A local nonprofit is imploring the public for help as it attempts to replace three vehicles that were totaled after a large oak tree fell on top of them Sunday evening.
The Unity Shoppe, whose retail store front is located at 1219 State St., serves 22,000 people a year by helping people in need with food, clothing and other essentials.
It uses four vehicles to haul items such as groceries from more than 300 donators, such as local farmers markets, but now will have to find a way to replace the vehicles after they were destroyed by the tree.
Barbara Tollefson, director of operations for the Unity Shoppe, told Noozhawk on Monday that the vans and truck were parked at a storage location when the tree fell around 9 p.m. Sunday, for unknown reasons, badly damaging the cabs and bodies of the trucks.
"It's how we pick up a lot of food, so we need to get some new trucks," she said.
The organization picks up and distributes about $2 million worth of merchandise annually and helps more than 10,000 families throughout the county, she said.
The incident couldn't have come at a worse time for the organization, which "is already financially strapped," Tollefson said, because it is about $400,000 behind on donations.
The organization, which formerly had a donation drop-off at the Victoria Theater, lost donations when construction was going on there last year, setting it back financially, she said.
"Now we're working hard to fill up empty shelves," she said.
The vehicles that were damaged were insured, but Tollefson said the full cost most likely won't be covered, which could add up to as much as $100,000 to replace.
"And I just had them serviced, too," she said. "We can't afford to spend our money to replace them."
The organization runs a complete grocery store and clothing center at its downtown space, where families in need are referred for assistance.
Most of the people the Unity Shoppe helps are working adults, and Tollefson said the food and clothing help they get from the Unity Shoppe "keeps them in the workplace, off of welfare and keeps them from being homeless."
The organization does still have a larger truck used to pick up and deliver furniture that wasn't damaged, but the other three are gone, she said.
"We're so desperate," she said, adding that people wanting to help can reach her at 805.886.2323 or by email at [email protected].
Donations can also be made via its website by clicking here.