BY JORDAN KILLEBREW | July 17, 2020
Firm believers in food equity, impassioned and active community members Clifford “Cliff” and Bernadette “Bernie” Silliman lived their lives volunteering with local nonprofits like Lompoc Valley Meals on Wheels, and hosting dinners to bring their beloved community together.
Cliff was a retired Colonel who had a 33-year career in the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Air Force, and the aerospace industry. During his service, he was highly decorated, with accolades like the Bronze Star, the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, and World War II Victory Medal, to name a few.
In their free time, when they weren’t volunteering, Cliff and Bernadette also loved to hike. The couple would act as guides for the Arguello Group, the local chapter of the Sierra Club.
“Cliff’s most outstanding characteristic was that he was such a compassionate person,” said nephew Sid Silliman. “He served as a father figure to me and others. Cliff would help you fix your car, help out financially; anything he could do to help, he was always available.”
The Sillimans spent their later years in Vandenberg Village. After Bernadette passed away in 2002, followed by Cliff in 2018, their nephew Sid turned to the Santa Barbara Foundation to honor and continue their legacy and impact.
“It was important to Cliff that programs in Lompoc Valley be supported,” Sid noted. “He spent over 40 years in that area and was committed to the valley. He would be very pleased to know that programs and support are continuing on.”
Central to Cliff and Bernie’s community service was their volunteerism and giving to Lompoc Valley Meals on Wheels. Cliff served on the Board of Directors from 1999-2008 and he and Bernie would deliver meals personally.
“Cliff noticed that Meals on Wheels always had to do events to raise funds, in addition to the time and effort of the program. It was important to him that over time he could help make sure they had the support needed to continue forward,” said Sid.
It was that kind of forward-thinking that led the Silliman Family Trust to select the Santa Barbara Foundation in 2004 as the sole philanthropic beneficiary to facilitate the charitable plans that were so near and dear to the Silliman’s hearts. This planning was realized last year and will have the perpetual benefit to the Lompoc Valley – a fitting tribute to the community the Silliman’s so cherished.
The Silliman Family Trust established both a Donor Designated Fund and a Field of Interest Fund at the Santa Barbara Foundation in 2019. The Trust is for the benefit of programs in Lompoc Valley, with a percentage of the funds designated for Lompoc Meals on Wheels.
The Trust has also become a resource during the COVID-19 pandemic, and provided $25,000 in COVID-19 relief to VTC Enterprises, with funds directed to Hidden Treasures Thrift Store, whose mission is to assist individuals with disabilities to achieve their life goals.
“The funding has allowed VTC Enterprises to continue paying rent on the Hidden Treasures Thrift Store space,” said Jason Telander, VTC Enterprises CEO. “This is during California’s state mandated closure of non-essential businesses and what will likely be a period of reduced income combined with increased sanitation costs after we re-open.”
Hidden Treasures Thrift Store has restarted their donation pick-up service and on July 7th reopened their store. Governor Newsom ordered on July 13th new closures affecting indoor business operations which may affect the reopening effort. To ensure the safety of staff and shoppers, all employees will be required to complete daily health assessments to confirm they are free of virus symptoms and have not been in contact with infected individuals.
“Here we are today announcing our re-opening, but without funding provided by the Silliman Family Trust it may not have even been a consideration,” Jason continued. “Their generosity provided us with a measure of stability and assurance during unprecedented uncertainty. All of us at VTC Enterprises wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Clifford and Bernadette Silliman Family Trust for helping preserve this valuable training and employment resource and community connection for our organization.”