SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara’s Unity Shoppe had never had to turn a family away. That is until mid-September when a financial shortfall forced the non-profit to temporarily shut down.
Thanks to a rally of community support and faithful volunteers, that’s all about to change - just in time for the holidays.
Unity Shoppe’s Executive Director, Tom Reed says having to place a closed sign on their door for the first time in over 100 years of operation, was awkward and not something they wanted to do.
“The Unity Shoppe has never had to turn families away and it’s a heartbreaker for all of us. From the top down, we had to cut expenses down to the bone just to make it through this temporary shortfall,” said Reed, Executive Director, Unity Shoppe.
Come Tuesday, that sign will come down and their lobby will be buzzing. After close to two months, the organization will reopen for clients.
“We are thrilled to be back open again. We didn’t lose any employees during the time, the temporary closure. We’re thrilled the community support has been so encouraging,” said Reed.
Just in time for the holidays, generous six-figure donations helped the Unity Shoppe get back on their feet.
“We have 150 families a day, every day, six days a week in December and of course we have the Motorcycle Toy Run, the Singing Messiah and we have the Telethon on December 14th. The excitement is palpable,” said Reed.
That means that some 3,000 families will turn to Unity Shoppe’s shelves to put food on the table between now and Christmas. Right now they’re a little bare but Reed says they can stretch your dollar and fill them back up with monetary donations.
“Because we can buy food in bulk, we can buy exactly what’s needed. We have inventories, we have things lined up to be delivered but we can purchase exactly what’s needed,” said Reed.
As Unity Shoppe looks to the holidays and beyond, Reed says the temporary closure wasn’t the result of miss-management and now they’re back on track.
“It wasn’t something that we discovered was wrong. That’s often people’s first inclination is to think ‘oh what happened? What’s wrong?’ Those three telephones that were impacted, we don’t expect that to happen again. The smoke and the fire and the mudslide and all the things that we devoted to inventory and time and resources and hired three extra people temporarily to get through those times, those are all behind us. The fundraising that’s going on now pretty much solidify were Unity Shoppe is back to ops normal,” said Reed.
The board will reassess the nonprofit’s financial situation in the new year.
We reached out to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, they've been helping bridge the gap for those facing hunger when the Unity Shoppe closed.
Staffers say they're thrilled that Unity is resuming their services and the Foodbank says it will continue its own distributions until Unity is back up and running, to meet the community's needs.