Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday
Source: Unity Shoppe
Unity Shoppe, Inc. announced today that its Founder, President, and Director of Operations, Barbara Tellefson, lost her battle with a terminal illness and passed away on Sunday, November 22. She was 84. Ms. Tellefson, long known for her determination and passion, worked year-round alongside a dedicated staff -- and thousands of community volunteers -- to help struggling local families put food on the table and clothes on their backs, prepare for employment, and find joy over the holidays.
For over a century, thousands of supporters have shared their time, resources and volunteer efforts with Unity Shoppe in ways large and small, including longtime Unity devotee and beloved performer, Kenny Loggins. “I don’t have adequate words to capture the gratitude and admiration I feel for Barbara and her unwavering dedication to Unity Shoppe; over many decades, her grit, tenacity and heart inspired me, her staff and other volunteers. I will miss her immensely, but am gratified to have played a part in the growth of this peaceful haven of support for nearly one million Santa Barbarans over the years.”
“There will never be another Barbara Tellefson in our town. She was a force of nature, but not one that ever sought the spotlight; instead, she poured all of her energies into working behind the scenes, enabling Unity Shoppe to grow and develop a physical footprint where our Community’s low-income families, seniors, the disabled, and disaster victims could receive a broad range of services when experiencing a crisis event,” says 35-year advocate and Santa Barbara’s 2019 Woman of the Year, Jelinda Devorzon.
In the days since the onset of Covid-19, Ms. Tellefson had been doing all she could to foster the stability of Santa Barbarans, especially after 25,000 hourly wage residents lost their jobs and were desperate for groceries to stave off hunger. She mandated an organizational streamline singularly focused on meeting the overwhelming need for free nutritious groceries in a safe manner and, today, because of Barbara’s vision, Unity Shoppe is prepared to safely feed thousands more residents throughout 2021.
“The legacy left by Barbara has been enormous,” says Tom Reed, Unity Shoppe’s Executive Director. “Unity Shoppe’s Board of Directors, management team, and staff intend to keep the doors of Unity Shoppe wide open and its services free of charge to Santa Barbara residents in need for years to come, which was her final wish.”
According to Pat Hitchcock, Director of Donor Relations, Ms Tellefson understood that there will always be people impacted by temporary crises and in need of help. “Particularly in the last year, she was intent on making sure Unity Shoppe would be able to sustain its current and future operation of critical programs in a stable and debt-free manner.”
Unity Shoppe is currently in need of $5.5 million to complete the establishment of its physical footprint. Before her passing, Ms. Tellefson made a final pledge of the first $500,000 towards this goal. Community residents interested in honoring Barbara Tellefson’s pledge to help sustain Unity Shoppe’s physical footprint and range of support programs into the future can make a donation at www.unityshoppe.org; or contact Director of Donor Relations, Pat Hitchcock, 805-979-9511.
Unity Shoppe At A Glance:
Unity serves upwards of 20,000 people annually who are referred by over 300 nonprofits. In a non-Covid year, anywhere from 1,700- 2,000 local volunteers work alongside the Unity staff, including hundreds of seniors. Together they help operate Unity’s distinct programs out of two locations:
At 1401 Chapala Street, Unity runs the Grocery and Clothing Distribution Center that is relied upon by thousands annually to help them make ends meet and avoid homelessness and welfare dependence, as well as the seasonal shoppes, including the back-to-school clothes and supplies shoppe in the fall as well as Unity’s famed Santa’s Toy Shoppe in December. Chapala Street is also the location of the “Work, Learn & Earn” volunteer training program for young adults and the disabled that functions throughout the year, giving youth an opportunity to help their community, earn community service credit for high school, as well as entry-level job skills.
At 1207-09 State Street, Unity runs several programs, including “Job Smart,” a program for low-income adults in need of interview clothes and employment support; the senior volunteerism program, in which a bevvy of senior volunteers work year round offering their handiwork as well as assembling and delivering essential care packages to other homebound seniors and the disabled; and the space also houses the long-term disaster relief program that responds to natural disasters when they occur.
Unity Shoppe is a tax-exempt 501©3 dedicated to providing the basic necessities of life and occupational skills training to Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable populations during times of temporary crisis, while encouraging self-sufficiency and independence. All programming and services are offered at no cost to qualifying clients without regard to political affiliation, religious belief, or ethnicity.