Vitamin Angels founder and president Howard Schiffer and his wife Kim lost their home to the fire raging in Santa Barbara this week.
Upon finding out his home was destroyed, Schiffer said, "Honestly, a week ago today I was in a refugee camp in Kenya with people who lost their homes to violence and hatred and literally have nothing — they're living under makeshift plastic tents with no food, no medical; people are dying every week. So when I lost my home I thought, 'I lost mine, they lost theirs, but even in the midst of my discomfort and the upset for my family, I have tremendous support and the big, important things are in place; we will be okay.'"
Schiffer founded Vitamin Angels in 1994 in response to the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles that injured more than 9000 people, later expanding distribution of vitamins and supplements around the globe to developing countries.
Currently, Vitamin Angels is running a global vitamin A campaign, Operation 20/20, focused on eliminating childhood blindness and reducing child mortality caused by vitamin A deficiency worldwide by the year 2020. In addition, they anticipate distributing 100,000,000 multivitamins to new and expecting mothers and children under five worldwide this year.
Support for Schiffer
The board of directors at Vitamin Angels has established a fund to accept donations and support for Howard Schiffer and his family.
The Howard and Kim Schiffer Home Replacement Fund
C/O Vitamin Angels
P.O. Box 4490
Santa Barbara, CA, 93140
The blaze, which started as a brushfire on May 5, has now burned more than 3,500 acres and destroyed more than 75 homes and buildings. At least 20,000 people have been evacuated; another 16,000 are in a warning area.
"The whole thing comes down to which way the wind blows, but firefighters have been heroic and amazing," a shaken Schiffer said. "The wind was insane last night. It exploded and there was a five mile line of fire — it looked like the whole town was going to go up in flames."
Currently, the fire is only 10 percent contained after 50 mph winds fanned the flames in all directions, making predicting and controlling the blaze extremely difficult. Once the wind stops, firefighters will be able to manage the inferno.
"The support so far has been amazing," Schiffer said. "I feel very blessed — not the way I would have chosen, but given that you don't always have a choice, I feel very blessed."