Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday title=
Barbara Tellefson during the 2018 Night of Giving (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)
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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 passio​n, 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.

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a-1606261945 Nov 24, 2020 03:52 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

I find it very confusing that she donated several thousand dollars to Trumps' campaign. Seems those $ could have gone a long way at the Unity Shoppe and odd that she supported a man who cared less than nothing about immigrants or the impoverished when the opposite was presumably her life's work.

tinker1 Nov 24, 2020 05:40 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

This woman gave and will continue to give $1million dollars of her personal wealth to the Unity Shoppe and gave $4800 to Trump as an individual. People need to get a life and some perspective.

REX OF SB Nov 24, 2020 06:51 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

I can't speak for @3:52, but I read his/her main point to mean that it just seems odd that someone who cared so much about the downtrodden and impoverished could give personal financial support to someone like trump, who very obviously didn't. It would be like the head of a gay rights group personally donating money to the Westboro Baptist Church.

PitMix Nov 25, 2020 07:48 AM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

Unity Shoppe seems to help a lot of people of color based on who lines up outside of their shop and who they show on TV, some of whom may be immigrants. Do you really think she was an advocate of closed borders and keeping jobs for US Citizens? Maybe she was going after local Republican money and thought a donation to Trump would help. I hope it worked out for her.

Alexblue Nov 25, 2020 11:07 AM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

CItizenSB maybe she liked this and maybe she liked that and maybe she liked something else, and maybe she didn't.

Maybe a talking wig will fly out of your rear someday and educate you as to how ridiculous it is for you to theorize about the motivations of someone who has passed away.


MountainMan4865 Nov 24, 2020 09:48 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

This woman contributed so much to our community. I feel disheartened that her legacy in this community will be judged by her political leanings. I always grew up with - don't talk about politics, don't talk about religion. It's all personal. I guess that is not a factor anymore. We all get our information from different places, from different perspectives, but at the end of the day, we're all still neighbors, trying to navigate this world as best we can, and helping each other out as best we can. It sounds like this woman was the best she could be and I absolutely applaud her for all she did. Thank you, and good journey to wherever you may go.

PitMix Nov 25, 2020 07:51 AM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

MtnMan, after 4 yrs of attacks on our republic, which continue to this day, bipartisanship and live and let live is gone. Or do you think hysterectomies on detainees is something we can agree to disagree on? https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/ice-detainee-hysterectomies-hospital/2020/09/22/aaf2ca7e-fcfd-11ea-830c-a160b331ca62_story.html

Alexblue Nov 25, 2020 11:10 AM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

Mountainman, yeah, you know the problem is, if you support something that hurts people that will become part of your legacy on this earth.

Does it detract from or take away from the massive amount of good that a person can do in other arenas? No. But, if you hurt someone in one place, helping people somewhere else is not much comfort to the one you hurt.

So it's complicated isn't it.

a-1606334710 Nov 25, 2020 12:05 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

? Not a single person is saying they should shut down the Unity Shoppe or that this woman did not leave behind an amazing legacy. People are a bit confused by it is all. Need not call it "cancel culture," nothing and no one is canceled here.

SBSand Nov 25, 2020 01:45 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

Agree! This isn't a post to argue about political beliefs, it's to honor an amazing woman. I will raise a toast to Barbara tomorrow because I am thankful for her contribution. Her life was about serving others. Wouldn't be surprised if she left everything in her will to the Unity Shoppe as well!

loraine84 Nov 25, 2020 03:55 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

I am incredibly dismayed to learn that Barbara contributed to Trump's campaign, and I would say she is not being canceled, a past action is being called out. And I say this with a bit of knowledge. I worked with Barbara a number of years, as a volunteer in Santa's Toy House, and she was nothing but a pleasure to work for. She was absolutely "a force of nature", and most dedicated to the Toy House, in procuring new toys, dealing with chaos, as the Toy House became so popular, to a remote Interview with Good Morning America, as the Santa's Toy House became famous and a model for other towns.

a-1606461224 Nov 26, 2020 11:13 PM
Unity Shoppe Founder Barbara Tellefson Passed Away Sunday

About 25 or 30 years ago, while working at the post office, I read in the paper that the Unity Shoppe was almost out of food. It was in the summer. I met with Barbara and the postal union. We had the first food drive where the letter carriers picked up food for Unity. We did it again that December, and every December thereafter. A few years later, the national postal. food drive in the spring began. For many years, we had two food drives per year, sharing the food with other non-profits. As this obituary states, Barbara was indeed a force of nature. She was also creative and persistent in inventing programs and she never took no for an answer when it was for Unity. Rest In Peace, Barbara. You will be missed.

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