Oprah

Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey checks in on Bucket Brigade volunteer captain Jed Hirsch after the Montecito debris flows.

At the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, volunteer captain Jed Hirsch is ready to take on tasks of any size with a smile on his face and an eagerness to help others. Hirsch is the most senior member of the brigade, having first joined efforts in the aftermath of the 2018 Montecito Mudslides. His volunteerism has exemplified community members coming together to help their neighbors in challenging times.

The Summerland resident has worked as a contractor in Santa Barbara for the last 40 years and “(plans) on being here for the long-haul.” Through his construction-based resourcefulness and leadership, Hirsch became a volunteer captain who inspires Bucket Brigade team members with his energy and positive attitude.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Bucket Brigade has shifted from disaster preparedness to mobilizing volunteers for food delivery and helping neighborhoods take care of elderly and at-risk residents. Last month, the Bucket Brigade partnered with the Community Action Commission to distribute meals for Carpinteria seniors. The organization is also hosting the Most Mask Maker Challenge to provide community members with face coverings.

Hirsch answered email questions about his experience with the Bucket Brigade, the friends he found through service and how volunteering has impacted his life.

Have you always been involved in volunteering?

I think so. I’ve always helped people and wanted to help in different ways. Bucket Brigade is the first organized volunteer program that I’ve done.

How did you get your start working with the Bucket Brigade?

I don’t remember where I heard or saw the announcement that people were going to help start digging unfortunate homeowners out of the mud. I arrived the first day of the Bucket Brigade’s workday. I had a scoop bucket tractor on another job and brought it to our first worksite.

Do you have any specific memories from your first few weeks on the team?

When the slides first happened, I rode my bicycle from Summerland to Santa Barbara along the railroad tracks. Seeing the devastation, the dazed and confused emergency workers, and stranded vehicles on the freeway was surreal. When I arrived to Cabrillo along the beach, I saw people walking their dogs, Starbucks in hand, gardeners sweeping off the driveways.... it was such a juxtaposition. No one on the west side of Montecito had any idea of the turmoil just half a mile east.

How has your personal involvement grown since you first got involved?

I’ve met the nicest people on Bucket Brigade operations. You figure if everyone who is there is there for a good reason, you know they’re already like-minded individuals. So, you’re choosing friends from an already condensed gathering of wonderful people.

Is there still work to be done related to the aftermath of the Montecito debris flows?

Rebuild! Make people feel comfortable and that there are neighbors looking out for you now and in the future.

What is the most impactful experience or memory that you’ve had as a volunteer?

People helping people. Like I said, making friends with people that are the right types of people in this world.

What is Bucket Brigade focused on now?

Bucket Brigade is now turning its attention towards the Covid-19 virus. We’re trying to figure out how to help people that are really in need of help. The elderly, the infirm, the homebound.

What’s it like being a volunteer captain?

As a builder, I am used to seeing what needs to be done from a builder’s point of view and mentally putting that in a timeline and asking volunteers to do that work in an orderly fashion.

Why motivates you to volunteer?

There is such a feeling of camaraderie when you are working alongside other like-minded volunteers—a feeling of community helping community. There’s nothing better than knowing you are making a difference. Volunteering makes me feel needed and useful.  

What would you say to people who want to get involved in volunteering in their community?

It’s good for you, it’s good for the community and it’s good for the morality of humans.

You Can Help

Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, sbbucketbrigade.org/volunteer, contactus@sbbucketbrigade.org, (805) 568-9700.

Most Mask Maker Challenge, sbbucketbrigade.org/so-you-think-you-can-sew

Lauren Graf is an undergraduate at California Lutheran University, studying art and communication with an emphasis in advertising and public relations. She is a Carpinteria native with a passion for creating and hopes to work with nonprofits someday. She previously wrote the summers series “Keeping Carpinteria Weird” and “Through the Lens of Gen Z” for Coastal View News.

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