SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Hundreds of people turned out Friday for a day-long fundraiser for the Benitez family at La Casa de La Raza at 601 E. Montecito St. in Santa Barbara.
"It's just a wonderful event, it's heartbreaking and brings tears into my eyes," said Katia Barradas Trujillo, the event organizer. "We are going to be here from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and serve the whole community. And the whole community coming together is just like touching of the heart. It's amazing."
Barradas Trujillo, who said she wouldn't be surprised if 1,000 people turned out for the fundraiser, said she personally got permission first from the grieving family to hold the event.
"They were touched, really touched that the community is getting together," Barradas Trujillo said.
Three Benitez family members were killed January 9 in the Montecito mudslide, including 10-year-old Johnny, a fourth grader at Cleveland Elementary School. His mother, Faviola, is still missing. Johnny's 3-year-old cousin, Kaelly, and his aunt, Marilyn, were also killed. Johnny's little 2-year-old brother, Ian, was pulled from the mud that morning and survived. The toddler is recovering from broken bones. Johnny's father, Victor, and his uncle (Victor's brother), Antonio, survived with injuries.
Victor and Antonio have a successful gardening business; Faviola works as a housekeeper and has helped local residents with events and babysitting, from time to time.
The hard-working family is well-loved in the Montecito community.
"We just want to support the family," Rosalina Veloz told NewsChannel 3, with tears in her eyes. "We know there are a lot of victims of the mudslide and we just feel really, like we have to come together as a community to support them."
Families from Cleveland and Franklin Elementary Schools, and from the local community, helped make Friday's fundraising event possible.
Event organizers opened the doors at 11:30 a.m. and expected to serve up plates of tacos and bowls of homemade posole until 7:00 p.m.
Organizers behind three gofundme accounts for the Benitez family have merged their accounts:
Also, SB Support Network has put out the following Community All Call for housing for the Benitez family:
The Benitez Family is needing our support.
We are looking for a quiet, private 4 bedroom/2 bath home in Santa Barbara or Goleta.
We are hoping for the first three months of rent either gifted by the property owner or an Angel donor (approx. amount would be $12,000).
We are looking for a long-term rental for their family of seven.
Furnished or un-furnished would be acceptable.
$3,000-$4,000.00 monthly-maximum rent from the 4th month, on.
**Let's bring this family a place to call home again in our beautiful city.**
Contact: Anna Maria Stump @firstname.lastname@example.org