The Santa Barbara Unity Shoppe is giving Santa Claus some competition this holiday season, as the local organization is putting on several events to help low-income families get what is on their wish lists.

The Unity Shoppe, a public benefit corporation, has provided resources for disadvantaged residents throughout Santa Barbara County for the past 90 years. On Saturday, Dec. 15, the organization is holding its 21st annual telethon to raise money to give gifts and food to families in need, and the Unity Shoppe is also holding its sixth annual Kids Helping Kids charity auction next Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Unity Shoppe President and Director of Operations Barbara Tellefson said the goal of the Unity Telethon, sponsored by the Santa Barbara News-Press, is to raise enough money to give food, toys and other supplies to needy families over the holidays.

Kids Helping Kids also brings in a large percentage of Unity Shoppe’s holiday revenue, Tellefson said. San Marcos High School seniors enrolled in teacher Jamie DeVries’ Advanced Placement economics class are holding the auction at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in downtown SB.

Event spokesperson Sharzy Makaremi, who is also one of DeVries’ students, said Kids Helping Kids includes live and silent auctions, a raffle, a three-course meal and a performance by singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells. All proceeds will go to the Unity Shoppe.

Although the event was a success in the past, Makaremi said the class hopes to set new standards for the auction.

“Our goal this year surpasses that of any previous one,” she said. “We are trying to raise $100,000.”

Tickets for dinner guests cost $65, and tickets to solely participate in the auction and raffle cost $5. More information is available online at the Kids Helping Kids Facebook event.

Tellefson said that over the years the Unity Shoppe has created a well-established system of assisting low-income working families.

“We have a unique system of distribution, in that the families in need get to choose what it is they receive,” Tellefson said. “We are sent families who qualify for our assistance from nearly 260 agencies so that we can ensure that we give aid to as many families as possible.”

The Unity Shoppe provides clothing, groceries and general supplies for basic needs to low-income families. All of the families who receive goods from the Unity Shoppe are working families, and 50 percent of them include single parents.

Tellefson said the Unity Shoppe is set up like any other retail establishment. Each family who visits the Unity Shoppe is given a certain amount of coupons, which are redeemable for any of their products.

According to Tellefson, the Unity Shoppe gives aid to nearly 7,000 families during the holiday season. Tellefson said she expects approximately 150 families every day, starting today and continuing until early January.

To volunteer at the Unity Shoppe, contact Barbara Tellefson at To pledge money for the Unity Telethon, call (805) 965-4122 on Dec. 15.