22nd Annual Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Fundraiser

By Joanne A Calitri   |   October 17, 2023
Susan and Rob Hughes, Ed and Joan Wimberly, and Bernard and Nancy Melekian (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The beloved Santa Barbara Rescue Mission (SBRM) held its 22nd annual major fundraiser, Big Waves on the Bayou, on Saturday, October 7 at the Dos Pueblos Ranch with the ocean waves as the backdrop. 

Over 300 guests sported beach resort attire. The event décor by Decoration Chair Dianne Davis complemented the shoreline with coral tablecloths, aqua napkins, and surfboard-flower basket centerpieces. Lorraine Lim Catering provided for a backyard feel with family-style dinner serving. 

Carol-Anne Lonson, John Savrnoch, and Catherine Remak (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The reception was two hours to allow for mingling, wine sipping, silent auction bidding, and live music by the Idiomatiques. Nods to the auction coordinators Terry Foil, Alice Birch,and Katie Pointer. The up-spirited attendees competed via their smartphones for over 100 brilliant auction items displayed on tables. Communications Director Rebecca Weber moderated the bidding via her laptop. SBRM President Rolf Geyling and friends went toe to toe on winning the paddleboard experiences. Items included kids swim floaters, Evolutions Spa or REI gift certificates, Hunter Ranch Golf for four, Jeannine’s Bakery, Reunion Kitchen, the Nugget of Summerland, Tre Lune, Brophy Brothers, fine wines, and a painting done live at the reception by Chris Potter

Catherine Remak emceed the event. Her opening remarks acknowledged the Women’s Auxiliary for their dedicated exemplary work, their President Pamela Dillman Haskell, the Rancho Dos Pueblos Institute, the Board chaired by Joyce McCullough, and the SBRM’s 2022 stats of 106,650 meals served, 54,005 safe overnight accommodations, and 87 recovery program participants. Pastor Tom Haugen gave the blessings for dinner. 

Geyling talked briefly about the late Baroness Léni Fé Bland’s volunteer work and monetary contributions to the SBRM, for which they created an award in her honor with her receiving first in 2002. Prior award recipients at the event were Bob Bryant, Sheriff Bill Brown, Penny Jenkins, and Gerd Jordano. He introduced Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse,who presented the recipient this year, retired Interim SB Chief of Police Bernard “Barney” Melekian. Rowse talked about Melekian’s steadfast work during the lockdown and dealing with the aftermath of the public’s views of police relative to the George Floyd incident: “He has dealt hopelessness, homelessness and given more than the measure of being reasonable.”

Newlyweds Kirsten Moore and Rolf Geyling with Joyce McCullough (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Melekian spoke, and excerpts included: “How humble and grateful I am to receive this award. I’ve been in law enforcement for over 50 years, the first 23 with the Santa Monica Police Department when it was a beach city like Santa Barbara. One of our jobs was to drive people passed out [drunk] on the streets back to the veterans’ center, which made me cynical until one time when I dropped off a man there, the V.A. supervisor asked me if I knew who he was – a Silver Medal awarded U.S. Military veteran who served in two wars. The worst nightmare for law enforcement officers is the daily drop of corrosion on the human soul. Cynicism is the bubonic plague of the 21st century. My goal as law enforcement is to leave the situation better than I found it, or at least not worse. What I admire most about the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is they make each person’s life a little better each day. On the behalf of all law enforcement officers, I accept this award. I thank my wife and God.”

Before the white envelope private ask, SBRM program graduate Erin Soqui spoke about her experience, and what the program provided for her. Her riveting story from substance abuse and arrests to her life of success today, complete with reconnecting with her mother and father, inspired many. Board Chair Joyce McCulloughdid the ask, and mentioned the organization’s new strategic plan to provide transitional housing for homeless people. Two anonymous donors offered a combined $200,000 matching funds to all donations received at the event.

I asked event co-chairs Joan Wimberly and Susan Hughes about their funding goal, and they shared, “We are excited to be involved in the 22nd annual Rescue Mission’s event, Big Waves on the Bayou. The goal of the many programs and services at the Mission is to ‘rebuild broken lives.’ Our over 70 auxiliary members, along with many generous donations, combined with the honest and heartfelt testimonials make for a wonderful event. A fun, festive, and meaningful Saturday afternoon! Our goal is to raise over $500,000 to support the work of the Mission, as we have been able to do in past years. If you were unable to attend, but would like to learn more, please visit SBRM.org.”

411: www.SBRM.org


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