looked at them? Did I really need to keep a half-eaten lint-covered Starlight Mint in my jeans for the past 2,000 miles?

Coming home is hard.

But crawling into my own bed feels as natural as hibernating into a favorite cave for the winter. Unlike the random sleeping quarters of the past week, the mattress remembers my form and rewards me with a cozy hug.

I slept that night like I’ve never slept before, for an amazing ten straight hours.

Coming home is great.

Koss greets me in the morning with a big smile and a huge hug. Amazingly, our family survived eight days of constant contact without a single blow-up. A few snippy moments, but that’s pretty normal. Arriving home relatively unscathed by my relatives is something to celebrate.

Though I am a little irked when, after spending thousands of dollars on a vacation and driving thousands of miles on the road, he says his favorite part of the Grand Canyon was using the hotel key cards.

My jeans feel a bit tight from my adult road trip diet. Sure, I’ve outgrown the corn nuts, Slurpees and jerky-like substances of my teen years, but I still had too many French Fries, lattes, and glasses of wine.

Coming home is awful.

A billion emails await me the next morning at work.

Problems I hoped would go away have merely expanded to fit the number of days that have gone by. I shouldn’t have told anyone I’d be home till the weekend. Maybe if I don’t answer the phone…but I’ve got a zillion phone messages, mostly from Blockbuster.

And I’ve got a kajillion things to do, including servicing the car, which ran wonderfully until the last seven miles of our 2,000-mile trip.

It turns out to be an expensive last seven miles. My spirits are replenished by the trip, but my bank account is empty. Still, it was a great trip. Traveling with Zak and Koss is always an adventure into the great unknown. Each new phase of his maturity comes without warning, so I’m never sure how he’s going to behave from road trip to road trip. Same with Koss. One summer he was napping through five-hour car trips and the next it was, “Are we there yet?” “I’m hungry,” and “Are we there yet?” every two seconds.

This trip he read books the whole time, yet somehow he still managed to entertain us with his loud singing and randomly silly jokes, all the while skillfully avoiding exposure to any of that pesky scenery that his dad and I find so appealing.

It’s hard to come home, but they say all good things must come to an end–unfortunately, that includes vacations.

Whether she likes it or not, Leslie is home, mostly on her computer at email. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 11, 2008.

Las Aletas Serves Up a Smash at Annual Tennis Event

Las Aletas will host its 17th Spring Smash Tennis Tournament, Fashion Show and Luncheon on Friday, April 18. Known as a fun and friendly women’s doubles competition, tennis will be played at private courts throughout Montecito and Santa Barbara, with lunch and the fashion show featuring clothes from the Tennis Shop of Montecito and Natasha Boutique at a private home in Hope Ranch.

Proceeds from the event will be used to support Las Aletas’ three philanthropic projects: Operation School Bell, which provides clothing for low-income children in the Goleta school district; Operation Bookshelf, which provides homebound patrons with books from the Goleta library; and Kids on the Block, which brings puppet performances to local schools to educate children about subjects such as safety, bullying and getting along with others.

In addition to tournament proceeds, there will be a raffle at the event. “Each year the items get better and bigger. We are so excited about the donations this year, said Heidi Stilwell, who is co-chairing the tournament with Jan McGuire.

“We have some fantastic items up for raffle, including vacation condo stays in Mammoth and Utah,” said Stilwell. “This is, of course, all to fund our organization’s philanthropic activities, which include Operation School Bell, Kids on the Block, Operation Book Shelf, as well as helping out at the Santa Barbara Assistance League Thrift Store.” Las Aletas is an auxiliary of the Assistance League, and was originally created as a way for the daughters and daughters-in-laws of Assistance League members to get involved with philanthropy.

Spots are still available for both the tournament and the luncheon/fashion show. The cost is $60 for tennis players (including luncheon and fashion Show) or $35 for the luncheon/fashion show only. For more information call McGuire at 805.964.0515 or email lasaletastennis@hotmail.com.

Originally published in Noozhawk on April 9, 2008.

Ventura Goes Green

Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.hortongroup.com/" target="_blank">Horton Group</a>

Image courtesy of Horton Group

Earth Day is April 22, but you can celebrate the earth every day of the year by incorporating green building and remodeling practices into your home. Allen Associates Green Resources Manager Karen Feeney shares these tips:

Take a look at your operating efficiency. You’ll save money on utilities by making greener choices for your home. For example, a remodel is the perfect opportunity to put in a high efficiency furnace. “There are so many energy efficient systems that are out there right now, that are 90 to 97 percent efficient, so if you can put in a new heating system it’s going to make your house more comfortable because it’s going to work really well and also it’s not burning up fossil fuels to operate.”

Green doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive. Especially when you look at your long-term costs. “You’ve got that house for several years of your life, so it’s really a wise choice to go ahead and make some of those adjustments in your home because if you look at the lifespan of a home, you’re bringing your costs down and saving money.”

Improved insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Even if you are not taking down any walls, but you are going to repaint, you can go into an old house and you can drill small holes at the top and the bottom of the walls and blow in cellulose, which is recycled newspaper, or foam insulation, and that fills up the entire cavity and makes the home more airtight. Then you simply patch the holes and repaint the walls.

