FUND Executive Director Marcos Vargas is the founding Executive Director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), a community-based social movement organization for social, economic and environmental justice serving the California Central Coast.
Marcos’ experience in the non-profit sector include Executive Director of El Concilio del Condado de Ventura, a Ventura County Latino community advocacy and multi-service organization (1986-1995), the founding chairperson of the Ventura County Living Wage Coalition (1997-2001) and the Director of Planning for the United Way of Ventura County (1984-1986). He currently serves on numerous local, regional and national boards, including the McCune Foundation, the Common Counsel Foundation and the Partnership for Working Families. Marcos has received numerous awards in recognition of his community work, including the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Award from the California Federation of Teachers, the Cesar Chavez 50 in 50 Leadership Award from the United Farm Workers of America, 2007 El Concilio Latino Leadership Award, and 2004 Earth Summit Leadership Award from the Ventura County Citizens for Peaceful Resolution (CPR). His work on behalf of the rights of low-wage working women, including his publication of the 2001 report on the Feminization of Poverty in the California Central Coast, won him the 2003 Leadership Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus of Ventura County.
Over 14 years, Marcos led the growth of CAUSE from a small research and policy advocacy center into a powerful grassroots force for social, economic and environmental justice throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Under his leadership, CAUSE fought poverty by passing a series of living wage ordinances, protected the voice of underrepresented communities by leading redistricting for county, state and federal representatives, and defeated the largest mining company in the world to stop an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal that would have been the largest source of pollution in the region. In 2013, Marcos carried out a successful merger between the Ventura County based CAUSE and its Santa Barbara County based sister organization PUEBLO, to ensure the continuation of over a decade of work to raise wages, expand public transit, protect renters, defend immigrants’ rights and improve environmental sustainability in Santa Barbara County. Since then, Marcos has served as the executive director of both CAUSE and CAUSE Action Fund, an affiliated 501c4 nonprofit organization that educates and mobilizes working families, immigrant communities and young people to vote.
A strong commitment to the life-long practice of social learning, Marcos has sought to inform his work through decades of community organizing and policy advocacy, as well as the study and application of both social science and Native American indigenous teachings. A Sundancer in the Lakota Native American and Mexica traditions, Marcos is actively involved in efforts to expand the knowledge and application of these indigenous teachings and ceremonies in all levels of social change work.
Having earned his doctorate degree in urban planning from the University of California at Los Angeles, Marcos’ 2004 dissertation addresses the theory and practice of community transformation and the expanding public policy and community development role of racial and multi-racial community based organizations in California. A father of three, Marcos lives in Ventura, California with his wife, Robin Jacobs and his two daughters, Maya Esperanza (age 18), Julianna Citlali (age 15). His son Canek Pena-Vargas (age 32) is a high school history teacher in Los Angeles. Marcos’ wife, Robin, is a third grade bilingual education teacher with the Ventura Unified School District.
Director of Capacity Building
Recently, Gary has also led a strategic partnership with the Santa Barbara Independent to develop Santa Barbara Gives! - a two month long campaign that raised over $400,000 for progressive social change organizations in its inaugural year. He also represented the FUND on the Board of the Funding Exchange - a national network of publicly supported, community-based foundations who share a commitment to social change philanthropy.
His experience in the non-profit sector started in his early twenties as a member of the Board of Directors of New Directions for people with disabilities, Inc. He has served in leadership roles for Lit Moon Theatre Company and Summer Solstice Celebration in addition to a civic advisory role with Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation. And as co-chair of QAD's Committee on Corporate Involvement he co-founded QAD's philanthropic flagship, Project Upgrade. Gary has been an active organizer and leader in the LGBT Rights Movement since 2007, co-founding the Strategic Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME) and served as Chair of the OUTrageous! / Santa Barbara LGBTQ Film Festival.
