On December 9, Unity Shoppe held its 31st annual Telethon to support its year-round provision of goods and services to low-income members of the community. Its dedicated staff is in overdrive mode these days, providing a disaster relief store for those impacted by the Thomas Fire to obtain necessities and a holiday store for low-income parents to shop for presents for their children.
The Telethon, held at Unity’s Sola Street facility, was broadcast live on KEYT and featured video clips from Unity’s Peter Noone Concert this fall, which had the wildly popular British singer performing with Herman’s Hermits, as well as performances by Lois Mahalia and the San Marcos Madrigal Singers. The four-hour telethon included interviews with Kenny Loggins, Brad Paisley, Jelinda and Barry De Vorzon, Anne Smith Towbes, Tom Parker and other notable supporters and a live performance by the Pacific Sound Chorus.
Enthusiasm always runs high among schools, churches, businesses and individuals who pitch in for this community event. While the support for Unity Shoppe runs deep and wide, so does the need for its services. Last year, Unity Shoppe served about 10,000 families and 3,500 seniors and distributed more than $2 million in food and merchandise.
Year-round, Unity provides food, clothing, household items and school supplies to individuals referred from 300 agencies. By providing a central distribution facility, Unity eliminates duplication of services. Parents and children shop in a pleasant environment, rather than receiving a handout of pre-selected items. This allows clients to get what they need while maintaining their dignity, and the system avoids waste.
For the holidays, Unity provides a well-stocked cheerful store for parents and children to select toys, games, and books. For each child, a parent may select two toys, a board game, a stocking-stuffer item, an educational item, and a piece of winter clothing. Most toys are donated by Toys for Tots and other toy runs, the remainder are purchased at 10 percent of retail cost. All holiday items are new; the clothing and household and school supplies provided the rest of the year are a mix of new and gently-used items.
Unity also has a Disaster Services Program that provides a multitude of needed items to disaster victims. For Thomas Fire victims, it has set up a designated disaster services store at its facility at 110 West Sola Street, where fire victims and evacuees can shop for food, clothing, and other basic necessities. No referral is needed for this service at this time.
Unity’s core demographic is the working poor and seniors, though it provides assistance to the homeless in transition, such as those at Transition House and those in the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s treatment program. Unity operates with a lean staff of 21, plus 1,700 youth volunteers on-site, and hundreds of adult volunteers on- and off-site. With clients being referred from 300 organizations and the Thomas Fire impacting thousands, Unity is very much in need of donations.
The last two hours of the Telethon will be re-broadcast on KEYT on December 25 and January 1 at 5 am; on KKFX on December 23 and December 25 at 2 pm; and on KKFX on January 1 at 6 am.
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Send event invites to Gail at society@Independent.com.
By Gail Arnold