Our Leadership


Karen Delaney – Executive Director

Karen has a passion for volunteering that started as a child and grows stronger everyday.    She has lead our Volunteer Center for more than 30 years and is an internationally recognized leader, trainer and speaker in the field of volunteerism, community building and nonprofit management.  She gave the Keynote Address at the first Argentine National Conference of NGOs in 2001; serves on the Board of the Points of Light Foundation and is currently the President of the National Affiliate Council for Volunteer Centers & Hands On Network.  Here in Santa Cruz, she cofounded Save Our Shores and the Human Care Alliance, was the first Board President of LifeLab Science Programs and has served on dozens of Boards and Commissions over the years.  Karen’s formula for success is “hope, fun, curiosity, gratitude, belief in people and good data.”


Lois Connell – Associate Director

Lois considers herself an almost native of Santa Cruz, moving here in 1969 from Montana. Lois started her career with the Volunteer Center in 1989 with the development and administration of the Earth Quake Recovery Project, a program to help victims of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Over the last 26 years she has coordinated many of the programs of the Volunteer Center and was instrumental in the development of the CitySERVE Program, and AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program. Lois lives in Felton and loves exploring the natural wonders of our great state on horseback with her husband Tim.


Jan Brady - Office Manager

Jan grew up in Santa Cruz and started volunteering for the 4-H as a drama coach throughout high school an college.  Her early career was spent as a travel agent, tour director and traveling extensively.  Her career took a turn when she accepted an executive assistant position in Boston, MA supporting a CEO of a fortune 500 company.  Jan came back home to Santa Cruz 12 years ago and managed a nationwide appraisal company.  She has been with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County for five years.  She loves being able to mentor new office volunteers and provide tools and confidence for reentering the workforce.  Jan’s hobbies are golfing, supporting local singer/songwriter local musicians and doing arts and crafts with her granddaughter.

board member bob-bowles

Christina Thurston – Director of Volunteer Connections

Christina first joined the Volunteer Center team when she was in high school, volunteering with the YouthSERVE program. She stayed local and attended UC Santa Cruz earning a degree in Community Studies. She's passionate about creating inclusive communities and serves on the board for the Watsonville High School ECHO Academy.  She loves traveling, watching foreign films, exploring the outdoors and finding ways for people to connect.



Shawn Peterson- Director of Community Connection

Shawn has been a leader in the mental health field for the past 10 years through a variety of non-profits in Santa Cruz County. He is an advocate and champion of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the Recovery-Model and evidence-based practices in serving adults with serious mental illness, at-risk youth, and criminal offenders. After co-founding a private organization for at-risk youth, Shawn expanded his outreach into the academic and non-profit world where he has been recognized with multiple awards. He is passionate about utilizing strength-based programming, community organization, and social justice as tools for change. He believes, “Every individual has something meaningful to contribute to our community, our job is to help them uncover it.”

Bob Bowles – Board President

Bob Bowles is a retired Presbyterian Minister who served many years as Pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Aptos.  Bob and his wife, Margie, live in La Selva Beach and volunteer as naturalists at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Moss Landing.  Bob has also served on the board of Habitat for Humanity and the Spiritual Advisory Committee of Hospice, not to mention a previous incarnation on the Volunteer Center board.
Bob enjoys cooking, international travel and people.  He says he plays the bagpipe poorly, but asks, "How can you tell?"



Susan Cabrera – Board Member

Susan Cabrera is an executive management consultant to San Francisco and Monterey Bay area governments. She formerly served as Deputy Director of Personnel for the County of Santa Cruz and Director of Classification and Compensation for the County of San Mateo. Susan is dedicated to volunteerism. In addition to being on the Board of the Volunteer Center, she is District Council President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Santa Cruz County and member of the Disabilities Ministry at St. Joseph’s Church in Capitola. Susan heads up an annual “Trivia Challenge” at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to benefit Volunteer Center programs. She has her master’s degree from Stanford in counseling psychology, conducts lectures and seminars, and is the author of two books.

