A group of 10 fifth-graders from Washington Elementary School on the Mesa gave a helping hand in time for Christmas.
“I just like the feeling of helping people, and I think it’s really fun,” said Emma Zavala, 10.
The girls helped stock shelves, labeled products with bar codes and guided Unity Shoppe customers through the aisles to shop. Dressed in aprons with “Unity Shoppe” printed on them, they pushed the carts along the passages in what looks like Santa’s village, pointing at the shelves and telling the shoppers how many cans, pieces or boxes of products they could pick from each.
“Two (cans) from the beans, and five pieces of bread,” the girls repeated clearly on each round.
Unity Shoppe, which has been located at 1219 State St. for the past 10 years, has a hidden back store adjacent to Victoria Court. The store provides food, clothes, toys and knick-knacks for families who earn an income below the federal poverty level.
The store is built for children: the check-in office is a ship, a model train runs above the visitors’ heads, and an oversized Ronald McDonald beckons shoppers to sit with him on a bench.
“Santa built it,” said Barbara Tellefson, president and director of operations at Unity Shoppe.
Amid the decked halls, St. Nick can also be spotted working in a corner of the store.
Some shelves were filled, but the meat-fish shelf, among others, was empty.
Tellefson, who has been involved with the nonprofit organization since 1974, said Unity Shoppe currently has enough food to supply families only up to Christmas Day.
“We need people to donate, especially in times like these,” she said.
“Just the feeling of helping people ... help people get their food,” said Eva Moschitto, 10, when asked about her enthusiasm for the task. “They’re pretty happy to see all the things ... Kids are running around in the toy section.”
Unity Shoppe also organizes the annual Santa Barbara Motorcycle Toy Run, which will be stretching from Montecito to Goleta on Sunday. The 25th annual ride is expected to attract 500 to 600 motorcyclists.