After 53 years of helping to provide solutions to the impoverished under the name “Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County,” the nonprofit organization decided it was time for a change.
As of Sept. 1, the Community Action Commission adopted the new name “CommUnify,” to reach a larger demographic of people and reinforce its goal to lift up families in the county living in poverty and bring everyone together.
“We realized that after being here for 53 years that the community really did not know who we were outside of those we serve and the agencies we partner with,” Pat Keelean, CEO of CommUnify, told the News-Press. “So a new name allows us to really bring into focus our mission here in the community and it brings new focus to the population that we serve and the services we provide.”
Ms. Keelean has spent more than 30 years working for nonprofits, 10 years in Community Action and three years at CommUnify.
“It really becomes a passion, and a privilege, doing this work,” she said.
CommUnify’s services are split up into four categories: children’s services, senior services, community services and family and youth services.
For children, CommUnify provides learning programs, family child care homes, nutritious meals, health and dental screenings and referrals, services for children with special needs and more for eligible low-income families.
For low-income seniors, CommUnify delivers nutritious meals daily and provides community dining centers and wellness checks.
Community wide, CommUnify provides weatherization services, utility payment assistance, senior home repair and more for low-income residents without access.
And for youth and their families, CommUnify tutors, mentors and counsels kids, provides them with health and preventative education, case-management for at-risk youth and facilitates transportation to and supervision of visitations between separated families.
One issue the organization is attempting to address to unify the community is that of the “digital divide,” those who have access to affordable internet services and technology, and those who don’t.
“The digital divide really became very evident with the pandemic,” Ms. Keelean said. “We realized that there were a lot of families who didn’t have computers at home and who don’t have access to internet services because it’s too expensive, so we’ve been working to try to connect our youth to affordable internet services.
“Now more than ever, with online learning, with the schools having to go to virtual learning, it’s important that our families have access to the internet and all the resources available in the community.”
To connect with the youth virtually, a CommUnify case manager teaching a daily living skills class taught a cooking class online. Ms. Keelean said the case manager bought groceries, delivered them to the kids’ doorsteps and scheduled a cooking class so they could all follow along.
This is just one example of CommUnify finding creative ways to interact with low-income families online.
CommUnify’s rebranding process will continue with the services it already provides, but address contemporary issues that disproportionately impact low-income residents such as the digital divide, voter engagement, climate change and social inequities.
For more information about CommUnify’s current programs and services or to apply for enrollment, visit https://communifysb.org/.