Auctioneer Jim Glines and master of ceremonies Geoff Green in action at Champions Dinner & Awards ceremony. (Courtesy photo)

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, CommUnify (formerly Community Action Commission) held its Champions Dinner & Awards June 9, and raised $171,787 to increase funding for nine programs in its Family & Youth Services division.

The sold-out event hosted 182 guests, including community leaders, business owners and nonprofit directors, at The River Grill, at Alisal Ranch in Solvang. The Champions Dinner was supported by 36 corporate and hospitality sponsors from across Santa Barbara County.

The 2022 Champions honored during the evening were the Santa Barbara Foundation; Robert Freeman, former CEO of CenCal Health and CommUnify’s Board president for eight years; and Eric and Kelly Onnen, community volunteers and co-owners of Santa Barbara Airbus. The event also recognized 2020 Champions The Towbes Group, Rona Barrett and Jim Glines.

Geoff Green, executive director of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation served as the night’s master of ceremonies, and a high-energy auction was led by Jim Glines and his bid-spotting team, backed up by staff from the Community Bank of Santa Maria.

“We are so grateful for the generosity and continued support from our community,” said Patricia Keelean, CommUnify CEO.

“These greatly needed funds will help CommUnify to expand our programs to serve the youth of Santa Barbara County and provide them with additional support services including case management, behavioral health, life skills, and educational activities, helping these vulnerable adolescents to find a path to success and a brighter and more stable future,” she said.

As the event’s lead sponsor, CenCal Health will provide an additional $100,000 in grant funds as their matching challenge was met.

CommUnify was formed in 1965 as a 15-member Community Action Committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors to address the causes and conditions of poverty in Santa Barbara County. CommUnify is committed to taking a leadership position in alleviating poverty and surrounding residents with the stability needed to build stronger lives and become healthy, educated, working, self-sufficient members of the community.

CommUnify is a private nonprofit agency that leverages support for Santa Barbara County residents through private funding as well as government contracts and grants.

For a complete description of CommUnify’s programs and services, visit