Josiah Hamilton, a real estate agent in our Montecito office and a member of the Montecito community was, like countless others, deeply affected by the wildfires and then mudslides that ravaged his seaside community.
It became apparent to him, as a local REALTOR®, that his job is more than a profession. Real estate agents are a part of the community and the lives of the people who live in it.
“When we sell a house we don’t just close a transaction, we help to create a new life for people, in a place we call paradise.”
On January 9, 2018, paradise washed away. Josiah and his family scrambled that morning, like the rest of his community, to understand what was going on.
“Little Montecito made global headlines, but still no one could grasp how big this event was. Our escort out on January 10 took us down East Valley Road, past Para Grande where a neighborhood we once knew had simply evaporated, later discovering it was the location many lives were lost, including my son’s friend.”
After hearing countless stories and wondering how he could help his community, Josiah saw a Facebook post from Abe Powell, a trusted voice many had followed through the fires and mudflow. Abe was requesting volunteers for the day after the evacuation was lifted, to help dig out a home located at 145 Santo Tomas. Josiah and 30+ volunteers showed up, buckets in hand, to dig through four to five feet of sludge littered with personal belongings, car parts, tree trunks, and debris.
“The magnitude of this disaster seemed grossly underestimated by everything I had seen and heard.”
After wandering through the neighborhood, one he had previously lived in, and hearing neighbors’ and friends’ stories, Josiah realized there was much more to be done still. He, Abe, Linda Cole, Jessica Powell, and Thomas Cole gathered volunteers and got to work, taking no days off for four weeks straight, showing up, shoveling, hugging neighbors, and showing support, calling themselves The Bucket Brigade.
Volunteers grew from 30 to 200 to 400 and the homeowners they helped were glowing, surprised and emotional at the sight of so many people they’d never met before showing up with buckets and wheelbarrows and a desire to help.
Currently, The Bucket Brigade has grown to be more than 2,700 members strong; together they have cleared mud and rescued belongings from over 85 properties. The team is now gearing up to tackle “Bucket Brigade Phase 2;” a beautification and dirt removal project through Montecito Oaks, Jameson, and up the Olive Mill/Hot Springs corridor.
They will also create a pedestrian walking trail along North Jameson Road that will connect the existing San Ysidro walking path to Coast Village Road.
The Bucket Brigade is teaming up with local sculptor Anders Johnson who will use stones collected from the debris to create a beautiful and lasting monument to honor the lives lost in this disaster.
Josiah, who spoke about The Bucket Brigade to his colleagues at a recent awards event, shared a story about a couple from Texas whose home was overcome with four feet of mud right after they closed escrow but before they could even move in. The Bucket Brigade sprang into action and, even though it was the end of the day, was able to clear the perimeter and garage, plus much of the yard. Melanie later told Josiah,
“I can’t believe what an incredible community this is, we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
The Bucket Brigade received more than just volunteers. Donations came from community members, including earnings from two young girls’ lemonade stand.
Montecito Fire and The Bucket Brigade were honored with a dinner at San Ysidro Ranch, where Oprah Winfrey, a Montecito resident, showed up to give out hugs and support to the volunteers and firefighters.
Josiah and his wife Justine are leaders of a successful real estate team, The Hamilton Co. Josiah is in the top 1% of all Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agents nationwide and is a 10-year Legend award winner.
When he’s not rescuing homes and trees from mud, he’s selling properties and he’s doing it well; he and his team sold five homes in just 30 days from April to May 2018. Ready to sell your home? Connect with Josiah today.
Upcoming volunteer events are listed on the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade’s Facebook Page.
Do you need help? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and write “NEED HELP” or “SAVE OUR TREES” in the subject line.