Update #2: Clearing the debris

Dear Friends and Supporters of La Casa:

We are writing to update you on the most recent developments at La Casa de Maria since the devastating mudslide of January 9.

On Saturday, January 28, the local authorities lifted the evacuation order for our section of Montecito. While we have been allowed back on the property, there are no utilities. We are working as quickly as possible to have water, electricity, gas, and communications restored.

Associate Director Anne Price surveys the scene at La Casa de Maria

In our desire to move through this recovery as best we can, we already have clean up crews on site; moving mud, clearing passageways, and removing debris. It is an overwhelming sight to be sure, but also quite uplifting to see immediate progress. In addition, seeing sections of the property and buildings completely untouched and unmarred by this otherwise destructive event is particularly heartwarming.

By far, the most difficult decision we have had to make in the aftermath of this disaster has been to let go of two-thirds of our staff. Without programming, lodging, food service, and income for the foreseeable future, we simply could not keep everyone. We gathered together to share the news, support each other and provide some tools to aid in recovery and moving forward. As you might imagine, it was an emotional meeting given our deeply connected and committed staff.

For now, we are maintaining a small team to take care of the essentials: processing cancellations and refunds, working on communications and development strategies, and overseeing the remediation, rebuild and renewal of La Casa. Since our administrative office has been destroyed we are working off-site but hope to establish a small office on the property very soon.

There is much work to be done and more difficult decisions ahead. We promise to share our progress on our website and through social media, including news about when we will welcome back our hosted groups and programs.

For now, the work on the property is for professionals only. There are still toxic materials, unstable buildings and surfaces, and plenty of mud. We do envision a time when we will get a community of people to help with planting, clean-up, and chores.  But for now, we do not know when and want to thank the many offers of assistance. If you want to let us know that you would like to volunteer in the future, fill out this form.

While damage to the chapel’s interior is severe, it remains standing and its stained glass windows are intact.

Like so many in the disaster area, we are hoping that our insurance may cover at least some of recovery costs and we are hard at work on those assessments. At this point, we are not sure if we will qualify for FEMA disaster recovery funds but are pursuing those avenues as well. Soon we will have a more comprehensive fundraising rebuild plan, but if, like many of our supporters, you are moved to help support our recovery now, you may do so here. For now, your funds will support our core work and ongoing maintenance of unimpacted grounds and buildings, and the many areas where insurance may not cover.

At a recent meeting, we reflected on our mission statement: The mission of La Casa is to be a sanctuary of peace for individuals and groups as they renew purpose, strengthen community, and increase their effectiveness in the world. I said to the group that at this point in our history, the mission now applies to us as it has for all our guests: we intend to use this time to renew our purpose in the world, to strengthen our remarkable community (which includes all of you), and to increase our effectiveness in serving you and the larger world. We are grateful you are with us in this journey.

Steve Jacobsen                                 Karol Schulkin
Director, La Casa de Maria        President, Immaculate Heart Community

P.S.  We’d like to end this post with an uplifting video Director Steve Jacobsen and Director Emerita Stephanie Glatt at the Center for Spiritual Renewal.