I want to start with some thanks. To you who have been with us these last twelve years, thank you.
Many of you saw our passion and partnered with us, often when we didn’t know exactly what the next step would be. But you believed in the cause. Thank you for this.
Also with us are some new friends, people that I’ve met through our work into the city, or run into around town who have the same heartbeat for this work. You’ve given your time and energy to this work as well, and to you I want to say thanks.
In 2005, Jeff Shaffer was moved to come alongside people experiencing homelessness.
Jeff knew they weren’t homeless people; that they weren’t a they at all, but an us. They were people that deserved the dignity that every other human on this planet is born with.
He began bringing meals. Jeff will tell you he’s not the best cook, but that didn’t stop him and some friends preparing spaghetti and bringing it to the park each week to hear the stories of those who had lost so much.
Without knowing what exactly he was doing, Jeff founded the Uffizi Mission Project. It wasn’t necessarily just a meal, but it also wasn’t a charity work. Though we lacked the ability to name exactly what it was, “project” worked.
But you discover some things working alongside people who are marginalized. You begin to see that there are larger systems at work. You begin to see that though there are many organizations helping those living on the streets, at the end of the day, the number is still far too high.
I came alongside Jeff in 2010. I had heard of his work through some of the faith communities in town, and I wanted to see for myself what was going on.
In one of my first meetings with Jeff, we were talking about the city, and I remember him getting, shall we say, passionate. If any of you know Jeff you know exactly what I mean when you see him “getting passionate.” He loved working with these amazing men and women, and he had a lot to say about what the city, other non-profits, faith communities and our government did or didn’t do.
But here’s the thing. That whole time he was talking, I was thinking , “well, I don’t want to work with people on the streets. I don’t think that was ‘my calling.’”
But then Jeff said this thing so casually to me that I don’t even know if he knows how much it hit, but it changed a lot for me and what I thought of faith and charity.
He said, “you know, Rich, every year, something like 30 people die on the streets of Santa Barbara from exposure. And if there is a judgment day, some day where we stand before God, I can’t imagine him being ‘okay’ with that.”
And when I thought about that, that we live in this beautiful city of Santa Barbara, with wealth that many of us never dreamed of having, there simply shouldn’t be people dying on the streets.
And we all, every last one of us, despite our religion or creed, despite any or all of our “beliefs"... we all need to care.
After that day, I realized I didn’t have a choice.
And so I got involved. I loved the Uffizi Mission Project. I loved what Jeff was doing, and I remember thinking, "we need to find a way to make this sustainable." This was good work, work that wasn’t being done in the city, and work that transformed many lives simply by getting to know people on the margins and connecting them to resources.
Uffizi Order was born in 2013. We became a 501(c)3 l, we had a means to raise support, and we knew that there was some greater truth in all of this that we were connected to.
For the past 4 years, we’ve continued the work of meal sharing. We've started new initiatives to confront other social ills in our county. Just this year we’ve solidified a collaborative where you, the people, are connecting survivors of trafficking to resources in this city. We’ve come alongside families on the Westside, helping them gain access to resources and opportunity many of us already had.
And then we had something to tell. We saw actual change happening. It wasn’t through one organization—it was through collaboratives of people getting together to make a collected impact.
We shared in front of city council, churches, conferences, county government, businesses, non-profits and the general public. We know creating collaboratives works. Pulling agencies together from a variety of sectors works. Implementing Stanford’s Collective Impact model works.
It turns out that there are many resources in the city. This includes the people of Santa Barbara, all of you fine folk, you who care about those who are marginalized in our society.
And we realized that for people to get where we’re going, for people to understand who we are, we needed a new name.
We needed a name that calls people of Santa Barbara to action, a name that quickly identifies the work we do in the city.
Drum roll please....
So without further ado, let me be the first to introduce you to:
SBACT: the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation.