Barbara E. Tellefson
Barbara was born in 1936 in Dinwiddie, VA, the second child of German immigrants. She worked in the family restaurant, motel and gas station until she was 18. She was employed by TWA & Capital Airlines, several restaurants, a travel agency in Glendale and a San Francisco night club before moving to Santa Barbara to open “Your Travel Center” and “The Magic Touch,” an event planning business. She was a single parent with no support system earning $6.00 an hour. Her involvement in the world of non-profits began in the seventies after her marriage to Clair Tellefson, an engineer for Bardex Corporation. She wanted to help single women raising children alone with no support system and began to study the work of charities.
Barbara became a 20-year full-time volunteer for Unity when she realized this charity listened to the needs of low-income parents and seniors. Because of her own life experiences, she understood that parents need to take care of their own children but sometimes need help to supplement their income so they can pay their rent. She understood that most parents want to avoid welfare programs, and if helped, they would remain in the workplace. As primary caretakers, they could retain the respect of their children and remain the heroes in their households. In 1983, Barbara secured Unity’s first building to avoid losing rental spaces. In 1987, singer/entertainer Kenny Loggins and KEYT3(ABC) began to produce the KEYT3 Unity Telethon to help the small agency raise funding so families could be given the right food for their children while their parents worked toward self-sufficiency. Barbara, Larry Crandell and Richard Berti led the campaign to purchase the VSCH building so the charity would have a place to do its work and avoid increased rental costs. She invited CALM and RSVP to share in the ownership of the 24,000 sq. ft. building so none of the non-profit owners would have to move again. In 2002, she partnered with Tom Reed in a successful 2-million dollar Capital Campaign to purchase an adjacent building on State Street for a “Grocery and Clothing Facility” to improve Unity’s services to the clients of 300 other charities countywide. Pierre Claeyssens donated the first million dollars and the community matched the funds. Local agencies referred their clients to this “Central Distribution Facility” so people could shop for their needs with dignity and the facility could be used for work training, while helping people improve their skills. Unity reduced the duplication of services so more families could be helped with better and more consistent support services. Thousands of volunteers learned job skills, merchandising, inventory control, office and computer skills as they helped a small staff to operate the charity. Currently, up to 20,000 unduplicated people can make over 70,000 client visits to the “free” store annually (71% of those served are in the workplace and up to 18% are seniors or disabled). It is a community effort of staggering proportions. It includes the young , old, rich and poor as everyone works together to help their neighbors. Over 1,700 children learn valuable work skills annually.
Barbara was named Santa Barbara Woman of the Year, Soroptimist Woman of Distinction, California State Legislature Woman of the Year, and Santa Barbara Business and Professional Woman of the Year. She has been given Distinguished Service Awards by Anti-Defamation League, West Coast Seniors, the University of Notre Dame and The California State PTA. The Points of Light Foundation in Washington D.C. honored the Unity Shoppe with the President’s “Points of Light Award.” Barbara has been listed as an Honored Professional in the Nationwide Register of “Who’s Who” in Executives and Businesses. Barbara was also honored in Houston, Texas as one of 100 women nationwide for raising her voice to make a difference in her community and received letters of appreciation from Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, Governor Pete Wilson, and Senator Gary Hart. Her work is dedicated to the family she loved, lost or never knew.