SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. - A local non profit and human services agency is expanding its services across the Santa Ynez valley.
"This Little area here is what we call our children’s corner," said CEO Valerie Kissel of the Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People.
The organization has seen a higher demand for services since COVID-19. And it hasn’t slowed down.
“We are bringing the services to our community … instead of families and mothers having to travel like to Santa Barbara or Santa Maria … they can actually come here to get services," said Kissel.
Over the years, the organization has grown to 18 programs including homelessness prevention, youth programs, teen mentoring, and more.
But this year nonprofit created three new spaces in Solvang due to high demand for more services.
One of those spaces is the new mental wellness suite.
"So we knew we had a need to open up a place where people can come with dignity to receive therapy sessions," said Kissel.
The organization also opened a new outdoor food pantry.
"It ensures our community has access to food 24 hours a day 365 days a year … so no barrier … anyone can come," said director of development and communications Erica Flores of the Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People.
FLores said the items for the outdoor food pantry are different everyday.
Right now they’re offering a lot of dry goods.
"People of all ages have extra stuff in their pantry … they can drop it off … so items at their stores they can drop it off … anybody can get and anybody can give," said Flores.
In addition to the new outdoor food pantry, the nonprofit has created an indoor emergency services pantry with commercial grade refrigerators and freezers.
"We’re not just dealing with people that are food insecure but home insecure or housing insecurity … and so having the refrigeration where we can keep perishable items or prepared meals … is critical to our emergency services pantry," said Flores. "My hope is that we continue to work with our community to take care of our most vulnerable neighbors."
The Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People started with a food distribution program in 1992.