Tag Archives: Unity Shoppe

We ALL Deserve to Experience the Bounty of the Season!

Now that Summer is in the air, the buzz to “get out there” and engage with our greater Community is palpable! But dusting off the lingering memories of the past year is not as simple as it looks… our hope is that with your ongoing and generous support of Unity’s mission — THANK YOU! — and our hard work in providing the essentials, we can ease the burden on those still finding their way back after the long pandemic “winter” we just lived through.

All of us at Unity Shoppe, including our essential workers, are grateful to be vaccinated and working on behalf of our Community’s residents. Those in need of help still turn to us for support services every day. They include: vulnerable seniors and other homebound adults who continue to need our grocery delivery service year-round; formerly employed Santa Barbarans still waiting for retailers, hotels, and restaurants to re-open in full; and parents waiting for schools and childcare to resume in person next fall.

Here’s just one example among thousands of what our services have meant in the lives of our clients. Before the pandemic, Erin and her family couldn’t fathom ever needing our support:

“Like so many of us, our family was hit very hard by Covid. Suddenly, we lost our jobs, our 4 kids needed to learn from home, and food in our fridge and pantry was scarce. Thanks to the caring people at Unity, we received fresh food for months – enough to keep our family fed and healthy – as well as access to a lifeline of support that helped us cope with the fear and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.”

It’s Never Been More Clear: As One CommUNITY We Succeed!

Funds are needed immediately to purchase food, fresh produce, and items with a longer shelf life that we depleted during the past year of the pandemic, so please act now. And, thank you to Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who have agreed to match what we raise during the month of June up to $10,000!

Summer Food Challenge donations can be made to Unity Shoppe online at:

Ready, Set, Go! Taking Our Mission to New Heights

Realities that became clear in 2020 and, by all accounts, will prevail for the next few years, have informed how we plan to help our Community in 2021 and beyond. Whether they’re seniors in assisted living, hourly wage-earning families living in multi-generational households, or the newly unemployed confronted with joblessness due to Covid-related layoffs, we’re ready to take our mission to new heights.

It Would Be Unconscionable to “Un-See” What We Saw in 2020

– More than 1 in 14 seniors live in poverty locally

– The working poor, the bulk of our clients, still live on small fixed incomes that in no way cover typical monthly expenses

– When more than 30% of their income is earmarked for housing, nutritional food often becomes unaffordable for local seniors and others who are physically or economically vulnerable

– Food insecurity remains a huge problem in our Community with each passing year, as basic nutritional needs go unmet for children through seniors

– Population subgroups already strained economically are especially susceptible to the negative impact of unexpected events, like this most recent pandemic

– Many in our Community are homebound and have limited transportation options

– Social isolation, loneliness, and depression have spiked in the last 14 months

So What Do We Do NOW?

– Grow our inventory of food and other essentials so that not a single vulnerable, isolated, or senior resident in need of food is turned away — and allow them to shop twice a month.

– Don’t stop offering grocery deliveries to our isolated and most vulnerable clients still impacted by the pandemic.

– Expand and deepen the impact of our senior volunteer effort. We must find a way to get evenmore of the handiworks and custom gifts our senior program volunteers make into the hands and homes of those who need to feel they’ve not been forgotten!

We See Glimmers on the Horizon…

And look forward to the day very soon when our outreach will expand anew: allowing clients and their families safely inside our space to shop for exactly what they want and need, whether it’s in the Grocery and Clothing Store, in the Back-to-School Pop-Up, or in the Holiday Gift Shoppe; reopening our Volunteerism Programs in full and giving the Community the opportunity to be of service; supporting the newly jobless and youth through Job Smart, our employment readiness program; and welcoming the Community back into Gift Shoppe on State Street in search of donated but unique treasures, like clothing, jewelry, home furnishings and more!

2020: A Challenging (and Rewarding) Year Like No Other…

2020 was a year like no other, and it confirmed for us that nothing – not even a worldwide pandemic – could hamper Unity Shoppe’s dedication to the people of Santa Barbara, especially those who felt most vulnerable or experienced sudden job loss and needed a place to turn during this crisis. 

Led by our fearless founder, Barbara Tellefson, we quickly moved into high gear, consolidating all of our programs and services down to distributing food alone in a way that was safe and would help as many people as possible without losing site of our 100-year-old mission: to offer people choice in what they receive and to do so without compromising their dignity or self-respect. 

