The Turner Foundation, since 1958, is a virtually unknown nonprofit service organization in Santa Barbara, unless you live in one of its apartment complexes.
“My family and I didn’t have anywhere to go or stay,” tenant Andrew Eberhart said. “We had a three-bedroom voucher from Section 8 at the Housing Authority, but it’s really hard to find Section 8 housing in the first place and finding a three-bedroom is almost impossible. Plus, when you do find a Section 8 apartment available, you often end up with unbelievably low quality. That’s not case at the Village.”
The Village is a 70-unit apartment complex in the heart of the Westside of Santa Barbara. It is owned and operated by The Turner Foundation, a local nonprofit whose mission it is to care for its tenants by providing a safe, comfortable and affordable living environment through making staff, services and programs available to improve the quality of life for those struggling economically, socially and spiritually.
So, what makes the Village apartments so much different than other apartment buildings?
A community center where families can access the Internet, bake cookies, check out books in the 1,200-volume library or send and receive faxes for free. A tutoring program where children can be tutored by certified tutors and participate in programs designed by teachers to improve their grades. A state-of-the-art playground used exclusively by the tenants.
There is also a high level of safety throughout the Village with security cameras and personnel available 24 hours a day, even on weekends. Along with security available to Village tenants there is counseling (both English and Spanish) with licensed therapists, certified babysitters available for parents who need a night out, and staff available during the week to mentor and play with the kids. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County also supplies the Village with food, and the staff prepares and delivers that to families every other week.
“In the 1950s my grandfather (Rev. Bert Turner) started this nonprofit organization in Riverside, Calif., because he thought help in life should be available to all people — with or without money,” said Todd Wilson, chief operating officer of The Turner Foundation. “Today our focus is on the low-income families in Santa Barbara. People come to us with broken lives and make their surroundings as safe, comfortable and affordable as possible so they can go about the work of fixing whatever it is that is broken.”
Many lives have been touched, indeed, and over the 60 years of service, The Turner Foundation has been supported by many notable individuals as well. Former U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have all either visited the various complexes owned by the foundation or been personally tied to its service.
The Rev. Dr. Jon Wilson, executive director of the foundation, explains the company motto as “Inspiring Lives Through Improving the Community.”
“This is what communities should look like — people with broken lives or over overwhelming circumstances being supported by others who have been there,” he said. “It’s not rocket science; it’s what the Bible says to do, so we’re just doing it.”
— Todd Wilson is chief operating officer for The Turner Foundation.