By Raiza Giorgi
Since the beginning of the year, the Buellton Senior Center has distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to locals from all around the Valley and neighboring towns. Executive Director Pam Gnekow said a grant she recently received said their fund distribution of $75,000 is being moved to next March instead of October of this year.
“It completely destroyed me,” Gnekow said. “This grant I rely on getting the funds to pay for the increase in meals we are serving and covering the increased food costs. I literally haven’t slept trying to think of ways to fill this funding gap.
“I am so thankful to the recent opening of the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop (see page X) that will hopefully help supplement along with our upcoming event.”
The Buellton Senior Center serves approximately 350 meals per day at the cost of $5 each. Some of the seniors can cover that cost, but Gnekow said more than half are on a scholarship as they cannot afford it.
“When COVID hit we didn’t know just how many of our seniors were living below poverty level,” she said. “Surviving on a can of soup or whatever scraps they had in their house. They would shop at discount stores and go to other organizations offering meals or groceries, but after the pandemic they were all too scared to leave their homes.”
Gnekow was already working with the City of Buellton to create an event to introduce the Valley’s newest event site the Willemsen Barn, and she hopes that it will generate enough funds to fill the gap until next spring.
The “Welcome to the Barn” event will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 202 Dairyland Road. It will feature great food and music by Jeff Pine and special guest Zach Hulshizer. It will serve as a fundraiser to the Meals on Wheels program.
“Zach’s rendition of the National Anthem will melt you,” Gnekow said. “He will be singing it along side of the local VFW who will be presenting the colors.”
The Barn will be an event and meeting space, with other portions of the 24-acre Willemsen property being used by local nonprofits as well as becoming the future home of the Buellton Library. The property was purchased by the city of Buellton in May 2020 for $2 million.
If you cannot make the event or simply want to help towards the Meals on Wheels program, you can donate on their website.