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Unity Shoppe On the Move, Launches $3.7 Million Capital Campaign

After 25 years of co-ownership at the Victoria Street Community House at 1236 Chapala St., the Unity Shoppe, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with more than 300 Santa Barbara County referring nonprofit agencies, churches, schools and hospitals, is moving its services for families to a new location.

Unity Shoppe serves low-income families, children and the elderly. It is relocating to 1401 Chapala St., at the corner of Sola and Chapala streets.

Unity Shoppe has launched a $3.7 million capital campaign to help pay off its new mortgage.

Major supporters Annette and Harold Simmons have donated $1 million to help secure the new property. Other donors joining the cause include the Jackson Family Foundation, Gary Simpson (owner of Home Improvement Center), the Santa Barbara Foundation, Lillian Lovelace, Kim and Donna Richards, Wendy McCaw, James and Shirley Bartlett, and Unity Shoppe board members.

“Unity Shoppe faces a significant challenge and a great opportunity,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “As the needs grow (last year Unity strategically addressed the food, clothing and basic necessity needs of over 24,000 people in crisis), Unity has the opportunity to consolidate all client services into one location. The Santa Barbara Foundation supports this consolidation as it will strengthen the organization, make it more efficient, allow it to reinvigorate its mission and burnish its well-deserved reputation as a compassionate resource to our county’s most vulnerable residents.”

“Over the last 96 years, Unity Shoppe has created a unique model,” Executive Director Tom Reed affirmed. “Documented clients have included many victims of the Tea and Jesusita fires, as well as families where a father or mother has lost a job, where illness threatens bankruptcy, where homelessness is a real possibility, where seniors have been hit hard, and where life has taken an unfortunate toll on people. We help them avoid welfare, prepare them for new job opportunities with on-the-job training, and provide needed food to supplement their income as we encourage people to take care of their own families.”

Client services director Elvira Avina added: “Unity Shoppe carefully qualifies and documents every referred client to avoid duplication. The goal is to help eligible people access services they need on their road back to self-sufficiency.”

Unity Shoppe’s services include: food distribution, school supplies, clothing, shoes, diapers, household goods, furniture, basic necessities, on-the-job training, professional clothing (with interview coaching and résumé assistance), a Senior Resource Center, holiday toys and birthday remembrances, emergency response and long-term recovery.

“What a difference it makes in people’s lives when parents are given the opportunity to shop for their own households; provide their children with healthy food, school clothing and supplies; train for new jobs; rebuild after a disaster; and work toward a future when they will again be independent,” program director Pat Hitchcock said.

Barbara Tellefson, president and director of operations, added: “Our agency’s long-term disaster services help people recover from fire and flood emergencies long after ‘first responders’ have completed their duties. Unity Shoppe provides a safety net to Santa Barbara County residents by offering a unique Central Distribution Center for the entire community’s use whenever they might need it. By working together with other agencies, we avoid duplication of services so more people can be helped with better, more consistent, more dignified assistance while saving community resources for other uses.”

To date, Unity Shoppe has raised $1.2 million toward its capital campaign goal of $3.7 million. The capital funds are aimed at paying off the Sola Street facility and allowing the agency to consolidate services for families under one roof. The organization must raise at least another $1 million in 2013 to reduce monthly mortgage payments. The Simmonses and other current donors are inviting the community to join them by supporting Unity’s relocation efforts, so that services can continue uninterrupted to help low-income working families, children, the disabled and seniors.

For more information or to make a donation to Unity Shoppe’s Capital Campaign, click here or call 805.965.4122.

— Jonatha King is a publicist representing Unity Shoppe.

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