SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donated $35,000 to the Buellton Senior Center to cover costs for the facility's upcoming expansion.
This generous donation will help the senior center furnish its new dining area and computer lab, according to organizers.
"The Buellton Senior Center is a vital resource for the community," said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. "When we learned it had an opportunity to expand, we were proud to offer funding to help furnish the new space."
The senior center will absorb the Buellton Library's former location to add to its headquarters located at 164 W. Highway 246.
Organizers said that since the start of the pandemic, the Buellton Senior Center was forced to pivot and become a food distribution center rather than a place to gather.
Currently, the center's food program is so large that it can’t offer in-house dining or any other in-house programs because the facility is being used completely for food preparation and distribution.
"We had people who weren’t getting out of their houses," said Pam Gnekow, executive director for the Buellton Senior Center. "We had 18-wheelers going 24 hours a day to get food out. By the end of 2021, we distributed a little short of 2 million pounds of food. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but for just this area, that’s a whole lot of food going out."
With the new location, Gnekow said that now in addition to serving the community as the Buellton Senior Center, the group has become Santa Ynez Valley Community Outreach, which connects with families, seniors, veterans and domestic violence referrals.
Organizers said that the $35,000 donation will provide 100 dining chairs, 15 round dining tables, five computers and printers, five computer desks and five office chairs.
Furthermore, the new space will include a large open dining and activity area, a private office for domestic violence survivor intake interviews and support services, two veterans’ computer and resource areas, a veteran honor wall and donor honor wall.
Organizers said that expansion is scheduled to be complete later this year.
"We’re really excited that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians listened to our needs," said Gnekow. "The city has always been a big partner and so supportive of us, then having Chumash walk in with us is a dream come true."