Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County

Empowering Sustainable Independence

aka CommUnify   |   Goleta, CA   |


We provide education and supportive services in partnership with the community so Santa Barbara County residents can improve their economic security, become self-sufficient, and retain their dignity.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Patricia Keelean

Main address

5638 Hollister, Suite 230

Goleta, CA 93117 USA

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NTEE code info

Human Services - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (P99)

Kindergarten, Nursery Schools, Preschool, Early Admissions (B21)

Congregate Meals (K34)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The lack of stability and economic security experienced by low income families create barriers to success and places vulnerable children, youth and seniors at risk.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Energy Services - Home Weatherization and Utility Payment Assistance

CAC Energy Services keep low-income homes safe and warm through weatherization and utility payment assistance.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Family and Youth Services help young people avoid substance abuse, teen pregnancy, gang involvement, violence and incarceration and help families cope with mental health issues. Nothing predicts the future for a child more than the stability of their family life. When families are struggling to deal with one life event after another, stability is the first casualty. A consistent theme across all of CommUnify’s Family and Youth Services is that our programs offer children, youth, and families meaningful and positive contact with staff that are deeply committed to changing their future for the better. Whether addressing the impacts of generational poverty, trauma, adverse experiences, lack of education or stable resources, CommUnify offers youth a chance to build resilience and access the services needed to establish a better future.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth

Children's Services delivers Early Head Start for families with infants and toddlers up to age 3 and programs for pregnant women, and Head Start and California State Preschool programs to children 3 to 5 years old. Available to qualified low-income families, these services are sensitive to each family’s linguistic, ethnic, and cultural heritage. A strong emphasis is placed on the valuable role of parents as the first and most important teacher of their child. With focus on the whole child's development in academic, social, emotional and physical growth, combined with a safe, caring environment created by skilled teachers, CommUnify’s early education programs prepare children for a lifetime of success in school and in life.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Our Senior Home Repair program provides free repairs designed to assist Santa Barbara County seniors with maintaining independence. Our installations focus on health and safety, as well as slip and fall prevention. We provide senior referral services to our community partners to assist our clients with continued quality of life within their homes.

Population(s) Served

Family Self-Sufficiency provides intensive case management and financial literacy coaching to highly motivated individuals and families striving to achieve self-sufficiency. Coaching is offered in the areas of education, housing, job training and employment, finances. Economic Empowerment and Financial Literacy helps families with young children learn financial strategies that encourage sustainable financial literacy and stability. 2-1-1 Helpline provides information and referrals to all residents of Santa Barbara County, connecting them to health and human services, and emergency/disaster relief information.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of meals served or provided

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served


Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Number of meals provided annually to seniors in Santa Barbara County. We only operated the program for 6 months in 2021.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The mission of the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County (CAC) is to create opportunities for Santa Barbara County families to achieve stability. In order to achieve the greatest possible impact upon the low-income children, youth, families and elders that we serve, CAC in 2014 developed a strategic plan with five goals that will strengthen the organization and position it to deliver the best and most responsive services to the community over the next five years. Strategies, responsibilities, actions, and time frames have been developed for all objectives within each of the five goals.

Goal 1 is to enhance financial stability. Objective A is to build agency assets and operating reserve. Objective B is to monitor program viability. Goal 2 is to enhance CAC brand awareness. Objective A is to increase visibility in the community and local governments. Goal 3 is to increase operational efficiency. Objective A is to share program resources where appropriate. Objective B is to streamline processes. Objective C is to identify and implement cost savings ideas. Goal 4 is to improve CAC internal communications. Objective A is to increase and enhance communication flow to staff. Goal 5 is to foster staff development. Objective A is to identify and implement opportunities for staff to assume more responsibility and leadership roles. Objective B is to create opportunities for cross-training and sharing of best practices.

The following strategies will support Goal #1 - Enhance Financial Stability: (1) Enhance the agency's development function, (2) Identify funding opportunities for currently underfunded work, (3) Create an "Advisory Council" composed of people adept at fundraising and willing to donate, (4) Increase opportunities and roles for volunteers, (5) Increase scrutiny of contracts and agreements, and (6) Set and enforce program budgets.
The following strategies will support Goal #2 - Enhance Brand Awareness: (1) Increase awareness among clients that CAC is providing their services, (2) Increase community awareness of CAC programs, and (3) Foster "Brand Democracy".
The following strategies will support Goal #3 - Increase Operational Efficiency: (1) Leverage client and volunteer participation to achieve program objectives, (2) Integrate CAC functions and services across programs, (3) create, review and communicate dashboard metrics, (4) Enhance agency processes, (5) Develop and implement comprehensive tools that provide client feedback, (6) Enhance employee access to CAC documents, and (7) Explore and implement sub-contracting functions where appropriate.
The following strategies will support Goal #4 - Improve CAC Internal Communications: (1) Create and conduct periodic staff feedback surveys, and (2) Enhance overall staff communication processes.
The following strategies will support Goal #5 - Foster Staff Development: Create a structure to allow individual staff to gain professional development, (2) Conduct periodic joint director/program manager meetings, (3) Create "cross-talk" opportunities for staff members to share best practices, and (4) Enhance staff knowledge about CAC's impact.

