The Buellton City Council awarded $30,000 in grant funding for six outside nonprofits at its meeting Thursday night.

Councilors increased the amount by $5,000 from the initial $25,000 allocation. The funding is awarded each year through the nondepartmental budget of the General Fund.

Last year, the city distributed $88,639, which included money that went to the Buellton Senior Center. In March, the City Council put the senior center as a budget line item instead and gave it $65,000.

To allocate the funds, each councilor chose where they wanted $30,000 to go and those amounts were averaged.

“This is where we have the heartbreaking task of divvying up $30,000, which is less than half of the requested funds,” Mayor Holly Sierra said.

People Helping People was the organization that received the most money — $8,600.

CEO Dean Palius said the funds are used to help the most vulnerable in Buellton.

“Those are seniors, those are children, those are families who face homelessness, who face food insecurity, whose children need mentoring at the high school,” Palius said.

He said the funds the group receives are critical to leveraging more dollars to support the services it provides.

Councilor Ed Andrisek said People Helping People had returned major dividends for the amount of money the council had given it in the past.

Zaca Center Preschool received $6,100.

The school transitioned from a county agency to a 501c3 nonprofit after the Santa Barbara County Education Office announced it would stop funding and operating the school three years ago.

“You no doubt recall the community response,” said Leanna Watson, who serves on the preschool’s board of directors.

Watson said her children attended the school and that “both of their lives have been forever changed by their years at Zaca Center Preschool.”

Zaca is the only preschool in the Santa Ynez Valley that enrolls children with special needs and Watson said demand to get into the school is high.

“Buellton and Santa Ynez Valley parents know the exceptional foundation that Zaca provides and as a result, Zaca currently has a wait list of 113 families. This fall, only approximately 11 of those families will be accepted into Zaca,” Watson said.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County received $5,400.

Sunita Jethmalani, director of grants, said the organization distributed 140,000 pounds of food in Buellton last year.

She said a majority of the food-insecure clients are 60 years old or older.

“They all receive high-protein food products and fresh fruits and vegetables which many of them cannot afford to buy,” Jethmalani said.

Santa Ynez Valley Fruit & Vegetable Rescue, which collects excess produce from farms, farmers markets and backyards and delivers it to organizations that feed people, received $4,600.

Executive Director Amy Derryberry said the nonprofit has been delivering to the Buellton Senior Center for seven years.

In the last two years, 30% of the produce the nonprofit collected was delivered to the senior center, she said.

The California Organization for Public Safety was awarded $4,200.

The nonprofit aims to train local law enforcement agencies in use of force situations at a facility in Solvang.

Part of the funding will go to construction materials, safety equipment and promotional materials for training.

NatureTrack was awarded $1,100.

The nonprofit hosts outdoor field trips for K-12 students to encourage them to embrace nature.

Councilor Art Mercado made a motion to approve the grant funding as listed, and Councilor John Sanchez seconded.

The motion passed unanimously.


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