A Century of Dignity and Respect
For more than 100 years, Unity Shoppe, a multifaceted nonprofit serving Santa Barbara’s residents, has maintained an unwavering focus on dignity and respect in their service to others.
Today, the organization has grown to use every inch of its 31,000 square feet of building space to steadily serve 20,000 individuals referred by over 300 partner agencies across Santa Barbara County every year. In some 80,000 annual visits, clients come to Unity Shoppe’s Essential Services Center where they select from a wide array of nutritious groceries presented as if at a high-end food market; or families can shop for new clothes and school supplies entirely free-of-charge.
This question of choice is as old as Unity Shoppe itself. During the 1930s the organization heralded volunteers who amassed gifts to give to the working poor during the holiday season. Unity Shoppe, then called The Council of Christmas Cheer, had a clear policy regarding the paramount importance of client choice.
For Barbara Tellefson, who has run Unity Shoppe for nearly 50 years, this concept is what first attracted her as a volunteer, and what keeps her passionate about the organization well into her 80s.
“Dignity is essential to the human spirit,” Tellefson says. “It signals that you are valued for who you are, and how you live your life. We’ve never assumed we know better than the people we serve.They have their own ideas about what is important to them and their families. When we give them the opportunity to choose and then show respect for their decisions, we are saying ‘You are worthy; You CAN do it.’”
And Unity Shoppe is there every step on the journeys of its tens of thousands of clients. For those low-income men, women and youth who are actively seeking employment, the organization’s Job Smart program provides resumé assistance, job interview coaching, and appropriate work attire so they can put their best foot forward and land the job. When they are hired, they can choose more outfits to help them feel confident in their new workplace.
Every year, Unity Shoppe’s 1,700 volunteers ensure that all programs are imbued with respect and TLC towards clients. Many among the bevy of volunteers are seniors who do everything from hand-making and wrapping holiday gifts to assembling customized care packages for other seniors. Able-bodied and disabled youth volunteers are trained in practical job skills and gain valuable work experience, while others accrue necessary community service hours to complete high school.
For Tellefson this is the beauty of Unity Shoppe, “People from all walks of life, races, and religions join together to be of service to people that need help. We hear again and again from both clients and volunteers how Unity has changed their lives.”
Unity Shoppe, Inc.
For over 100 years, Unity Shoppe, Inc. has been building a sustainable support system for all those in our Community who face unforeseen crises by providing free, essential services: nutritious food, school clothing, senior care and volunteerism programs, and job training for youth and adults. Always a-political, non-denominational, and non-discriminatory: Unity Shoppe, Inc. is here for everyone.
Begin to Build a Relationship
We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.
I Never Thought This Would Happen to Me
“Guardian angels have shown up throughout my life: my husband moved from New York for me, my district manager encouraged me to become a retail store manager, and last year it was Unity Shoppe. We lost our lease without warning and needed to move into a hotel with our children. Unity provided us with months of needed groceries. Today, we’re in our own place and eager to give back. We want others to know they’re not alone – it’s okay to ask for help!”
Striving to Become Debt Free
Fulfilling its mission and running a nonprofit at the scale of Unity Shoppe is a costly endeavor. A key component of maintaining sustainability is eliminating overhead. Currently Unity Shoppe is carrying $3.5 million in mortgage debt before it owns its property and is able to apply annual fundraising dollars entirely to support programs and services for Community residents in need. Donations designated to pay down the mortgage will be matched up to $1 million dollars by an anonymous donor.
Board of Directors
Cynthia Hooper, Vice Chairman, Community West Bank
Barbara E. Tellefson, President/Director of Operations, In Memoriam
Patti Boucher, Secretary, Union Bank VP
Reed Spangler, Treasurer-Financial Officer, MacFarlane & Faletti
Les Carroll, KZSB Radio General Manager
Frank Corral, Meta Law, Inc.
Susan Rodriguez, Brown & Brown Insurance President
Jerry Herzberg, Jer’s Repairs Heating and Air
Kenneth Kahn, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Jonatha King, King Communications Owner
David Prichard, US Trust, B of A Private Wealth Management
Thomas D. Reed, Executive Director