Berna Desire: Road to Recovery

By Richard Mineards   |   March 8, 2018
Project Recovery founder Berna Kieler with her band of volunteers (photo by DJ Wetmore)

Recovery Project is new community support group that was born out of the recent doubleheader disasters that have hit our rarefied enclave.

Founder Berna Kieler, a Montecito resident since the 1980s, describes it as “grass-roots, neighbors helping neighbors” being carried along by people dedicated to seeing the community and its residents recover.

“I was in the Red Zone but untouched,” says Berna, 70. “I couldn’t help clean up the mud, so I reached out to friends with a heartfelt message encouraging them to ‘give the shirts off their backs.’ To raid their closets for comfortable gently used and new clothing and footwear for our neighbors who’ve lost everything.”

The reaction was immediate, with a bountiful outpouring “like a landslide” with donations flooding her home studio and the house of her supporting partner, Heather Sage, who was the first to respond with help.

“As well as the comfortable clothing our people love to wear, we’ve also been buying and distributing gift certificates,” adds Berna, who has been looking for a temporary dedicated space in Montecito to create a community Free Store where the gifts can be distributed.

“We’ve asked commercial property managers in the village to help us and, by working together, have found a space in the Montecito Country Mart, thanks to owner James Rosenfeld for the month of March”

Berna, a former fashion industry executive and longtime supporter of the Organic Soup Kitchen, the World Business Academy, the Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund, says it has been a “spirit-lifting experience” for both givers and receivers.

“Our little community is suffering broken homes and broken hearts. The healing will take a long time. For now, seeing the smiles on the faces of people when they put something on that makes them feel warm and comfy again is all we need to keep us going.”

Anyone in need of clothing and footwear can reach the Recovery Project by contacting Berna online at or by visiting the new store. A Facebook page is also being set up.

A wonderful example of a community working as one.


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