It’s the season of giving and there is no shortage of generosity on the Central Coast.
A local food bank worker - who was once homeless - is now paying it forward.
Ignacio Sanchez, also known as Nacho, is a warehouse assistant at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
“Nacho is just a wonderful person to have around, he has such a joy for life. He brings so much enthusiasm to our team and just really cares about the work that he does,” said Laurel Alcantar, Senior Development Manager at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
This Guadalupe native knows first-hand the difficulties many local families are facing.
Growing up, his family relied heavily on County resources to make ends meet. And about four years ago - Nacho and his growing family were experiencing homelessness.
“Everything that you do helps, even the smallest little thing goes a long way,” Sanchez says of the generosity he has seen in the Central Coast, especially at the various agencies that helped him along the way. “It’s honestly a godsend these handouts these agencies offer.”
Sanchez wanted better for his family, so he took action. He started approaching local government leaders to address the obstacles homeless people face.
“Going to city council meetings and speaking and saying we need this, I met Eddie Taylor and we talked together and he liked some of my ideas," said Sanchez.
United Way of Santa Barbara County CEO, Eddie Taylor, remembers him well.
“He went full circle, from the time that I met him four years ago, in front of the city council, saying 'look, many of us just want a chance, we want to be able to work. We want to be able to get into a house.' He articulated the issue, so cleanly and so emotionally. That’s not typically what an unsheltered homeless can do, " said Taylor. "He didn’t just do it once, he did it consistently.”
Sanchez now has a full-time job, housing, a wife and young child.
“It feels really good to be standing where i am and to reach back to where I was to people that I know," said Sanchez.
Alcantar also sees the bigger impact of Sanchez's story. “To be able to get to a place of stability as he is now, him being able to share that story with the rest of our team members, and with agencies that we work with - it just shows how much of an impact we can have on lives," said Alcantar.
“Nacho’s commitment to the program to getting the court system, to getting housed and staying the course, didn’t change his life," said Taylor. "It changed the lives of his child, and probably his grandchildren because this breaks the cycle that they were stuck in for so long. ”
Taylor added, "There are hundreds of stories like Nacho - but very few of them that are that impactful.”