Employee Gift Card Donations to Loaves & Fishes and Unity Shoppe - 01/12/10

For Immediate Release
8:00A.M. PT, January 12, 2010
Mitch Massey, SVP

(Paso Robles, CA) – Heritage Oaks Bank/Business First Bank employees recently donated $950 in gift cards to Loaves & Fishes of Paso Robles and $700 to Unity Shoppe of Santa Barbara. “During the holiday season the term "Giving Back" takes on even more meaning. We are so thankful for our staff and their generosity to help out Loaves & Fishes and the Unity Shoppe," says Mitch Massey, SVP marketing Heritage Oaks Bank/Business First. “Our bank values that we must always be a good corporate citizen and a reflection of the wants and needs of the communities we serve," adds Massey.

Loaves & Fishes is a Food Pantry. Its collaboration by various churches, organizations, and individuals of the Paso Robles area make it possible to respond to the emergency needs of people seeking help. The organization has grown greatly since its humble beginnings in April 1983 when it first opened as a walk-in center in the Parish Hall of St. James Episcopal Church of Paso Robles.

In addition to providing food, Loaves & Fishes also serve as a clearinghouse, referring clients to churches and other appropriate agencies where they might receive assistance for a variety of other needs, such as shelter, clothing, household items, medical attention, utilities and transportation.

“Loaves & Fishes was pleased to receive the gift cards from the employees of Heritage Oaks Bank. The cards will be used to purchase food for the pantry at Loaves & Fishes and feed the hungry in Paso Robles. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the community this year, especially during this difficult economic time, and very thankful to all,” said Jackie Sebro, Executive Director, Loaves & Fishes of Paso Robles.

Unity Shoppe operates a year-round “free” grocery and clothing store so people can shop with dignity for their basic needs. The Unity Shoppe organization also teaches volunteers office and computer skills, merchandising, inventory control, and customer relations as they prepare people for future job opportunities. Over 1,700 volunteers help a staff of 15 people.

"What a wonderful surprise to receive the Gift Cards from Business First Bank! The donation came at just the right time as food donations overall during the Holiday Season were down by approximately 40%. Unity Shoppe has seen between 20 and 25% more people coming to us for assistance due to the difficult economy, so the assistance was very much appreciated,” says Tom Reed, Executive Director, Unity Shoppe of Santa Barbara. "One day during December Unity had 400 families show up for help in one day. We have never had more than 220 families come in any one day. The economy has severely impacted the most vulnerable in our community, and those without a voice. Some have lost jobs, while others have been cut back in hours or work-days. In addition, gas prices and food prices increased. For most of us it was annoying, but for those with entry-level incomes, it means not having enough to make it through any given month. A huge thank you to Business First Bank for your heart and generous support of the Unity Shoppe,” adds Reed.

Pearl Chase, the founder of Unity Shoppe, first arrived in Santa Barbara in 1917. Her concern for low-income seniors and children resulted in this community volunteer organization, which was initially called the Santa Barbara Council of Christmas Cheer.

The Unity Shoppe is the largest single direct distributor of food and clothing in the County of Santa Barbara with over $2.5 million in merchandise distributed annually. Their goal is to keep families strong while giving parents the opportunity to work toward self-sufficiency.

For more information about Unity Shoppe visit http://unityshoppe.org/ and http://loavesandfishespaso.org/.