Champions Dinner

By Lynda Millner   |   June 20, 2019
CAC board chairman Bob Freeman, CEO CAC Pat Keelean, and vice chair for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Raul Armenta

Community Action Commission (CAC) gave its 14th annual Champions Dinner, this year at the Hotel Corque in Solvang. Donors, sponsors, and employees gathered from all over the county for a wine tasting reception and dinner. This year’s Champions recipient was the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Giving back to the community has always been their tradition. Their elders taught them many lessons, one was generosity. The tribe has reached out to hundreds of local groups, organizations and schools, donating more than $20 million over the years.

Historically the Chumash used bead money as currency, made from small disks shaped from the olivella shell. The Chumash ancestors made significant contributions with thousands of beads circulating. Raul Armenta received the honor for the tribe. He is Vice Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ Business Committee. He establishes policies and oversees the legal and business affairs of the tribe and provides for their well-being.

Santa Barbara Airbus owners and CAC fans Eric and Kelly Onnen
Third District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, Dr. Takashi Wada from CenCal, and Van Do-Reynoso from the CenCal board

Armenta grew up in Lompoc but spent summers and weekends visiting his grandparents and other relatives on the reservation. He recalls a time when the reservation had no running water. He believes the tribe’s progress was achieved by being dedicated to economic self-sufficiency.

CAC CEO Patricia D. Keelean says, “The Chumash Indians are exemplary role models of generous, dedicated citizens, serving together to address challenging situations for our less fortunate residents, including our Senior citizens. Many of the senior community lack essential resources, such as nutritionally balanced meals. With your ongoing support, we will continue to make a difference in over 1,200 senior lives every year.”

CEO CenCal Health and chairman of CAC board Bob Freeman spoke to the group. Master of ceremonies was Jim Byrne. There was a lively live auction conducted by professional auctioneer Jim Glines, whose day job is chairman of Community Bank of Santa Maria. It was the first live auction for CAC, which had bidders for a stay at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore, or a Newport Beach weekend and more. CAC development director Linda Rosso told about CenCal Health who was a $100,000 Diamond sponsor and then offered to match the amount up to an additional $100,000. Donations to the CAC Senior Meals program can still be made by calling 805.964.8857.

CAC has 22 health and human service programs to help families and individuals such as: Health Senior Lunch, Head Start, Weatherization and Energy Assistance, Family & Youth Service, and help and information line 2-1-1. They serve more than 10,000 people throughout the county each year. CAC employs over 400 health, education, and social service workers and are one of our County’s largest employers. More information available at


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