Two nonprofits join forces to provide nutritious meals for seniors
For more than 12,000 residents, CommUnify represents the difference between living with uncertainty or stability.
Formerly the Community Action Commission, CommUnify is a nonprofit working to find innovative and sustainable ways for Santa Barbara County residents to improve and maintain their health, resilience and financial security.
One of those solutions is Healthy at Home, part of the Senior Nutrition Program, which provides hot, nutritious, high quality meals to at-risk seniors on weekdays along with frozen meals on Friday to provide sustenance over the weekend.
“This service allows seniors to live independently in their own homes feeling connected to the community they love. No senior should ever have to make the choice between buying food, paying rent, keeping the lights on or buying necessary prescription drugs,” said Patricia D. Keelean, CommUnify’s chief executive officer.
“CommUnify’s Senior Nutrition Program helps clients maintain their physical health and emotional well being, and often their delivery driver might be their only visitor of the day.”
One of the grateful clients told Ms. Keelean, “I was just going to put my bin out on the step, and I got a knock on the door, and it’s my delivery man. How nice and sweet he is! I don’t know what his name is, but I called him, and we exchanged words. I told him I didn’t have money to give him. I’m two months behind on my rent, but what’s amazing is the simple things. I just wanted to tell him ‘Thank you. I’m so appreciative, and God bless you.’ ”
Another client said she had been on dialysis for “around eight years, and I just had open heart surgery, so these meals are just what the doctor ordered.”
“Some days before starting the program my meal was a chocolate bar,” said a client. “I’m by myself with no family. My doctor has noticed a change in my health since I started this meal program. The drivers have also helped by checking up on me when they stop to deliver the meals.”
The urgent need for Healthy at Home has more than doubled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ms. Keelean.
To address this surging need, a better solution for the growing demand in northern Santa Barbara County was identified in a collaboration between CommUnify and VTC Enterprises, which makes the meals using menus created by CommUnify’s on-staff registered dietician.
“VTC is a place for individuals with disabilities to thrive, and this partnership is another opportunity for them to obtain employment and valuable experience,” said Jason Telander, VTC Enterprises CEO.
VTC’s small businesses offer individuals the opportunity to work in several different industries including The ‘A’ Street Cafe at 2445 A St. in Santa Maria, VTC Ground Maintenance for residential or business properties, and Innovative Printing Solutions, a full-service copy and mailing shop.
“We are thrilled to partner with CommUnify to ensure that seniors in Santa Barbara County receive hot nutritious meals,” said Mr. Telander. “The partnership provides additional employment and training opportunities for our staff at The ‘A’ Street Cafe and allows us to be part of the broader good work going on in our community.”
Besides the Healthy at Home program, CommUnify provides a wide range of programs and services throughout the county. They include Head Start, Early Head Start, Family Wellness, Adolescent Family Life Planning, Los Compadres, Enhanced Family Reunification, South Coast Youth Safety Partnership, Senior Home Repair, Economic Empowerment, Weatherization Services and Utility Payment Assistance.
“CommUnify depends on valuable community partners like VTC Enterprises to be successful,” said Ms. Keelean.
“As our new name, CommUnify, implies, we must work with the entire community in order to achieve our mission of promoting economic security and self-sufficiency for all residents of Santa Barbara County.
“Because our Senior Nutrition Program must raise more than 50% of the funding needed to operate every year, we rely on local partnerships, volunteers, donors and private businesses to continue serving our vulnerable seniors, especially during the pandemic.”