One805 reflects on funding year-round counseling services for firefighters, new equipment purchases for first responders

Photo courtesy of Wavecomm Santa Barbara Marketing and Public Relations
HELPING FIRST RESPONDERS: One805’s advisory council is made up of Santa Barbara County first responders and helps guide the nonprofit in allocating funds raised through events and donations.

One805 launched as a nonprofit supporting Santa Barbara County first responders after the 2017-18 Thomas Fire and 2018 Montecito mudslides

“First responders are an essential part of our community, and part of our mission is to encourage people to understand that they need us to appreciate them and help them, and that it’s not an easy job to do,” One805 co-founder and President Richard Weston-Smith said. “We just take them for granted and expect them to come running when we dial 911 and be there.”

One805 hosts events that raise funds to purchase new equipment for first responders across the county—including helping North County agencies purchase drones, updated crime lab equipment, language courses, and new thermal imaging equipment, he said.

“We invite the chiefs to submit grant requests because there are so many things that they can’t get in their budget that they need. The budgeting process for fire agencies is so incredibly cumbersome and slow,” Weston-Smith said. “They’ll apply for things three years in a row and never get it. That’s where we step in, and they can come to us for certain pieces of equipment or safety kits.” 

In 2022, the nonprofit began funding mental health services for firefighters after the previous backer announced it was ceasing support

“We instantly realized this was a major problem because our first responders deal with traumatic events on a daily basis. The suicide rate is significantly higher than the rest of the population,” Weston-Smith said. “We jumped in and took on the responsibility; we didn’t know how we were going to pay for it.”

In the first month, One805 was “scraping together” funds to try and cover the 24/7 year-round services for the firefighters and their families. Entering into counseling services after solely providing funding for new equipment was a “whole new level of responsibility,” he said. 

“We promised we would give $20,000 to help buy this drone or piece of equipment, but you can’t say that with a mental wellness program; it has to be fully funded every month,” Weston-Smith said. “We suddenly found ourselves in the serious business of paying for a mental wellness program first responders were depending on.” 

Last year, Direct Relief, a disaster relief nonprofit, contributed $150,000 toward the program, and One805 also received $100,000 from Yardi Systems, a Goleta-based software company, to help fund mental wellness services—which provide 24/7, year-round counseling services to firefighters, their children, and spouses, he said. In combination with One805’s promised contributions, the wellness program will be funded three years in advance. 

“After running the program for a year, people started sending letters saying, ‘You saved my life. The mental wellness program saved my life,’” Weston-Smith said. “It was an extraordinary thing when that dawns on you: that what you’re doing is preventative and helping firefighters and first responders get back on their feet, save their marriages, and prevent suicides.” 

It’s “amazingly rewarding” to provide mental wellness services and to see how it changes people’s lives for the better, he added. 

“The thing about first responders is we don’t know when we’re going to need them, but what we do know is every single one of us is going to dial 911 at some point,” Weston-Smith said. “We want them to be the most prepared, most robust first responders, and I could say that’s true for everyone in Santa Barbara County.” 

One805 recently completed its 2023 grants and is identifying unmet needs for 2024. There will be a spring event and a summer concert, but no dates have been set as of Jan. 10. Visit for more information on events and volunteer and donation opportunities. 


Marian Regional Medical Center celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 19 to commence a series of building and remodeling projects that will benefit the Santa Maria area through the addition of a new hospice center—which would be the first dedicated hospice center in the community—and a multiplex of low-income senior housing. These projects are in collaboration with Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, NKT Commercial, and People’s Self-Help Housing

• Santa Ynez Valley (SYV) Pride is hosting its Love Above All Ball at Vega Vineyard and Farm on Feb. 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. The evening will have hors d’oeuvres by chef Chris Rossi; a selection of wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages; dancing with DJ Darla Bea; psychic love readings for singles and couples with Alexis Donkin; and a silent auction table. SYV Pride is a local nonprofit committed to creating a safe, supportive, and empowering home for the LGBTQ-plus community in the Santa Ynez Valley; this event will help the organization host its 2024 Pride parade and festival and support its youth scholarship program.

Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].

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