Unity Shoppe is offering free food and other essentials to Santa Barbarans who are now unemployed or unable to work due to the spread and impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Santa Barbara community.

To meet the overwhelming need, Unity Shoppe has consolidated its offerings to food distribution alone and now estimates it is serving more than three times the number of families that came in for services just 10 days ago.

As daily layoffs continue and vulnerable populations — the unemployed, single-parent families, seniors on fixed incomes, the disabled and homebound — begin to run out of groceries, Unity anticipates it will go through larger quantities of food and other supplies than ever before to keep up with the growing demand.

Donations from the public are needed immediately to purchase both fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), and canned, jarred and boxed staples with longer shelf lives, as well as masks and disinfecting wipes to keep Unity staff and the public safe.

Unity is following the most up-to-date guidelines for sanitization and safety as advocated by the county and state; staff wear masks and gloves, and social distancing requirements are being observed to keep essential staff and our community’s most at-risk members healthy and safe.

“We are living in unprecedented times,” said Tom Reed, Unity’s executive director. “Hourly employees, whose work hours and wages have been scaled back dramatically or have been let go, either cannot work or must work skeletal shifts are finding their food supplies dwindling.

“The closing of their children’s schools and daycare centers are further complicating their lives. Our area’s seniors and disabled folks, who live on fixed incomes, or have compromised immune systems, who might be homebound or have trouble getting around, are wondering how they’ll possibly get through this alone.”

Over the next six to 12 months, Unity anticipates its services will be utilized to capacity much like they were during the Thomas Fires and Montecito debris flow.

Anyone in need of food or other essentials can call Unity’s main number 805-965-4122 for assistance.

Unity Shoppe Food Distribution Services, at 1401 Chapala St., is open 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice.

To make monetary donations, visit unityshoppe.org or mail checks to 1209 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Donations of nonperishables can be dropped off  at Unity’s side entrance, 110 W. Sola St., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Additional residents and households are already relying on us for support; right now is the time for us to multiply our inventory levels of food and other essentials swiftly and methodically so that not a single person in need is turned away due to a depletion of Unity resources,” Reed said.

The average of 15,000-plus clients Unity serves each year are referred by more than 300 other nonprofits throughout Santa Barbara County to one of its eight different support programs.

The Unity Grocery Store and Clothing Center is relied upon by 10,000 households annually. Low-income families shop for food and clothing to help them make ends meet in order to avoid welfare dependency and homelessness.

More than 1,800 volunteers work alongside Unity staff, including hundreds of seniors who help a range of residents with their handiwork; 5,000 essentials care packages are distributed locally by volunteers to homebound seniors and the disabled. Santa Barbara youth turn to Unity to help their community and to learn transferable job skills.

Unity Shoppe is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing the basic necessities of life and occupational skills training to Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable populations during times of temporary crisis, while encouraging self-sufficiency and independence.

Essential services, such as food and clothing distribution; a jobs training program; and volunteer initiatives, are offered at no cost to qualifying clients without regard to political affiliation, religious belief, or ethnicity.