Gary's drive to advocate on behalf of the disenfranchised and marginalized stems from experiencing discrimination directly as a member of the LGBTQ community and having three gay uncles who led by example with their courage to speak out against injustice and engage in both activism and philanthropy. He first discovered what it meant to be an advocate for change through the HIV/AIDS crisis and its continued impact on his family.
Gary is a native of Sonoma County, an alumn of UCSB (Go Gauchos!) and Santa Rosa Junior College (Go Bear Cubs!) and when not advocating and/or organizing in the community, he can usually be found on a tennis court, dance floor, or remote hiking trail.
Kristin joined the Fund for Santa Barbara in April 2018, holding positions as a Development & Communications Intern and Administrative Assistant before becoming the FUND’s Operations Assistant in January 2019.
Kristin is passionate about affordability and access in higher education, Asian American representation in politics, and gender equity. She spends her free time volunteering in local campaigns, cooking, and going to the gym.
Inspired by the Fund's activist-led grant-making philosophy, and the grassroots organizations it funds, Geneva joined the Fund as full-time staff in January of 2018. She sees the Fund as integral to social justice movements throughout Santa Barbara County. A recent graduate with degrees in Statistical Science and History, Geneva is passionate about using data to solve real-world social issues.
Geneva is active in the Santa Barbara community, and regularly canvasses in her free time for local ballot measures and candidates.
Ask her about what it's like to grow up in the San Francisco hippie community, or about Survivor seasons 1 through 15. She's a fan.
North County Program Associate
David is a graduate of UCSB with a BA in Sociology and a minor in education. Aside from being a program associate and being a coordinator of Youth Making Change while working at the Fund, David is also a Board Member of Truth In Recruitment.
Director of Grant-Making
She has worked with CCFL, and held leadership roles in many local community actions and initiatives, including her service on the FUND’s Grant Making Committee and annual North County Tardeada event. Among her numerous recognitions, in 2016 Patricia received the Working Families Award from the Santa Barbara County Action Network for her many efforts to improve the lives of working families in the region.
Stanley served first as an intern with the FUND in 2013 assisting the innovative grant-making program. He moved on to work as a District Representative for State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson before joining the FUND full-time at the end of 2015.
The knowledge he gained about his family then developed into an interest and understanding of broader issues in his own community, both politically and culturally, which he hopes to learn more about through his work with the FUND.
Hugo also has a passion for helping younger students pursue a higher education and is excited to join the FUND as South County Coordinator for the Youth Making Change program. During his years at the university Hugo was part of the College Link Outreach Program, a program dedicated to helping underrepresented students from Los Angeles experience college through workshops, academic resources and professional connections. In his free time, he enjoys reading about philosophy and watching TED talk videos on YouTube.
In addition, he has had experience working in grassroots political campaigns by phone-banking and walking streets in order to help elect many of the local officials that represent Coachella today. Aside from doing political and nonprofit work, Alejandro spent most of his time playing sports and appreciating music.
In his first year at UCSB, Alejandro got involved in Hermanos Unidos de UCSB, a Latino-based organization that helps Latinos prosper in their time at the university in which he served as the org’s External Social Chair. He also took part in the National Student Power Summit where he helped lobby bills in Washington D.C. that addressed issues in the education system. In the fall of 2017, Alejandro studied abroad in South America. He studied for six weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina and six weeks in Santiago, Chile; along with traveling to Uruguay and Peru. At UCSB, his research focuses on juvenile delinquency, specifically observing the relationship between Black and Latino youth with law enforcement and finding ways to break the school-to-prison pipeline. At the same time, he spends time doing critical analyses of Hip Hop music. His biggest inspirations range from Cesar Chavez to Kendrick Lamar.
She is currently the President of the UCSB chapter of this organization, FeelGood, and sits on their Board of Directors. Paige brings in this lens to her work at the UCSB Women’s Center, where she has planned events around sustainability and ecofeminism, equal pay, and body positivity.
Aside from her nonprofit and academic work, Paige enjoys dancing, cooking, and meeting dogs. She is a member of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative and spends time working with and enjoying the community of her all vegan house.