Unity Shoppe: A place to bring Santa Barbara together

Jules Jachetta, Staff Writer

With rising unemployment rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Unity Shoppe in downtown Santa Barbara has become an even more prominent resource to those unable to work as it provides food and other essential items.

Harbored on W Sola Street and Chapala, the Unity Shoppe treats the needs of all of their clients with respect and dignity by offering them choices. Food, clothes, toiletries and other essentials are donated to the organization and distributed to those who need them. 

At the height of the pandemic, some families found it difficult to reach out for help, especially those with immunocompromised and elderly family members. The Unity Shoppe took on the task of providing these families with the items they needed to get through a trying time.

Baskets of groceries and clothing items were packed into vans and driven to the homes of families in need of the extra support. Volunteers who had worked for the organization for decades continued to show their support through the pandemic by delivering the items right to doorsteps.

According to the Unity Shoppe website, their mission is to provide for those impacted by poverty, natural disaster or health crises with resources like groceries, clothing and other items to “reinforce human dignity and encourage self-sufficiency and independence.”

A long-time volunteer and dedicated delivery warehouse supervisor, Vince Romero commented on how the Unity Shoppe creates a safe environment for its clients, stating, “Adapting to [COVID-19] was very important to us and our clients — to do it in a safe manner and also still give them choice. Giving dignity and respect to the families is our main mission and goal.”

Unity Shoppe’s goals are oriented to help the individuals trying to make a way for themselves by respecting their autonomy even while offering them supplies. 

What does the Unity Shoppe look like now? As of late, the mask mandate has been lifted and there is less of a need for the delivery service, but it is still available to those who cannot make it to the Shoppe.

In the colder months, they look for donations of canned soups, jackets and sweatshirts. During the holidays, volunteers help build toys from scratch, bringing a sense of joy to the holidays. 

Unity Shoppe is always on the lookout for more volunteers, with an average of 1,700 volunteers who help the Santa Barbara community annually. Volunteers of all ages are eligible to participate. Not only can students earn community service hours, but they can also gain work experience, learning job skills while contributing to long-lasting, positive changes in the lives of the county residents.

Senior volunteers are trained in skills ranging from woodworking to sewing in order to create toys and presents for the holidays. 

Westmont students are welcome to participate in volunteering anytime during operating hours, which are 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For those who cannot spare extra time, the Unity Shoppe will graciously accept donations of any kind according to the guidelines on their website.

Westmont students have the opportunity to help either with hands-on volunteering or by sparing extra essentials for those who experienced hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Unity Shoppe is a perfect place for students to better their community and bring joy to others. 

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