By Pamela Dozois

The Santa Ynez Valley Star is interested in the well-being of the valley’s nonprofits. The following is a compilation of some replies as to how COVID-19 has affected each of them. For a full list of the nonprofits that serve the valley and surrounding communities visit If you can contribute even a few dollars it goes a long way! 

Friendship House

“I am pleased to report that everyone at Friendship House, staff and residents, are healthy. We don’t have any anyone with respiratory, fevers or any other type of illness. No COVID-19 cases,” said Tammy Westwood, executive director of Friendship House. “We are fully staffed and morale is good. All residents are socially distancing, we are making sure that they sit at least 6 feet apart at all times,”.

Staff members are doing one-on-one activities, puzzles, crafts, reading and a lot of music and fun movies, such as musicals, throughout the day. They take residents out for a lot of walks as the weather has been beautiful. They continue to check everyone’s temperatures daily, and all staff are wearing masks and using universal hand washing procedures daily and the facility continues to have weekly meetings and updates with Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Center for Disease Control for guidance on how to keep this virus off the campus and keep everyone safe. 

“We are currently under ‘no visitors’ restrictions and we are not to allow anyone on campus unless it is absolutely essential. COVID-19 is NOT welcome here,” Westwood added. 

“We are so fortunate to live in such a caring community,” continued Westwood. “I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago that we would be accepting handmade face masks as we don’t currently have any disposable ones. (We do have N95 masks but are not using them unless needed if someone show symptoms or diagnosed with covid-19). We have received several handmade masks and even some disposable masks, enough to give one to every staff member and residents. Several masks came from my hometown in Des Moines, Iowa. We have also received several letters/cards of encouragement, flowers, cookies, candy, and fruit from community members. We really appreciate everyone’s generosity and support during this challenging time.”

Happy Endings Animal Rescue Sanctuary

File Photo
C.C. Beaudette Wellman of Happy Endings Animal Sanctuary

“At Happy Endings Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Solvang, we are in a critical situation,” said C.C. Wellman, executive director. “Our private and business donations have evaporated. So many people are out of work, they need help buying groceries let alone feeding their own animals. We exist to help improve the lives of animals in our community and the people who love them. It’s shattering emotionally to say, no we can’t help, when we don’t even have enough resources to guarantee feeding our own rescued animals. We currently have 13 rescued horses in sanctuary and our feed bills are $2,400 per month. Our emergency reserves are painfully thin. We’ve helped some low-income seniors with small contributions of food when they’re afraid to go out and shop themselves, but our ability to do this shrinks every day. We’re worried that our small community is heading into a disaster in terms of animals suffering from this crisis. Any donation, no matter how small, will help tremendously at this time.”

Wildling Museum of Art and Nature

“The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature closed to the public on Friday, March 13, along with many other area museums, in order to protect our community, volunteers and staff just ahead of the governor’s stay-at-home order,” said Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director. “We are taking all steps to be financially responsible during this time, but we are feeling the deep impact of COVID-19. The Wildling Museum operates through admission fees, membership dues, fundraising events, grants, and the generosity of our donors. Each day our doors are closed, the impact grows, as the warmer spring and summer months are usually our most busy. 

“In April, we sadly had to cancel both our annual Spring Barbecue fundraising event and our 20th anniversary reception, which was meant to coincide with a retrospective show highlighting works from the past 20 years of Wildling exhibitions,” continued Demangate.  “While we were fortunate to receive a PPP loan, we are also applying for local and national grants as we try to make up for lost funds and plan ahead for eventual reopening. We have also been fortunate to receive generous support from longtime donors who have helped us bridge the gap right now.”

During their closure, they have stepped up their social media and website efforts with a new Virtual Visit page ( and are sharing digital resources with their email subscribers, as, according to Demangate, they are unable to host their museum programming and events. 

“Art and nature are wonderful avenues of solace and inspiration during trying times, so we just want to help make that as available as we can,” continued Demangate. 

