The Buellton Senior Center is preparing to expand its facility, and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated $35,000 to cover costs for furnishing its new dining area and computer lab, which will help better serve the community.
With the adjacent Buellton Library being slated for relocation to the city’s Willemsen Dairy property near River View Park, the senior center will absorb the library’s former home to add to its headquarters, located at 164 W. State Route 246 in Buellton.
“The Buellton Senior Center is a vital resource for the community,” said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “When we learned it had an opportunity to expand, we were proud to offer funding to help furnish the new space.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the Buellton Senior Center was forced to pivot and become a food distribution center rather than a place to gather. Currently its food program is so large that it can’t offer in-house dining or any other in-house programs because the senior center is being used completely for food preparation and distribution.
“We had people who weren’t getting out of their houses,” said Pam Gnekow, executive director for the Buellton Senior Center. “We had 18-wheelers going 24 hours a day to get food out. By the end of 2021, we distributed a little short of 2 million pounds of food. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but for just this area, that’s a whole lot of food going out.”
As its services expanded, the Buellton Senior Center began to outgrow its current space, prompting its leadership to consider moving to a larger space. But when the city voted to move the Buellton Library to a new location, Ms. Gnekow said it was serendipity.
“The perfect place just dropped into our laps – I’ve always wanted the library,” Ms. Gnekow said. “It suits our community. Our service area is here. We have a lot of people who walk here, so moving to another part of town didn’t feel right. Now, we can use this extra space for all of our expanded services.”
In addition to serving the community as the Buellton Senior Center, Ms. Gnekow explained that the group has become Santa Ynez Valley Community Outreach, which connects with families, seniors, veterans and domestic violence referrals.
This grant award will provide 100 dining chairs, 15 round dining tables, five computers and printers, five computer desks and five office chairs. The new space will include a large open dining/activity area, a private office for domestic violence survivor intake interviews and support services, two veterans’ computer and resource areas, a veteran honor wall and donor honor wall.
The expansion is slated for completion later this year.
“We’re really excited that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians listened to our needs,” Ms. Gnekow said. “The city has always been a big partner and so supportive of us, then having Chumash walk in with us is a dream come true.”
For more information on how to donate to the Buellton Senior Center, call 805-688-4571 or visit buelltonseniorcenter.org.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated more than $25 million to hundreds of groups, organizations and schools in the community and across the nation as part of the tribe’s long-standing tradition of giving.