Santa Wears RainbowsMar 20, 2021 11:34AM ● By Don Kindred
Chanya, Bentley and Sparky Longley, the Community Grand Marshal in the Festival of Whales Parade. (2015)
by Don Kindred
He’s got that shock of white hair, a rather jolly disposition, and he did deliver a sleigh-load of gifts in December; but his outfit will give him away.
Jay “Sparky” Longley is rarely out of his standard beachwear; shirt, shorts and a pair of well-worn Rainbow Sandals. As most San Clementeans know, Sparky is the man who created the world-wide footwear brand in his quixotic quest to make the world’s best sandal. The brand that made six pair a day, by hand, five decades ago, has become an international success, now shipping over two million pair a year.
In 2020, he shared that success with donations of over $1,000,000 in cash and some 400,000 pounds of farm-fresh produce to charitable and community organizations. That’s not including the sandals, computers, clothing and homeless hygiene products that are provided annually.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he says modestly, when asked about the impressive level of generosity. “Help was needed, we were in a position to help, so we did.”
Rainbow Sandals didn’t exactly escape the devasting affects of the pandemic last year, when over 8,000 of their retail outlets were closed due to Covid 19 shutdowns; a significant challenge to any wholesaler.
“We had a pretty good year anyway,” says Sparky, “We made some adaptions and our online sales are doing well. Then you hear the stories, the events cancelled, students home without computers, school lunches stopped, people out of work, people hungry ... We all have to help where we can.”
The Rainbow Foundations
The desire to help others isn’t anything new to Longley. He is known for his financial support of Marines, children’s charities and the homeless for years. On Easter and Thanksgiving, you can usually find him, and his wife Chanya, serving in a food line at Capo Beach Calvary Church or Mary’s Kitchen rather than at his palatial Beach Road home.
In 2015, after they had purchased portable showers and bathroom facilities to serve the homeless communities of central Orange County, they personally witnessed so much need that they decided to form their own foundations;
The Rainbow Sandals Foundation and BeHappy Living, Inc. While each of the organizations have their own separate missions, they both share the central theme of enhancing the lives of people in need, of trying to help create a better world.
During the end of 2020, they turned their attention to our local community and donated over $250,000. They supported the Capistrano Unified School District’s Food Program, cash and computers to the Boys and Girls Club, the culturally-iconic Casa Romantica. They gave fruit and cash to the San Clemente Seniors, supported the recently-closed Ocean Institute, who was left with no income and still had the sea life to feed. Donations were made to help the San Clemente Chamber, the local business community, Cabrillo Theater, The Historical Society, Family Assistance Ministries, Community Outreach Alliance, the Military Family Outreach, The Elks Club, the Coral Thrift Shop, SC High School Athletics, the I-5 Freedom Network, PierPride, the Friends of San Clemente, and of course the Pet Project Foundation ... a long, impressive list.
The impact of the cash infusion on our little beach town was felt immediately. The often surprise news of a large donation, brought tears of gratitude, sighs of relief and breaths of fresh air to the strained coffers of those groups that in turn provide the safety net for our citizens in the greatest need.
Challenging times always expose the heroes that walk humbly among us.