January 19, 2018
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Santa Barbara moms mobilize to help families affected by California mudslides

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

A flooded section of Highway 101 in Montecito, California, where at least 20 people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged from massive mudslides last week. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.


Neighbors helping neighbors: Coming just a month after California’s largest wildfire on record, heavy rain in the same region has caused massive mudslides, killing at least 20 and destroying more than 120 homes. Wildfires leave the ground bare of vegetation, creating an even greater danger for flash floods and mudslides. While crews continue to clear debris and secure roadways in Montecito, six women from the neighboring town of Santa Barbara decided to go into action to help those affected cope, rebuild, and stay strong. The women, whose children all attend a nearby elementary school, organized a signup sheet to connect people willing to help with those in need. “We receive lists from specific families about their needs: cars, shoes, backpacks, gift cards,” Jennifer Harris told local ABC affiliate KEYT. “We act as liaisons between families needing and those helping. Moms mobilizing to get stuff done!” Record-breaking heat and unusually strong winds helped make 2017 one of the worst year’s for wildfires in California. Allstate, which supports The Renewal Project, created this wildfire evacuation guide.


Schools go green: Much like his innovative famous older brother Elon, social entrepreneur Kimbal Musk is out to change the world. As co-founder and CEO of the Boulder, Colorado-based Big Green, the younger Musk developed the nonprofit in 2011 after seeing how school gardens can help kids learn about nutrition and connect to the food they eat. “We have stopped educating our kids about real food for a couple of decades now, and the results have been disastrous, rampant diabetes … and in some neighborhoods, over 40 percent of kindergarteners go into kindergarten obese,” Musk told Crain’s Detroit Business. Big Green, in partnership with local organizations and philanthropists, are planning to build learning gardens in 100 metro Detroit schools, Crain’s wrote this week. The $5 million dollar plan will take affect when the first garden is installed in April.


Reading challenge: The new year is always a good time to pledge to commit to a new habit. Maybe you’ve seen friends on social media commit to the 50 book challenge—reading 50 books in a year. It’s not too late to get started and a great way to begin is with this list of inspiring books, recommended by NationSwell. Staff writer Chris Peak curated 10 books, both fiction and non-fiction, from last year that “put our historical moment in context—to show us that there’s a better way forward in organizing healthcare, dealing with crime, addressing climate change and stabilizing government.” Happy reading!

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.