Tighter windows also improve insulation, bringing down your heating and cooling costs. “You can go in and do replacement on windows and do it very inexpensively. You can take, let’s say an aluminum framed single paned window and put in a window that fits in that same place that’s double-paned that can be a very energy efficient window.”

Carpets can be one of your home’s biggest health hazards. In part due to dust, mold, lead, and asbestos in the home, more than 38 percent of Americans suffer from allergies. “When you put a new carpet in your home and then you take it out ten years later, it can weigh three times more than the original carpet, especially if you have a dog or a lot of dirt tracked in…there’s documentation that if you take a carpet out of the home where somebody has asthma or allergies that their health improves immensely.”

For more Earth Day green living tips, check out these special events.

Midtown Green Home and Garden Tour
A self-guided home tour emphasizing sustainable building and/or gardening practices to see how others in the community are already using “green” principles. Sponsored by the Midtown Ventura Community Council and the City of San Buenaventura. Saturday, April 19, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. $10. Tickets are available at Arketype Architects Inc., 275 S. San Clemente, 653.5088. For more information call Dan Long at 653.6573 or e-mail at sandmand@pacbell.net.

Earth Day Expo
Businesses and non-profit groups will share information that will help citizens “go green,” save energy, and save money. Sponsored by the Midtown Ventura Community Council and the City of San Buenaventura. Saturday, April 19, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Free. City of Ventura Sanjon Maintenance Yard, 336 Sanjon Road.

Free Green Building Workshop
Come celebrate Earth Day by learning from local building experts at Allen Associates how you can make your home healthier, energy efficient, more durable, and still stay within your budget. Tuesday, April 22, 7 to 9 P.M., Elizabeth Topping Room, E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main Street, Ventura. Free. Call 641.0839 to reserve a spot.

Originally published in Ventana Monthly in April 2008.

Image courtesy of Horton Group.

Kids Around Town

Yellow Bird Music

Yellow Bird Music (courtesy photo)

Yellow Bird Music (courtesy photo)

Starting as young as three months, at Yellow Bird Music children up to 12 years old can explore the world in brand new ways through a variety of music, movement and art classes. Musical exploration, art, yoga, piano, choir, drum lessons, and summer camps are available at Yellow Bird. Owner Alexandra Adams-Arreguin combines a Kindermusik-based curriculum–which includes whimsically-titled classes such as “Do-Si-Do” and “Hello Weather, Let’s Play Together”–with innovative additions including performances by local musicians, giving children an up-close and personal opportunity to view musical expression by professionals.

“I just love working with kids,” says Adams-Arreguin. “The effect that music has on a child is one of the most positive and creative methods for them to discover themselves. I truly believe that every child has something to give and a song to share.”

YELLOW BIRD MUSIC 2726 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, 805-898-9070, yellowbirdmusic.com

Arts Alive Creativity Center

Where else in town but Arts Alive Creativity Center can you find a Brownie troop doing ceramics, preschool-age thespians picking our costumes for a play, and teenagers popping their way through a hip-hop class? Arts Alive offers a panoply of creative pursuits for the young and young-at-heart. Past classes have included comic book making, fashion illustration, sewing, photography, drama, fiber art, painting, knitting, digital creations, harmonica lessons, creative clay, and singing.

New owner Laura Eliseo, who took over the space in January with partner Anthony Parisi, says she plans to continue with Arts Alive’s eclectic children’s curriculum and camp program, as well as incorporate new classes such as recycled glass creations and additional dance classes to complement those offered by Santa Barbara Dance Arts (formerly known as Santa Barbara Jazz Dance Academy), which shares the space and offers children’s classes in jazz, ballet, tap, hip-hop and more.

ARTS ALIVE CREATIVITY CENTER 1 North Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 100, Santa Barbara, 805-963-2ART, artsalivesb.com

More Great Stuff For Kids

KINDERMUSIK WITH KATHY 1213 State Street, Suite I, Santa Barbara, 805-884-4009, kindermusikwithkathy.com/

Kindermusik, the world’s leader in music and movement curricula for parents and children ages newborn to 7 years old, uses research in child development to provide developmentally appropriate music and movement experiences.

MY GYM 3888 State Street, Santa Barbara, 805-563-7336, my-gym.com/

An award-winning program designed to help children aged three months thru 13 years develop strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and social skills through music, dance, games, and gymnastics.

BEACH STAR GYMNASTICS 4193 Carpinteria Ave., Suite 7,

Carpinteria, 805-684-9900, http://members.cox.net/beachstarsgym/

A “recreational” gymnastics facility, focusing on the fun aspects of gymnastics for children from 18 months to 16 years old.

SBPARENT.COM P.O. Box 60135, Santa Barbara, 805-448-2426

An easy-to-access central location for all the information that parents need, including listings and links to camps, activities, childcare, preschool, party planning and more.

SBPEP.ORG P.O. Box 6154, Santa Barbara, 805-564-3888

The nonprofit volunteer-run PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents) offers numerous programs to help parents and families thrive with their new children.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine in 2008.