“When we do re-open, we know it will be in a limited capacity, likely only weekends to start,” she said. “We rely on our volunteers for front desk support, and many fall into the high-risk category for COVID-19, so we will be very cautious before fully opening. We are currently exploring new cleaning regimens and personal protective equipment requirements for staff once we are able to re-open.” 

Solvang Senior Center

Photo by Pamela Dozois
Ellen Albertoni, executive director of the Solvang Senior Center, receives a painting by student artist Samantha Garcia from Dave Bemis of Los Olivos Rotary.

The Solvang Senior Center is still going strong, even during this time of extreme uncertainty and concern. Although all physical and social activities have been suspended until further notice, Ellen Albertoni, executive director and Anne Twigg, kitchen manager are still at the Center every day during normal hours. 

“We are still here to fulfill our mission statement: We strive to enhance lives of community members ages 55 and over, by providing resources and opportunities for growth in mind, body and spirit,” said Albertoni.During these unpredictable and frightening times, we feel that we can best serve our community seniors by offering them a sense of calm, normalcy and familiarity.

“As we realize that the next several months are going to be filled with uncertainty, we also realize that we have to adapt and be flexible with how we approach the needs of our seniors. With the help of a fantastic group of volunteers, all of our 500 members have been contacted, checking in on their needs and offering a kind voice at the other end of the phone.” 

Their daily lunch program has been converted to pre-order, take-out-only with pick-up times between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Honoring the new Health Department regulations, the volunteers are suited up in gloves and masks and they gladly offer diners curbside service, if need be. Nutritious organic produce, freshly baked goods, nutritious protein food sources, and much more are added as a bonus to the meals. 

“As important as nourishing the body, we realize that it is even more important at this stressful time to nourish the mind and soul,” said Albertoni. “We continue to offer free wool and patterns for knitters to continue knitting for the troops. We continue to offer a plethora of puzzles and books from the center library to keep minds busy and occupied. We now have bags of beautiful donated fabric for those who would like to sew masks for themselves or others. We also have hand-sewn masks available to share. We continue to be an open phone book to offer folks the chance to stay in touch with each other. Most importantly, we continue to be here for any senior who needs assistance, a kind voice, an attentive ear and reassurance. We are all in this together as a community and we all work together in this community to help our most important and vulnerable community members.”

“The Solvang Senior Center is grateful for the overwhelming generous community support that we’ve received from day one of our new normal and grateful for the future support we know we will continue to receive,” continued Albertoni. “Being good stewards of our gifts, acknowledging that other nonprofits may have different needs, we’ve had the privilege of being able to share any of our surplus with other senior facilities such as the Golden Inn and Village, Friendship House, and People Helping People.”

“The uncertainty of our current time has contributed to some of our funders curtailing, pausing or refocusing their funding, causing some uncertainty with both our present and future finances,” said Albertoni. “Unfortunately, our expenses have not pushed that pause button. As many other valley nonprofits have had to do, we have had to cancel plans for a major fundraiser and also our mini monthly fundraisers. That being said, we are truly grateful for the emergency funding we have received from our valley friends: Santa Barbara Foundation, Valley Foundation, Kei Lin Foundation, Rotary Clubs of Solvang and Santa Ynez as well as gifts of the heart from Solvang restaurants, Veggie Rescue, Sysco Foods, Atterdag Village, and our tireless volunteers.”

The Solvang Senior Center is open Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  To help support the Center or for more information about available services, call Ellen at the Center at (805) 688-3793. The center is at 1745 Mission Drive, Solvang. 

Veggie Rescue

Veggie Rescue
File Photo

On March 9, Veggie Rescue, along with about 85 community members celebrated a big milestone – delivering 1 million pounds of food. They threw a Million Pound Party, with good food and merriment. And then the world changed.