We quickly secured PPE, kept our essential staff and our Community’s most at-risk members healthy and safe, followed all safety guidelines, and met intense cleanliness standards. By doing so we were able to accommodate residents who could shop at Unity directly and receive free groceries they picked out themselves: farm fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated dairy products, poultry and beef, bread and baked goods, and canned and boxed staples too. The need for food has been so critical over this past year that we worked hard to ensure our clients, many of whom were families of 4-5 people, could shop for everything they needed every other week (up from only once per month in pre-Covid times). Hours were extended and front of the line privileges and automatic car loading assistance was offered to anyone who needed it by our essential staff, much like at any other supermarket around town. But not everyone was able to shop in person; for immuno-compromised, disabled or homebound residents from Goleta to Carpinteria, we instituted a highly sought after delivery service of groceries they pre-selected and we delivered right to their door.

For more information about Unity Shoppe, visit www.unityshoppe.org.

It Takes a Village to Help Our Village!

Someone once said that it takes a village to raise a child; at Unity Shoppe, we say that it takes a village to help a village — and every day we offer our gratitude for that support:  to Unity’s essential employees for their selfless work, especially in this last year, when our Community needed it most; to our volunteers who normally join us throughout the year, in numbers typically nearing 2,000 strong, through a range of initiatives, contributing their handiwork, their time and willingness to lend a hand, and their desire to collect dollar amounts and in-kind donations large and small to make a difference in the lives of our local residents. And what of our donors? When we ask — and we do ask — their positive response and generous support is never taken for granted!

Here are just but two examples of the kind of big-hearted folks we mean.  Meet Kathy and Christina, who will also be featured as part of our upcoming Spring Newsletter due out in early April. 

If you would like to receive a copy, and learn more about all things Unity during the pandemic, and how we’re going to keeping supporting our Community in novel ways during the rest of 2021, email us your post mail address to pat@unityshoppe.org, and we’ll be sure to send you a copy!

Ms. Christina Rodriguez: A MOST Essential Worker!

How do we explain why Christina is one of our MOST essential workers? … In her own words, of course!

From a very young age, all I ever wanted was to rescue and heal all living creatures who were being mistreated and needed caring for. As I got older that feeling only got stronger, so when I found “my perfect first job” at Unity Shoppe, I vowed to keep it for as long as possible! That was 1995, and I’ve never looked back since!

Christina has been an integral member of the Unity Shoppe family since joining the team 16 years ago, when she was hired to open Unity’s Gift Shoppe on State Street. Fast forward several years of on-the-job training in many different capacities — merchandising, purchasing, inventorying, client services, staff supervision, and volunteer oversight — and you’re left with an employee like no other: the person capable of filling Barbara’s shoes as Manager of Operations!

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss our dear Miss Barbara. More than anything, I want to continue to make her proud by fulfilling the role she taught me so well. Partly because it was among her last wishes, but mostly because I owe it to her and to all of the wonderful people who have turned to Unity for help — especially in this last year. Nothing makes me more proud than to be part of a team that can make a genuine difference in the lives of so many who are less fortunate.

Leading others with her big warm heart, engaging smile, and years of experience under Barbara’s mentorship, we know Christina will shine bright in her newest role at Unity Shoppe!

An Extraordinary Volunteer with a Heart of Gold…Much Like That of Her Hero

No single phrase adequately describes the powerhouse that is Kathy Hughes…a part of the Unity Shoppe family for over 30 years, she’s been a devoted volunteer, donor, cheerleader, Community member, and successful realtor at Berkshire Hathaway who isn’t bashful about sharing her strong work ethic or passion for the woman she considered her mentor, teacher, and friend — Barbara Tellefson.

I had the honor of really watching Barbara from up close over the years, and when I think about her…what comes to mind first is how she brought the Santa Barbara Community together at Unity Shoppe and just how many thousands of people she was able to help during her lifetime. Barbara was my hero, and she taught me incredible life lessons that I try to embody every day: how to care, how to give generously to others, and how to treat people — all people — with love and respect.

As much as it saddens me to think of Unity Shoppe and our Community  without Barbara, I am comforted to know that her legacy lives on in the caring staff who work in service of others — especially during this incredibly trying time. I know that Barbara’s vision and mission will live on in Unity Shoppe with the help of her many caring supporters and volunteers, just like me, for years to come.

Thank you Kathy for your volunteership and support over three decades, for your most recent sponsorship of our 34th Annual Telethon in December 2020, and the additional matching dollars it generated — thanks to your generous outreach effort — from all across the Community … a heart of gold indeed!

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.”