To make a difference, sometimes it takes an entire community coming together, especially after major natural disasters, like the ones that have struck Ventura and Santa Barbara counties over the past several months.

In this case, community is everything – it is the driving force helping return some normalcy to the people who have been impacted the most, led by locals like Iron and Resin Founder Thom Hill, who created Help California in support of those affected by the Thomas fire that struck Ventura.

Those efforts have carried over to digging out from the mudslides that followed, with everyone pitching in from across the state. Last week, nonprofit Changing Tides Foundation organized a bus trip up to Montecito with a group of North County San Diego volunteers to pitch in their time and elbow grease and help uncover the properties in the direct path of the slides.

“The main goal is to raise awareness about Help California’s efforts, so that more people can learn about and support the amazing work that they have been doing up north,” said Changing Tides Foundation Co-founder Becky Mendoza. “We want them to know that the people of North County San Diego stand in solidarity with them in their efforts. We are all part of the surf community, in one way or another.”

Pro surfer Conner Coffin, who hails from Montecito and whose home was in the direct mandatory evacuation zone, was also on site lending a hand. He and his brother Parker have been heading up their own fundraising efforts to help two Montecito firefighters who lost their homes in the slides.

We caught up with Mendoza to hear more about Changing Tides’ initiatives.

How did Changing Tides Foundation get involved in this effort and why?

We have worked on disaster relief efforts in Mexico and the Caribbean after hurricanes. The Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudslide hit really close to home, as this could have happened in our own community and many of our friends were affected.

One of our brand partners at Avasol Sunscreen, Chris Wilkinson and his family live on the street that was devastated by the mudslide, so we immediately wanted to see how we could support their efforts.

changing tides foundation and conner coffin montecito efforts

Volunteers help remove debris from a home in Montecito impacted by the mudslides. Photo: Barker

Our good friend Natalie Michal who also lives in Montecito immediately got involved with Help California bringing donated food and drink to the emergency services and rescue teams that were out there searching for people and animals. She was the one who connected us to Help California and we immediately started to brainstorm how we could raise awareness around what they are doing, so that they know that we have their backs.

Changing Tides Foundation is about giving people the opportunity to get involved in service without making it complicated or expensive, so this is the perfect opportunity: just show up ready to work and we'll handle the rest!

Did Changing Tides have a goal for the recent efforts?

Help California was formed because of the needs that arose from the Thomas Fire and it was formed by members of the surf industry. They have done and continue to do incredible work that inspires us everyday. They have lead volunteer cleanup efforts every weekend since the Thomas Fires and every Monday and Wednesday in Montecito after the mudslides.

They coordinate with residents who need help to dig out and rebuild their properties, which is what we did last Wednesday. Help California provides all of the tools and supplies necessary for these efforts, making it easy for anyone to participate in the effort. This is the root of what we at Changing Tides Foundation aim to support.

changing tides foundation and conner coffin montecito efforts

Changing Tides Foundation teamed up with Conner Coffin in its efforts. Photo: Barker

Which brands and influencers from North County and surrounding areas did you work with to make this day happen?

We were incredibly fortunate to have the Singleton Law Firm, who helps fire damage victims, donate the funds for the bus, as well as Carlsbad Limo Bus for giving us a deal.

Vuori donated Vuori x Mizu water bottles for everyone on the bus. Pannikin Coffee and Tea provided breakfast and coffee for the ride up, and Fish 101 Restaurant supplied lunch as well. Avasol kept everyone’s skin safe during the dig. The ride back was a happy hour, with donations from Duckfoot Brewing, Ziobaffa Wines, Guayaki and Up Mountain Switchel.

One of our favorite parts of the bus ride was a presentation from off-duty North County firefighter and Oceanside lifeguard Ryan Thompson and fellow North County firefighter Chad Cox, who is also a WSL Big Wave World Tour Water Safety Patrol.

Our volunteers also come predominantly from the surf and adventure sports industry, and included Action Sports Productions Founder Jay Johnson, ASP Production Coordinator Jessica Frankoveglia, former Santa Cruz competitive surfer Carly Wilson, Lifeproof Creative Director Julian Kelly, adventure travel blog Stranded on Land Founder Eunique Deann, the Changing Tides Foundation crew including myself and Co-founder Anna Santoro and so many more awesome people.

In addition, we were stoked that Connor Coffin and the team from Avasol met us up there.

changing tides foundation and conner coffin montecito efforts

For those interested in getting involved, all you need to do is show up – the rest is provided for you. Photo: Barker

Do you see this as an ongoing effort? Will there be more group clean ups or events that people can get involved with in the future?

Coordinating this effort was super fun. We were very fortunate to have the bus donated, as that was the biggest expense. It is a very long day since we are so far away and it's all quite expensive, so if there is a need/desire and we find the required donations, we could certainly coordinate something like this again.

What we hope to do more than anything is encourage other communities to coordinate efforts like this. How cool would it be if people in other communities like LA, Long Beach or Orange County coordinated efforts like these? We can help that happen.

People can also take the train up and stay with friends and make a weekend out of it. They can volunteer directly with Help California on the weekends for the Thomas Fire, and Mondays and Wednesdays for Montecito.

Our friends in Montecito, Ventura and Santa Barbara need manpower and we are glad to be able to provide that. But for those who can't make it, you can participate in this effort and make a difference by donating to Help California!

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