Community Action Commission Presents Annual Champions Honor to Santa Ynez Chumash

Event Raised Close to $350,000 for Senior Meal Program in Santa Barbara County

Art of Giving Back Fundraising Dinner and Presentation Featured Notable Fine Artist at Work


(left to right): CenCal Health CEO Bob Freeman, who is also the Chairman of the Board for Community Action Commission, and Community Action Commission CEO Patricia Keelean congratulate tribal leader Raul Armenta who accepted the Community Action Champions award on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. (Photo by Ashly Othic.)

At its annual awards dinner and presentation, Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County (CAC) recognized a local organization who has helped improve the lives of children, youth, families, and seniors in the county. For 2019, CAC selected the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians for the Champions honor. “This year we are pleased to be honoring the Santa Ynez Chumash for their many contributions to our community, including our elders,” said CAC CEO Patricia Keelean, at the May 17 evening event.

Tribal leader Raul Armenta accepted the CAC Champions award on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Armenta is Vice Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ Business Committee, and is responsible for establishing policies and overseeing the legal and business affairs of the tribe, while providing for the economic well-being of its members. Armenta grew up in Lompoc, spending summers and weekends visiting his grandparents and other relatives on the Santa Ynez Reservation. 

The 14th annual Champions event was held at the Hotel Corque in Solvang. Previous years’ Community Action Champions in attendance included Dr. Kevin Walthers of Allan Hancock College, Bob Freeman for CenCal Health, and Flo Furuike. Other notables supporting the event were County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, County Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Chairman of Community Bank of Santa Maria Jim Glines, Kellye and Eric Onnen of Santa Barbara AirBus, and Santa Barbara Foundation’s Jackie Carrera. The evening’s Master of Ceremonies was local personality Jim Byrne.

The annual Community Action Champions dinner event raises much needed funds to support CAC’s Healthy Senior Lunch program. The 2019 event theme was “The Art of Giving Back” in keeping with a new social enterprise under CAC’s Nutrition Services area. The Art of Giving Back Cafe and Catering Company is in the works to raise additional funds for meal programs for Seniors. 

Consistent with the “art of giving” theme, fine artist Yuliya Lennon PhD created a still life painting onsite that was auctioned that evening. Lennon is an internationally acclaimed artist with paintings in public and private collections in Europe, Russia, India, China and the United States. Her work can be seen locally at the Yuliya Lennon Studio in downtown Santa Barbara.

This year’s Champions Dinner sponsors were CenCal Health, the Kei Lin Foundation and BB&H Benefit Designs. CenCal Health was a $100,000 Diamond Sponsor. For every dollar raised, CenCal Health matched the amount up to an additional $100,000 contribution. “This matching fund opportunity and gift from CenCal Health, in combination with all the support of our other sponsors and contributors resulted in this event raising close to $350,000 for Senior Nutrition in our county,” said Linda Rosso, CAC’s Development Manager. Donations to the CAC Senior Meals program can still be made by calling 805 964-8857 ext #1101. More information available at

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PRESS CONTACT: Sheri Mobley/Seamless PR  805 845-5627

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