Annenberg Foundation Provides Lead Support Grant to United Way of Ventura County’s Wildfire Recovery Efforts

Ventura, Calif. – As fires continue to rage throughout Southern California, Annenberg Foundation has quickly responded and pledged $400,000 to United Way of Ventura County’s Thomas Fire Fund. It is the largest gift to date for the victims and first responder fund that has generated attention online and throughout the country.

“Annenberg Foundation’s commitment is an incredibly timely and compassionate gift to the residents of Ventura County in their time of need,” said Eric Harrison, President and CEO of United Way of Ventura County. “As the lead gift to the Thomas Fire Fund, Annenberg Foundation’s generosity will help us reach our goal of raising $1 million for the vital resources and recovery efforts our community needs immediately.”

“These are heartbreaking days for Southern California, especially as the holidays approach. As wildfires continue to rage across greater Los Angeles – destroying property, upending families, and claiming lives – it’s a powerful reminder of how fragile and vulnerable we all are,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, CEO & President of Annenberg Foundation. “I believe it is a call to arms as well – for us to band together and stand as one against immense hardship. That’s why the trustees of the Annenberg Foundation – Charles Weingarten, Gregory Weingarten, Lauren Bon, and I – have all together decided to give in this timely fashion to the Ventura County United Way’s Thomas Fire Fund and welcome others to do the same. Let’s make these days a model of community action together.”

Shortly after the fire began, United Way of Ventura County set up the Thomas Fire Fund and a text-to-give campaign. 100% of the donations will support those in the community affected by the wildfires. Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at or calling 805-485-6288. Checks may be sent to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.

The Thomas Fire continues to threaten lives and property throughout Ventura County, scorching more than 96,000 acres so far and forcing thousands of residents to flee.

To respond, United Way of Ventura County, the American Red Cross of Ventura County, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services have formed a strategic partnership that will be vital in helping the community recover. Notably, the residents of the 150 homes and several apartment buildings that have already been destroyed – and the estimated 600 people who are being temporarily housed at the fairgrounds – will need our support and resources. If you know anyone affected by the fires, please call 2-1-1 or text thomasfire to 898-211 to get connected and get answers.

In the aftermath of spontaneous disasters, many generous community members step up to help those in need around them. One of the challenges after a catastrophe strikes is mobilizing those caring citizens so they can effectively help their neighbors and neighborhoods. In order to best engage spontaneous volunteers during a disaster, United Way, the Red Cross, and the Sheriff’s Department are collaborating so that community members can volunteer easily and be directed to the City and County departments – or community-based organizations – where their volunteering will have the most impact.

The Thomas Fire is still out of control and continues to expand, threatening lives and homes in Ventura County. United Way, the American Red Cross, and the Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely together to meet the evolving needs in our community.

Staff and volunteers from the Office of Emergency Services, United Way, Red Cross, Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD), Lutheran Social Services, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief have an agreement on how best to implement and manage the wildfire relief fund. These partners determined that United Way will manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund, and be responsible for providing a report to the community on how the funds were used. After the wildfire is contained, a committee of representatives from community- and faith-based organizations will be convened to assess needs and allocate money from the fund. Committee participation will be driven by the communities affected and the services needed in response to the disaster.

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