Christmas Story

Recently a former client at the Unity Shoppe told us her story, which has served as a reminder of the emotional impact involved when people who find themselves in crisis are assisted in meaningful ways.

At Unity it is easy to get caught up in the work of acquiring and distributing $2 million worth of food and merchandise; managing all of the Programs; keeping track of all the statistics, numbers and details involved with 300 referring agencies;  in providing for 18,000 individual clients;  training and supervising 1,700 volunteers; and, of course, budgeting and fundraising to keep the charity going.  So the meaningful emotional component, probably the greatest benefit, can be lost or overlooked.

Many years ago Nancy, with three children, had married an aspiring artist.  Apparently he had not “made it” as yet and they had very little money.  They were about to face the Holidays with very little food and certainly no toys for the children.

Nancy drove up from Los Angeles and went out of her way to find Unity, as we had moved three times over the years.  She went into great detail about what it meant to her to receive the food they needed, and some wonderful toys for her children.  She donated $1,000 and expressed her gratitude for the help Unity provided…….56 years ago.

She was still thinking about the impact the experience had had with her after all these years.  It meant enough to her to want to find Unity, tell her story and offer a financial gift.  Every client family, every child, every senior, everyone coming to Unity for help has a story of what has gone wrong in their lives that leaves them in need.

At Unity, our by-line is Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and the help provided is incredibly meaningful in meeting physical needs.  The hope and encouragement that comes with tangible help can have an even greater effect and truly makes a lasting difference in their lives.

An Easter to Remember

It was Saturday, the day before Easter.  It had been a long wet winter, and now after weeks of wonderful sunshine, everything was green, and the poppies were in bloom.  It was a great day to shop for my family’s Easter dinner.  But first I had a list of critically ill patients with cancer that I needed to call to find out what they needed, so I could pass the information on to the Unity Shoppe to make each of them a special needs package. Read more

Beverly Has a Job!

Beverly graduated from college and married her high school sweetheart.  She had two little girls and was a stay-at-home mom.  After losing her husband when the youngest child was only 4 years old, they moved to a small apartment.  She wanted to enter the job market part-time while the children were in school.

She turned to Unity for help so she could supplement her limited income.   She talked to the Job Smart Counselor and explained she had no previous work experience. Unity provided help with interview skills and a resume, then suggested that she volunteer in Unity’s work training program to sharpen her skills before applying for a job.

While developing skills in customer service, inventory, barcoding, and merchandising, she was given three sets of work related clothing, shoes and completed a three-month on-the-job training course before she was successfully hired by a company looking for sales personnel.

At Unity, she was an excellent student and learned how to work the checkout registers and even processed the daily receipts. She was self-assured, attractive, had an outgoing personality and developed many excellent job skills. After school, her children often joined her at the Unity Shoppe; they all learned how to work in Unity’s “Free” grocery store to help other families that needed support.

Today Beverly is happy, working and self-sufficient.  She lives with her children in larger quarters, and the family is stable and self-reliant.

Job Smart – A Unity Program that helps people find the help they need to enter the workplace with hope for a more financially secure future!

An Old Man Alone

An elderly man using a cane walked into the Unity Shoppe. His arm circled a grocery bag that he wanted to donate.  Do you help people who need food, he asked?  I thanked him for the donation and he asked me how we give out the food.  I took him to the grocery store and showed him how the services work and the fact that we let our customers choose the food they need from a real grocery store.  As we walked back to the food donation area, he asked many questions. He was shy as he told me his wife died and he no longer cooks.  He confessed that he needs food from time to time and often receives bags of food from people trying to help him, and he was bringing us the food he did not want.   He had talked to some seniors, and they suggested that he visit the Unity Shoppe to see if Unity could help him get the food he needed. I asked him if he liked any of the services he used, and he said he didn’t get much he could use because they always give him a prepackaged bag and he didn’t know what was in it until he got home.   He said he usually gives most  of it to his neighbors.  I asked him what he needed. . .  “ my favorites are chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, tuna, spam, peanut butter (smooth not crunchy) and white bread.”  I put an empty grocery bag in a shopping cart and told him to go shopping.   I watched as he placed his preferred items in his cart. He seemed to enjoy  the process. He SHOPPED that day for the food he wanted!  He traded his bag of unwanted food for food of his choice.  He left with his head held high because HE DID NOT FEEL LIKE A CHARITY CASE and loved shopping for his needs.  

