Nonprofit helps families in need
Volunteers will be honored when Unity Shoppe hosts its annual telethon from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday on KEYT-TV, Channel 3.
The telethon, which marks the Santa Barbara nonprofit’s 35th annual Holiday Celebration, is Unity Shoppe’s largest fundraiser of the year.
This year’s theme is “Honoring Our Community Of Volunteers.”
Last year, due to COVID-19, the nonprofit had to navigate hosting the fundraiser without any volunteers. So this year, telethon organizers felt inspired to honor their volunteers, after experiencing what it was like without them.
“This was absolutely the year to showcase our volunteers and offer our gratitude for their undeniable impact, especially coming out of COVID when their absence was felt so markedly by all of us at Unity, “ remarked Pat Hitchcock, the nonprofit’s donor relations director.
The telethon will be hosted for the 35th year in a row by Kenny Loggins, who is a longtime supporter of Unity Shoppe and the rock star behind the “Footloose” theme and the song “Danger Zone” in “Top Gun.”
The Montecito resident will co-host the telethon with country music superstar Brad Paisley.
Joining Mr. Paisley and Mr. Loggins will be Oscar-winning Montecito movie star Jeff Bridges and KEYT-TV journalists Beth Farnsworth, CJ Ward and John Palminteri.
Mr. Loggins has been involved with Unity Shoppe since the 1980s as its unofficial ambassador. Mr. Loggins represents and speaks for them in the community, as well as contributing his music to the celebration.
Mr. Paisley first became involved with Unity Shoppe several years ago. He and his wife, TV and movie actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, wanted their children to experience giving back to the community.
So the Paisleys volunteered at Unity Shoppe as a family.
“Brad fell in love with the model, and it completely changed the trajectory of how he conducted philanthropy,” Liat Wasserman, director of development and communication for Unity Shoppe, told the News-Press.
Mr. Paisley has since recreated the model, affectionately named “The Shoppe” in Nashville. He consistently gives credit to the inspiration for his recreation to the original source, Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara.
Unity Shoppe is modeled in the fashion of a supermarket, where clients can come in and “shop” for food and basic items free of charge.
“We have been around for over 100 years. We are the largest nonprofit that offers our kinds of services,” Ms. Wasserman said. “We support people’s food needs. The thrust of the Unity Shoppe is to be a safety net and a temporary line of relief, when someone hits a bump in the road.”
Job Smart is one of many programs offered by Unity Shoppe. The program offers support for those searching for a job, including providing clothing for job interviews free of charge.
Unity Shoppe’s other programs include the Holiday Toy Shoppe, Seniors helping Seniors and the Natural Disaster pop-up shop, but the epicenter of these programs is food and basic items.
“We operate on a referral system. Every one of our clients is referred,” said Ms. Wasserman, noting this is a safeguard against any possible abuse of the system. “Clients must show proof of their financial status and the size of their household. Each client is assigned a staff member who walks through the store with them, ensuring that clients are not ‘shopping’ beyond their needs. Clients are only allowed to frequent the store a maximum of twice a month. About 89% of clients come between two and six times per year.”
Unity Shoppe has helped families in need throughout the year, as well as those suddenly impacted by a need during a disaster such as the 2018 Montecito debris flow.