Rachel Christopher – Board Member

Rachel is currently working as an Analyst and Chief Aid to the County of Santa Cruz First District Supervisor John Leopold. She previously worked as the Assistant to the Santa Cruz City Council, and as the Coordinator for the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Rachel attended Santa Cruz High School before earning her B.A. in Public Policy from Mills College. She currently lives on the west side of Santa Cruz and enjoys spending her free time outdoors hiking, swimming, and kayaking. She loves being an active member of the Santa Cruz community, and is thrilled to be serving on the Board of Directors for the Volunteer Center.


Deb DeBruyn – Board Member

Deb deBruyn began her career working at the largest high tech PR firm in the country, and quickly moved to become the marketing manager for an international embedded systems software company. She took time off to be the lead parent and raise her children. During that time off she took her children for months at a time to the New York area, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia and back to Uruguay.  She was the head coach, and re-instituted the Girls on the Run program at Westlake School. More recently she has served on boards working on event planning, strategic planning, customer service and brand management. She currently consults for small businesses helping them streamline business practices, and realize untapped potential in their businesses. Ever interested in body and brain function and connection, she also teaches spinning at Toadal Fitness.

Sandra Hill – Board Member

Sandra Hill has been working in the field of Conservatorship, Trust and Estate Administration since 2001. Much of her work centers on helping the elderly and disabled adult population. She is licensed by the State of California as a Professional Fiduciary and owns Sandra Hill Fiduciary Services. She is a member of the Professional Fiduciary Association of California and has volunteered her time also with this organization. Sandra earned her sociology degree from Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Other work experience includes title insurance, property management and tax return preparation. Sandra considers herself very lucky to have spent the majority of her life here in Santa Cruz, marrying a Santa Cruz native and raising two sons.

Rachel Ostrander – Board Member

Rachel Ostrander is an Associate at the Law Offices of Vincent P Hurley and as such has a diverse background in legal, governmental, business, and non-profit work, as well as a well-rounded education covering mediation, negotiation, arbitration, business entities, and government practice. In her free time, she enjoys writing legal articles for publication and has been published by North Carolina Central University as well as Brigham Young. She is active in many community groups and nonprofit organizations.


Sylvia Reyes – Board Member

Sylvia Reyes was born in Monterey County and is lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County. She’s a licensed Realtor® with the California Bureau of Real Estate and grateful to work for Coast Business Brokerage, an Acquisitions and Valuations firm with 15+ successful years helping people buy and sell businesses in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties. Sylvia enjoys being part of a team with the expertise to handle all the details and ensure a smooth business transition.


Trea Robinson – Staff Representative to the Board

Trea is the Division Manager of Community Connection, the mental health division of the Volunteer Center.  Prior to joining the Volunteer Center Trea worked in the PR and marketing field, as a foster parent recruiter and trainer, and then chose to take time as a stay-at-home mom. When her two kids started school she felt the pull to return to work and she found that volunteerism was the best pathway to employment. Trea found her home as a volunteer at the Volunteer Center, supporting the front desk, Adopt-a-Family, and the Human Race before being hired at Community Connection. In addition to absolutely loving her job, Trea also loves photography, beach days with family & friends, hiking, snuggling with her corgi dog and being in nature.


Melody Sharp – Board Member

Melody Sharp is a website designer and has had her own firm since 1996. She is the author of Getting On Top, a self-help book on career development and is a former business columnist for Shape magazine. Prior to moving to Santa Cruz in 1981, she was a magazine editor in Los Angeles for several national publications. Her other volunteer work is as a board member for The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, and she is a past board president of the both the Land Trust and Volunteer Center.


Ian Swift - Board Member

Ian is a knowledgeable Realtor® with Century 21 M&M and Associates- with a comprehensive background in real estate, land planning and development. Born and raised in Santa Cruz - Ian attended Santa Cruz High before earning his bachelors in Urban Studies/Land Planning from San Francisco State University. He has worked locally in real estate & land use for +10 years, with experience in both commercial/development and residential transactions. He is the proud father of a 7-year old boy, and gives back to his community through volunteer efforts such as running Team Santa Cruz AAU basketball club, and serving as an active member on the Board of Directors for both the Volunteer Center for Santa Cruz County and Habitat for Humanity of Santa Cruz County.

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