Toys For Tots toy drive runs through Saturday
Santa Ynez People Helping People is hosting a Toys For Tots toy drive through Saturday, Dec. 17, in combination with a winter coat drive as part of its annual Fulfill-a-Wish holiday program that benefits local families in need.
Donors can drop off coats, jackets and sweatshirts, as well as new unwrapped toys, through Saturday in the collection box located at the Chamber of Commerce lobby, at 597 Avenue of Flags, Unit 101, in Buellton.
SYV Botanic Garden holiday lights festival ends Sunday
Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden inaugural “Enchanted Garden Holiday Lights Festival” will conclude Sunday, with a final visit from live reindeer.
The evening festival showcases thousands of glowing lights strung throughout the garden, including installments like LED animal figures and a rainbow display.
The evening festival is open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 16, 17 and 18.
The immersive light experience will feature a Holiday Country Market with food, beer and wine, and activities such as Christmas carolers, falling snow, and photos with Santa.
Admission to the festival is $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 3-12 and free for children 2 and under.
Funds raised will help support future developments of the botanic grounds.
To purchase tickets, visit www.EnchantedHolidayLights.com.
The Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden is located at River View Park, at 151 Sycamore Drive in Buellton.
Free hot breakfast served at St. Mark’s
The community is invited to enjoy a free hot breakfast at the newly renovated Santa Ynez Valley Community Kitchen each Saturday at 8 a.m.
The meal, which is available to everyone at no charge, includes hot and cold, gluten-free, and vegan options.
The “Valley Breakfast” is an initiative to address food insecurity in the community and the community kitchen helps support micro-businesses and provides a no-fee space for nonprofit and community-based groups.
Free tax assistance offered to low-income residents
Free tax preparation assistance is being offered to residents of the Santa Ynez Valley who are low- and moderate-income taxpayers.
The Tax-Aide program, which is sponsored by the AARP Foundation and Internal Revenue Service, focuses on assisting older adults during this time of year and also welcomes taxpayers of all ages within the stated income bracket.
While a new Solvang Senior Center building is under construction, the tax return services will be prepared in person by volunteers who are certiﬁed by the IRS, on Mondays and Fridays at the American Legion Wing, Veterans Hall, 1745 Mission Drive, Solvang.
The period of operation will be Feb. 3 to April 14, between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays.
All assistance is by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling the Solvang Senior Center at 805-688-3793 beginning Jan. 2.
All necessary COVID-19 protocols will be observed at appointments, and Tax-Aide volunteers will be fully vaccinated.
Clients are asked to bring their social security cards, a valid picture ID, records of 2022 wages (W-2s) and all 1099 forms received that report income from interest dividends, pensions/annuities, social security and IRAs, as well as copies of 2021 Federal and State tax returns.
More complex returns which entail rental property, farming or businesses with over $35,000 of expense are beyond the scope of the program and should be taken to a professional tax preparation firm.
Santa Barbara County residents asked to test, report internet speed
Residents across Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties are being asked to test their internet speed as part of an effort to identify opportunities to improve internet speed, access and cost.
Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast has launched a Tri-Counties internet needs assessment survey and speed test for members of the public to self-report their internet experience and speed, a Santa Barbara County spokeswoman said.
To access the speed test, visit https://pcbroadband.org/santabarbara-county-speed-test-2/.
The survey and speed test are part of a regional approach to identifying broadband infrastructure gaps and areas of need and accelerate broadband deployment and local response to digital equity issues.
Survey and speed test data will be mapped by a geospatial engineering firm and used to identify areas with low or no access to high-speed internet, the spokeswoman said, and individuals can also identify areas where internet access is unaffordable.
The needs assessment survey for Santa Barbara County was completed in June as part of the Santa Barbara County Broadband Strategic Plan, and the speed test data from the county will help with regional planning.
Information collected through the survey and speed test will be used to seek funding to improve affordable access to high-performing internet across the region, the spokeswoman said.