A Family Needs a Hand Up

As I sit here and reminisce, I shed a few emotional tears thinking of a young mother and father shopping for their son on the day I volunteered at Unity.    This family was very special, and I was helping them by pushing their cart through the Food and Toy Shoppe.  They were so happy and excited to be able to actually shop for their needs.  The mother could not believe how nice it was and said she could not wait until they were able to live like everyone else.    They were living in a van and sometimes used the shelters to shower.  She was thrilled to push her cart as she looked for just the right toys for her child.   This would be the first Christmas that they did not have a house to live in.  He was working, but they could not yet afford the price of a rental.   Those parents were laughing and happy that they found the things they felt their son would love. She asked if she could wrap the gifts so he would not be able to see them until Christmas.  She loved the beautiful Christmas papers and told me this would be a special holiday for just the three of them.  They would go to the park and spend time with their son in their van watching him open his gifts.  She said it would be much better then having strangers give them gifts that he might not like, and they wanted to have a family Christmas of their own.   This would be the first Christmas in years that they would have the opportunity to give gifts to their own son, and they asked that I thank all those that made this possible for them.  What you all do for so many is incredible!

Anne, a Senior

Entering the winter of her life, Anne had a wonderful life.  She married and had 3 beautiful children.  They bought a home, worked hard, sent their children to college and watched as they married and gave them grandchildren.   Once retired, they settled down, relaxed and traveled.   They loved spending time together, and then her husband had a stroke and died. Her world fell apart — she was alone.   The children were living in other cities now with their own responsibilities.  Anne spent more time with church activities to keep busy.  She felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of taking care of a house all by herself.   She knew her Social Security and savings were not going to take care of her, the utility bills, repairs and possible medical bills if she needed more help. Her oldest daughter met with her sisters, and they decided it would be in Mom’s best interest to sell the house.   Anne did not want to leave her home, there were so many wonderful memories, and what would she do with all her things?   She felt she had lost everything already and her life was falling apart.  This would be the last of the life she loved and had built with her family.  She knew the day would come when she would have to leave her home, because now her children were worried about her living alone, and she didn’t want to be a burden. As Anne entered her 3rd year without her husband, she could no longer ignore the necessity of moving.  She did not realize that the government would take a large amount of the funds she received from the sale of her home because of the Capital Gains Tax and this would impact her savings a great deal.  The hardest part was giving up the things she loved the most because her new studio apartment would not hold everything she wanted to keep. Her oldest daughter moved into the family home to take care of the property until it sold.  She moved her mother and helped her settle into her “new home” at the retirement center.  The cost of  $2,000 monthly was much more expensive than her house but offered her mother meals and the assurance of help when needed. Her daughter noticed the change in her mother immediately.  She was depressed and no longer wanted to live.  She called the Unity Shoppe and asked what she could do to help her mother.  Unity learned that Anne loved to sew and knit.  With this information, Unity asked her mother to help them provide some of the items they needed for children, babies and seniors.   Anne began to work on beautiful baby blankets, sweaters, slippers and lap blankets.  Never has Unity distributed so many balls of yarn to one senior.  The sweaters, blankets, and baby items were picked up weekly and it took 6 months before we noticed an end to her fury-driven attempt to keep her sanity in her new setting.  Three years later we received the following letter from her daughter.

“I wanted all of you to know what a bright spot you created for my mother. You brought her a great deal of joy and happiness during a very difficult time.   I meet many seniors like my mom in her retirement home.  Many of them were alone and felt very lonely.  They had nothing meaningful to do with all the hours.  My mother was 80 when she had to sell her home and move into a retirement facility.  Unity gave her yarn and made her feel needed again. This really helped her adjust to her new setting.  She felt such pride knitting things for seniors who were alone like her, and she loved making dozens and dozens of blankets for children.  It made her happy that she was helping others, and it gave her life a purpose.  My mother just passed away, but I will always be grateful for the kindness and joy that the Unity Shoppe brought to her during the end of her life.  Thanks for being there for all the seniors who need to feel useful and for those seniors who need to be remembered during their golden years.”