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CommUnify (formerly known as Community Action Commission, or CAC) held the highly anticipated 17th Annual Champions Dinner & Awards on Thursday, June 8 at The River Grill, at Alisal Ranch in Solvang. The sold-out event  hosted 200 guests from across Santa Barbara County including many community leaders, business owners, and  nonprofit directors. Catherine Remak, KLITE radio’s Morning Show Co-Host served as the night’s lively Master of  Ceremonies, and the high-energy auction was led by Jim Glines and his bid-spotting team, who represented three  generations of the Glines Family’s long tradition of auctioneering. 

The Champions Dinner was supported by more than sixty corporate and in-kind sponsors throughout Santa Barbara  County and raised $216,154 to increase the funding for seven programs in CommUnify’s Family & Youth Services  division. As the event’s lead sponsor, CenCal Health provided a $100,000 dollar-for-dollar match for all funds raised  by the event, included in that total as their matching challenge was met. “We are so grateful for the generosity and  continued support from our community,” said CommUnify CEO, Patricia Keelean. “These greatly needed funds will  help CommUnify to expand our programs that empower 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 transform their lives and find a path to success and a brighter and more  stable future.” 

The Champions Dinner recognizes individuals, nonprofit organizations, and businesses whose dedication to the  well-being of the residents of Santa Barbara County has made our community a better place for all. The 2023 Honorees for CommUnify’s Champions Awards are the Deckers Brands “Deckers Gives” program, Reverend Randall Day of St. Marks-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, and the Santa Maria Elks. Accepting on behalf of Deckers  Brands was Michelle Apodaca, Director of Deckers Gives, and representing the Santa Maria Elks was Aaron Castellano, Exalted Ruler, with Reverend Day personally accepting his award.

This year, there was also an unannounced 4th Honoree: Lorraine Neenan, Director of Children’s Services for  CommUnify. Lorraine has been with the organization for over 20 years and led our efforts at providing quality early  education to more than 1,000 pre-kindergarten children and their families who CommUnify’s Head Start program  serves each year. She manages our 23 Head Start and Early Head Start campuses, and over 200 staff. CommUnify is so grateful for her years of service and for her dedication and commitment to the education and well-being of  children in our county.  


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