The Community Action Commission (CAC) was incorporated as a private, nonprofit organization in 1967. It is now the largest social service agency serving Santa Barbara County, with an over 70% minority staff of approximately 400 people providing services at 40 sites countywide and serving over 12,000 individuals each year. In order to promote effective countywide service delivery, the CAC Central Administration in Goleta (South County) is supported by administrative program offices in Santa Maria (North County) and Lompoc (Mid County). The agency's annual operating budget of over $24 million is derived from a range of funding sources that include city, county, state, federal and private foundation grants, donations and fundraising.

CAC is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors with equal representation from the public, private and low-income sectors. Elected officials hold the 5 public sector seats. The inclusion of representatives of the low-income community is an important and unique part of our organization.

CAC's administrative staff is very experienced at monitoring funding agreements. We hold over 50 contracts, all of which are audited by federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAC has two independent audits each year: the agency's annual audit and the Child Development audit, which is required by the Department of Education of the State of California. We have a well-staffed fiscal department that is skilled at using the Grants Management System to account for each individual project. Because of the size of the CAC Head Start Program (24 Head Start centers countywide), which was launched in 1967, we have had long years of practice collecting and reporting extensive quantities of data. The 2014 federal review of Head Start produced “no findings."

CAC has also served as the umbrella and testing ground for numerous emerging agencies, providing the initial effort, administrative expertise and infrastructure to launch Easy Lift in South County, Smooth Transportation Services in North County, the Community Housing Corporation, Storyteller Children's Center, Shelter Services for Women (now Domestic Violence Solutions), the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and the Area Agency on Aging. All these agencies are now independent and have been sustained over time. Currently, CAC is providing an administrative umbrella to the South Coast Task Force on Youth Gangs and Cal-SOAP, which aims to help send to college those who would be the first generation in their families to attend college.

With a 47-year history, CAC is deeply rooted in Santa Barbara County and is a trusted entity. We have earned that trust through responsible management, professional services and quality programming.

Nutrition Services:

• 673 seniors received 48,327 meals at 12 CAC “Healthy Table" centers.
• 645 seniors received 98,927 home-delivered meals through “Healthy at Home."
• Over 120,000 meals were delivered to other community programs serving those in need.
• 36,716 meals were provided to low-income children and youth in the Summer Food Program.
• 121,788 snacks were provided to low-income children as part of the After School Snack Program.

Energy Services:

• 1,700 low-income households benefited from Energy Services.
• 1,311 households received utility payment assistance.
• 389 homes received $711,245.96 in weatherization services.
• 94 unsafe gas heaters were repaired or replaced.

Family and Youth Services:

• The Front Porch program served 493 clients, reducing the occurrence or recurrence of child abuse and neglect or domestic violence by linking the families to high-quality treatment services and community resources.
• Home Connection Finders linked 509 foster children with relatives or friends willing to care for them after they were removed from their homes.
• 132 young men and women learned to make better life choices while participating in Los Compadres/Las Comadres, which focuses on prevention of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, gang involvement and violence.

Children's Services:

• 1,355 children attended CAC Head Start, Early Head Start and State Preschool.
• Over 200 children were provided a child-friendly place to wait while their parents were in family court at CAC Children's Waiting Rooms at the Superior Courts in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.
• 23 out of CAC's 24 Head Start Centers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the hallmark of excellence in early childhood education.
• Over 87% of CAC Head Start children going to kindergarten were assessed to be in the top two developmental levels for cognitive development and social skills.
• Every Head Start classroom has a teacher with a college degree.

All of CAC's strategic long term goals are aimed at strengthening the organization for one purpose: to best fulfill the mission of creating opportunities for Santa Barbara County families to achieve stability. Only a stable organization can help others to become stable. Thus, the agency's long term goals of enhanced organizational financial stability; awareness of CAC and its services; increased operational efficiency; improved internal communications; and a staff that implements best practices, contribute to the ongoing accessibility, quality and professionalism of services offered by CAC. The current (2014 - 2019) CAC Strategic Plan was adopted in June 2014. Progress toward goals is reviewed in monthly Senior Staff meetings, monthly board-staff Planning Committee meetings, and monthly CAC Board meetings, and reasonable adjustments may be made at any time with Board approval.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time


Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Robert Freeman

CenCal Health

Term: 2013 -

Karin Dominguez

SMBSD School Readiness

Josephine Torres

Social Work/ Human Services

Michael Bennett

City of Goleta

Mike Cordero

City of Santa Maria

Cathy Murrillo

City of Santa Barbara

Steve Lavagnino

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

Victor Vega

City of Lompoc

Shanice Jackson


Guy Walker

Financial Advisor

Vincent Martinez


Chuck Cova

Dignity Health

Robert Freeman

CenCal Health

Georgene Lowe

SBCEO Health Linkages

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No