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A Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club member hands out a gift certificate to a volunteer at Bethania Lutheran Church's weekly food drive.

The Rotary Club of the Santa Ynez Valley in November honored local volunteers for their work distributing food and necessities to those in need.

According to a Rotary spokeswoman, volunteers were honored for their diligence in assisting residents severely impacted by joblessness due to the ongoing pandemic.

A number of volunteers, including those at Bethania Lutheran Church's Tuesday food drive and Buellton Senior Center, were surprised by a small group of Rotarians — socially distanced and masked — during the Rotary’s annual "Gratitude Week" campaign held in November, the spokeswoman explained. She noted that gift certificates totaling $2,500 to be redeemed at Valley restaurants were distributed to volunteers.

“We wanted to not only show our gratitude and recognize the altruism of our Valley’s volunteers but, in doing so, support, even if in small part, the locally owned restaurants who have been greatly impacted by the closures and restrictions these past nine months,” said Danielle Thurston, a Santa Ynez Valley Club Rotarian. 

The Rotary Club also presented additional donations in November to some of the local food distribution programs after word got out that food drives were facing potential closures due to a decrease in emergency funding to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

“The Rotary Club of the Santa Ynez Valley is very proud to be able to provide funds to those unable to meet their basic need of food for themselves and their families," said Greg Pensa, a Santa Ynez Valley Club Rotarian. "These funds are gained from our annual Fourth of July Fireworks extravaganza." 

Santa Ynez Valley Rotary since March 2020 has donated $47,000 to local agencies to assist in addressing the increased demand for emergency food brought on by the pandemic, the spokeswoman said.

Bethania Lutheran Church's food program received $16,000 of which $10,000 was donated to Buellton Senior Center, $10,000 to St. Mark's Church food program, $9,000 to People Helping People and $2,000 to Solvang Senior Center. 

Santa Ynez Valley Rotary members continue to support the community through a range of service projects and events, including the production of Solvang's annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration, the Salvation Army bell ringing donation drive and the annual Santa Barbara County's high school architectural design competition. 

For more information, how to join and club meeting times, visit syvrotary.org 

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record. 

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