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By Shawn Raymundo
The spirit of giving has always been strong for Jay “Sparky” Longley and Rainbow Sandals—the little-known footwear company he runs here in San Clemente.
Over the years, Longley has helped to give back to the community by charitably donating thousands of dollars, recycled products and food to a variety of organizations, churches, food pantries and numerous other programs, many of which operate locally in South Orange County.
Last week, San Clemente Times reported Rainbow Sandals’ $50,000 contribution to the historical Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens—a donation meant to go a long way toward supporting the nonprofit’s annual programs.
“I decided it was Rainbow Sandals’ responsibility to help these wonderful organizations like Casa Romantica and others in our community the best we can,” Longley had said in a press release.
But that was merely the tip of the iceberg for the local company that first made San Clemente its home in 1974.
This past holiday season alone, amid the ongoing pandemic that’s spurned economic growth and put many out of work, Rainbow Sandals donated an estimated $500,000 to a slew of organizations, according to Patrick Huber, vice president of marketing for Rainbow.
The amount doubles to about $1 million in donations, Longley noted, when accounting for 2020 as whole.
“We just wanted to make sure that we gave money to groups we believe in and were part of the community,” Longley said of the company’s charitable efforts during the year. “Because of the pandemic, we gave more, because we thought that was the right thing to do—to help. So mostly all the (groups) that we helped were really impacted by the pandemic.”
A review of the company’s news page on its website showed that the company’s recent giving spree included donations to dozens of charities and nonprofits, such as Family Assistance Ministries (FAM), Assistance League of San Clemente, PierPride Foundation and Community Outreach Alliance, just to name a few.
In a phone call with SC Times on Tuesday, Jan. 5, Longley spoke highly of the various organizations Rainbow has chosen to help, notably FAM, the San Clemente-based nonprofit that works to keep families from becoming homeless, providing resources for those on the brink of ending up on the streets.
“A lot of people don’t know what they do—Family Assistance Ministries—boy, that’s a big deal,” he said, adding that “there’s so many people that give their time, so many heroes that sit there all day that sort out food and assist people. Rainbow Sandals, we’re just one little speck of helpers here that help people with things.”
Over the holiday season, the Rainbow Sandals Foundation went around presenting checks, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, to the local programs and institutions that have struggled to raise their own funds because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another check for $2,000 was presented to the Capistrano Unified School District that “will be applied to assist in the food distribution for families and students,” the company said.
“We gave money to CUSD,” Longley explained, because “some of them (students) are homeless even when they go to school … that’s a huge thing. I believe the education (is important); if you’re not fed well, you can’t think … so that’s really an important one.”
To further address food insecurity for families struggling to get by during the pandemic, Longley and the company also provided funding and avocados—with the help of local partner Del Rey Avocados—to the North County Food Bank in San Diego, the local Boys & Girls Club, FAM and Calvary Chapel in San Juan Capistrano, among others.
The local surf community and the U.S. Olympic surf team that’s bound for Japan later this year certainly didn’t go unnoticed by Longley, either, as the Rainbow Sandals Foundation donated $10,000 to USA Surfing on Dec. 11.
The “donation will help fund the USA Surfing mission to support and grow the sport of surfing, empower future generations of champions, and advance the positive image of the surfing lifestyle in the United States,” the company said in one of its news releases last month.
On Monday, Jan. 4, members of the San Clemente Historical Society noted that they, too, recently received a charitable donation from Longley, whose support comes at a time when the organization hasn’t been able to host its annual fundraisers due to social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders.
“It has been a tough year for the San Clemente Historical Society, as it has been for everyone,” Historical Society President Larry Culbertson said in an email. “We have not been able to have meetings or do fundraising. Rainbow Sandals Foundation’s generous $10,000 donation really means a lot to us. San Clemente is fortunate to have Sparky Longley on our side.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.