The Coast News Group

Local philanthropy joins Montecito cleanup effort

ENCINITAS — A cold sun shone brilliantly on a recent Wednesday afternoon as Becky Mendoza stepped off a party bus with about 20 other people in Montecito, California.

But Mendoza and the folks — linked in some way or another to the action sports industry — weren’t there for a party. Donning work gear, shoves and gloves, Mendoza said they stared down at a split level home completely inundated with mud.

Mendoza, an action sports attorney and of the co-founders of the Encinitas-based Changing Tides Foundation, was there to help with the cleanup.

The home was one of nearly 500 buildings damaged or destroyed in the deadly mud flows that rocked the exclusive Santa Barbara County enclave in January. Changing Tides, which connects people with philanthropic or service-related causes, staged a one-day relief trip to assist in the ongoing recovery efforts.

“The fact that we are showing up here with nearly 20 people, and coming to dig even for just a couple of hours, much more could be accomplished than if it were just a few people but twice as long,” Mendoza said. “It’s going to make a huge impact on the property we are working on today.”

Mendoza said the scene in Montecito was bleak.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s a disaster,” she said. “There is debris everywhere. We are standing on 5 or 6 feet of mud.”

Changing Tides partnered with Help California, a service organization that spawned from the Thomas Fire, which created the conditions that led to the devastating mud flows in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Mendoza said Changing Tides learned about the devastation through one if its brand partners Avasol, an eco-friendly sunscreen. Avasol’s CEO lived on one of the streets hardest hit by the mudslides, she said.

They got connected with Help California, which transitioned almost immediately from fire to mudslide relief and has been working on Mondays and Wednesdays to help people clear mud from around their homes.

Mendoza said the relief team couldn’t go inside of the house due to mold concerns, so they dug trenches outside of the home so that fresh air could get inside of the home and stop mold from forming.

Claire Woodard, an operations manager with Help California, said that the busload of San Diego County residents coming to the aid of people some three hours away embodied their organization’s mission.

“That is why were are called Help California, because we are about helping our neighbors,” Woodard said. “Neighbors can be next door, or from neighboring counties, it really is a metaphor, and there are lots of people who came here today either because they love the surf up here, or they work with companies of here, and we are thrilled and amazed at the response.”

Woodard said that the surfing community — of which Changing Tides is affiliated — and the biking community have been very active in the relief efforts.

Changing Tides is also working with pro surfers Parker and Connor Coffin who are from Montecito, to help raise money for the families of two firefighters who lost everything in the mudslides. Those interested in donating to the cause can visit the website