“Initially our board suspended operations, but by March 20 we had worked with the Health Department to come up with a protocol for our drivers, to keep them and those they came into contact with safe, to the best of our ability, “ said Amy Derryberry, executive director. “All of our drivers, however, chose to remain home for the first two weeks, out of concern. But, one of the chefs who had helped with our party and was out of work jumped on board and saved the day. Two of our drivers have since returned, and between them, our founder, Terry Delaney, and myself, we have been scrambling to keep up with all the food becoming available to us.”

Veggie Rescue made a connection with Sysco of Ventura County, and they have been making a weekly donation, with items such as milk, hash browns, liquid eggs, sausage, produce, tortillas, cottage cheese, etc. In addition to Sysco, their produce donations have come from Food Forward of Ventura, Midland Garden, Shu and Debby Takikawa owners of The Garden of… in Los Olivos, Tutti Frutti, as well as the farmers’ markets they regularly attend.

“This food has been a boon to the organizations that we deliver to, which prepare meals,” said Derryberry. “We have also had several high-volume donations of produce from several partners. We are still calculating our April deliveries, but they look to be in the neighborhood of 50,000 pounds, an all-time monthly record for Veggie Rescue.

“With all this food that has been made available to us, we have been able to add 10  new distribution sites – United Boys & Girls club in Santa Barbara, three restaurants that are cooking prepared meals for hospital and front line workers in Ventura and Santa Barbara, a Carpenteria restaurant working with the local Rotary to put together bags of groceries for families in need, River of Giving, also distributing bags to families, and St. Marks Soup program in Los Olivos and Bethania Church food distribution, Boys & Girls Club in Lompoc, and the most impressive to me, the Salvation Army in Santa Maria, where when I met with them on March 30, had just ramped up their program from 120 lunches, Monday through Thursday, to 400 meals, 7 days a week. They are now doing over 900 meals a day.” 

Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society

SYV Humane Society

The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society shut down its services to the public on March 20 when the stay-at-home order was started. That included adoptions, vaccinations and surgeries for all of their animals said Bob Jennings, board president.

“At that time, we still had about 13 dogs and nine cats in house. All of our cats were placed into foster homes except one with a medical condition thanks to ASAP in Santa Barbara. At this point all of those cats have been adopted by the fosters,” Jennings said. “We also had to shut down our Thrift Store in Solvang, so we have lost all income from that source. We have done our best to keep all of our staff working with feeding and caring for the animals we have left in the shelter. We applied for the SBA PPP loan and we did receive funding from that last week. That will insure we can keep our staff working and paid for the next 8 weeks. We do have kittens that will be ready for adoption soon and have additional cats and dogs ready for adoption.

“We have started adoptions by appointment and are looking to start in-house surgeries in the middle of May. We would like to start public surgeries by June 1st. Our veterinarian, Dr. Schank, has put together adoption protocols for our interaction with the public and will be putting together the same for vaccinations and surgeries. Our shelter is successful because of our community support and the staff that we have working daily with the animals in our care. That support will be huge for us in the coming year to continue our work with homeless animals.” 

Elverhoj Museum of History and Art

Elverhoj Museum of History and Art closed its doors to visitors on March 15, two weeks after the debut of the wildly popular art exhibition “Legacy of Decency: Rembrandt, Jews and Danes.”  At the same time the shutdown took effect, Elverhoj’s revenue streams dried up and eventually it became clear that the Solstice Sundowner benefit party, the Museum’s major fundraiser, would have to be cancelled, staff reduced, and volunteer participation put on hold. 

“We are staying connected with our members and community in a variety of ways,” said Esther Jacobsen-Bates, executive director. “Social media (Facebook and Instagram) posts are widely viewed. Two new e-series are generating an outpouring of positive comments and sharing of stories. Our ‘This Day in Solvang’ e-series incorporates old black and white photographs from the museum collection with Solvang personalities and connects them with current local events. The series launched April 7 and marked the 1939 date of the first Danish royal visit to Solvang. Other topics have included the first fill and spill of Cachuma Lake, the opening of the Solvang Lutheran Home (now Atterdag Village), and Solvang’s celebration of the end of WWII and the liberation of Denmark. The second e-series focuses on the art hanging in the gallery; ‘Rembrandt: A Virtual Tour’ has taken readers on an armchair tour to four stops around the world celebrating the master artist.” 

