To the Next 105 Years
Unity Shoppe Executive Director and CEO Angela Miller-Bevan grew up in Santa Barbara and was raised by a single mother in a low-income family. She can’t recall precisely her first encounter with Unity Shoppe, but she remembers clearly the organization was a presence in her childhood. “My mom went to Unity Shoppe and so we just received the benefits of food when she came home,” Miller-Bevan says.
It’s a memory that encapsulates the essence of Unity Shoppe, an organization which for 105 years has provided Santa Barbara residents with groceries, clothing, job training, and toys for the holidays. As a dependable supplier of these essentials, Unity Shoppe reinforces the dignity of the families they serve and encourages their self-sufficiency.
“By providing these services to low-income families, we give young people the opportunity to grow up and get jobs and go to school,” Miller-Bevan says. “We give them the opportunity to succeed.”
Miller-Bevan was among those beneficiaries. Following a career in advertising with stints at the Santa Barbara News-Press and Noozhawk, she pivoted to the nonprofit world, working at the American Heart Association during the COVID-19 pandemic and then as Executive Director of the Braille Institute in Santa Barbara. Before long, she was tapped to take over for Tom Reed, the venerable Executive Director of Unity Shoppe who is retiring at the end of 2022 after 20 years leading the organization. For an institution as storied and historic as Unity Shoppe, the transition is being managed carefully, with Reed mentoring Miller-Bevan until the end of the year. It’s a process designed to keep Unity Shoppe thriving for another 105 years.
Reed’s last hoorah will be Unity Shoppe’s annual telethon, the organization’s biggest fundraiser held in December that raked in $500,000 last year. Durable supporters like Brad Paisley and Kenny Loggins will perform again, as will Michael McDonald and special guest Oprah Winfrey.
“I’m very passionate about what the mission is now and has been,” Miller-Bevan says. “Moving forward, we will try to reach as many people as we possibly can. Especially with what’s going on in life with high gas and house prices, we need to give everybody a little break.”
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Executive Director: Angela Miller-Bevan
Unity Shoppe is dedicated to providing residents impacted by temporary conditions of poverty, natural disaster or health crisis with resources, including groceries, clothing, and other essentials, that reinforce human dignity and encourage self-sufficiency and independence.
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I Never Thought This Would Happen to Me
I was first introduced to Unity Shoppe when my son was volunteering for community service hours. We volunteered and worked side-by-side and saw first-hand the clients shopping with dignity by choosing items that they needed and then we watched as it appeared that they checked out at the register just like they would do in any other store but at Unity Shoppe, no payment changes hands. One of my favorite programs is Unity’s Seniors Helping Seniors Center. This program provides basic need requests from hospitals, senior centers, and other organizations helping seniors who are homebound or disabled. It’s no wonder why I love Unity’s slogan: DIGNITY. RESPECT. CHOICE.
Taking the Legacy Countywide
Unity Shoppe is counting on the durable success of its annual telethon to continue investing in its programs and services. This includes JobSmart, which supplies low-income people with work clothes, and the Senior Resource Center, in which long-time senior volunteers knit, sew, quilt, paint, woodwork, and assemble clothes and toys to the delight and comfort of Santa Barbara’s vulnerable residents. In 2023, Unity Shoppe also plans to begin serving families in north Santa Barbara County. It’s a move inspired in part by Brad Paisley, who was so taken by Unity Shoppe that he brought the concept to his adopted home in Nashville. “Until now, people from north county have had to travel down to get our services,” says Executive Director Angela Miller-Bevan. “In 2023, we will go to them.”
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