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MOVING MOUNTAINS ONE BUCKET AT A TIME fter the Thomas Fire scorched the slopes and debris flows ravaged Montecito in winter 2018, many shocked and exhausted residents faced the monumen- tal task of digging out mountains of mud and cleaning up their homes. Where does a person even begin? Enter the Bucket Brigade, a nonprofit group that formed in January 2018 to help with the massive recovery effort. Abe Powell, a Bucket Brigade co- founder, grew up on Montecito’s Mountain Drive. He had helped organize similar groups in response to past crises. Most recently, in 2008, just ten days after the Tea Fire destroyed 210 homes in Montecito and Santa Barbara, a rain deluge was forecast. Abe rose up to coordinate sandbagging and relief efforts. So in the post-mudslide aftermath, Abe knew what to do: mobilize the troops, roll up the sleeves and get to work—together. He and his wife Jessica, along with friends Tom and Linda Cole and Josiah Hamilton, cofounded the Bucket Brigade and used social media to gather volunteers. About 60 people showed up on the first dig-out day, and on a busy day a month later, 350 showed up to help. In all, since its start three months ago, the Bucket Brigade has had more than 2,500 volunteers. Together they have helped to dig out over 80 homes as well as hundreds of trees in Montecito’s public open spaces. The Bucket Brigade continues to meet regularly on weekends. This spring the group is focused on digging out suffocating trees and removing mud and debris from some of the hardest-hit corridors in Montecito. But new disasters can and will happen at any time, and the Bucket Brigade plans to not only serve as a reliable relief organization, but also as a model for other communities around the nation and world. Montecito resident and Bucket Brigade volun- teer Ruby Jeanne says she volunteers because “it just feels like the right thing to do. It’s important to help the community and if you can’t dig, there are other things you can do, like computer work, unloading, loading, serving lunch to the volunteers. Doing small things with love, with other people, is a great way for anyone to help.” Ross Godlis, who has lived on East Mountain Drive with his family for nearly 40 years, also says he volunteers for the Bucket Brigade because “it’s just the right thing to do.” The Godlis family lost their home in the Tea Fire in 2008. “At first we were really overwhelmed and didn’t know where to even start in the recovery process. Then a group Above – La Casa de Maria chapel cleanup group celebrates. Top left – Josiah Hamilton, center, with wheelbarrow. Top right – Abe Powell For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade website www.santabarbarabucketbrigade.org or email teafirerelief@gmail.com By Cheryl Crabtree of about 25 people showed up at our property and started cleaning up. We were so grateful for the help and it was great to be working alongside our friends and other people. We met neighbors we’d never spoken to before, and bonded during post- work potlucks. So after the January debris flows, when Abe Powell started to mobilize volunteers to dig out homes, he said ‘it’s payback time!’ I show up on weekends and do what I can. The Bucket Brigade represents the spirit of our com- munity—and we’re all doing what we can to build an even stronger and better Montecito.” u A PHOTOGRAPHY © COPYRIGHT MACDUFF EVERTON 2018 PHOTOGRAPHY © COPYRIGHT MACDUFF EVERTON 2018 PHOTOGRAPHY © COPYRIGHT MACDUFF EVERTON 2018