Their recently released book, “The Spirit of Solvang,” remains available exclusively at Elverhoj and can be ordered by phone for curbside pickup or shipment.

“Debuting later this month is our first virtual exhibition, ‘The Art of Face Masks,’” Bates said. “We are reuniting the creative group of artists that participated in ‘The Art of Dress’ exhibition in 2019.  Now these artists tackle the role of the face mask as a form of art and self-expression. Hand-dyed fabrics, various styles, a range of techniques, and conceptual thinking are employed in these one-of-a-kind pieces.” 

“Collaborations with museum colleagues has provided immense support as we navigate through this unprecedented time,” continued Bates. “We are working to create fun and educational video content, and sharing sources, information and best practices that put health and safety first as we create our individual plans for phased reopening when it is deemed safe.”

“And this is the time to explore the healing power of art. The connection between art, healing, and public health is well documented and studies have shown that making art reduces stress and anxiety, even if you aren’t good at it. It’s time to get creative!” urged Bates. “I think we will see some powerful art created during this time of uncertainty and it will aid community healing.” 

Connect with the Elverhoj on Facebook and Instagram, or email if you want to be added to the list to receive the e-series. 

Santa Ynez Valley Foundation

In March, the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation created the “Coronavirus Relief Fund” to assist the most vulnerable in our area impacted by the global pandemic, as quickly as possible. To date, the emergency relief fund has raised over $50,000 in new funds. The most recent beneficiary of these emergency funds is the newly formed “Food for SYV” coalition. Created in response to the increased demand for food and necessities brought on by the Coronavirus, the “Food for SYV” brings together the collective efforts of new and existing organizations, to streamline volunteer work, local food distribution efforts to broaden reach and help more valley families

Led by Buellton Senior Center’s Executive Director Pam Gnekow and St. Marks in the Valley Priest and Rector Rev. Randall Day, in addition to numerous volunteer chefs and individuals, “Food for the SYV” is serving approximately 900 quarts of soup, stew, or chili each week (and “extras” – including bread, vegetables, fruit) to approximately 700 people. There are more than 50 volunteers who cook, host on-site pick-up, and deliver meals to families. Weekly deliveries are made in Lompoc, Los Alamos, Cachuma Village, and throughout the SYV communities.

As part of “Food for SYV,” newer organizations such as the River of Giving, led by Maili Halme, Susan Halme, Carlene Jones and Anne Lawrence, are helping to support Gnekow’s efforts, focusing on restaurant workers who are out of work due to the current state and federal mandate. This organization expands food distribution to in-home deliveries, and pick-ups at locations behind Chomp restaurant in Solvang, Steve’s Wheel and Tire in Buellton, and supports Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang.

“Because of our well-established relationships with local charities, and with the ‘Coronavirus Relief Fund,’ The Valley Foundation is uniquely positioned to expedite funds to those local charities that need donations the most,” said Anne Christensen, executive director.

“While we are seeing some easing of lockdown measures, we are still seeing an increasing number of local families who are in great need of assistance,” said Hayley Firestone Jessup, president of the Santa Ynez Foundation. “This is far from over, but with the outpouring of volunteers and donations, our valley will get through this together.”

All donations to the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation’s Coronavirus Relief Fund will directly support local charities. All donations are tax deductible. One hundred percent of donations will be distributed to those in Santa Ynez and Los Alamos to meet basic needs during the pandemic including rent, food and medical care. Donations may be made on the Foundation’s website at or by sending to 485 Alisal Road, Suite #272, Solvang, CA 93463.  For more information about the Relief Fund or the Foundation, please contact Anne Christensen at or (805) 688-2991.