A staff member is busy stocking some shelves at a one of a kind store in the Central and South Coasts. The downtown Santa Barbara store doesn’t take credit cards, check, or even cash. The Unity Shoppe helps people, and families in need. But, the 100 plus year old non-profit has needed some help of its own recently.
Unity Shoppe officials say the Thomas Fire, and Montecito debris flow created an unexpected, and unprecedented demand for help ranging from food to clothes. At the same time, it disrupted some of Unity’s biggest annual fundraisers, and led to some donors helping other disaster relief efforts.
Tom Reid is the Unity Shoppe’s Executive Director. He says the funding shortfall was so bad that it had to close its doors, and lay off 15 of its 18 employees for about six weeks. The non-profit was down about a million dollars because of lost fundraising opportunities, and unreimbursed added expenses to help disaster victims.
During the closure, Foodbank Of Santa Barbara County did some extra food distributions in the Santa Barbara area to try to pick up some of the slack. Now, though Unity is set to reopen November 11th. It’s close to meeting its goal of raising around $500,000 to get its services back on track.
Reed says Unity helps more than 20,000 people of year. Many are single parents who have jobs, but have a tough time making ends meet. There’s also a senior program helping more than 3,000 people a year.
The Unity Shoppe is gearing up to serve 3500 families during the upcoming holiday season.