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.


Shawn Peterson- Director of Community Connection

Shawn is passionate about bringing community together to create sustainable change. He is an advocate of utilizing data-driven, strength-based programming to serve adults, families, and children experiencing stigma, behavioral health challenges, and socio-economic difficulties. He believes that every individual has something meaningful to contribute to our community, and our job is to help them uncover it.


Trēa Robinson- Director of Community Development

Trēa started at the Volunteer Center as a volunteer and shortly after joined the mental health division of the organization. Her passion for connecting all people in Santa Cruz County for good and her involvement in many of the Volunteer Center’s programs have made her a clear leader. As a team member of the Personnel Committee and our Staff Representative on the Volunteer Center's Board of Directors, Trēa has demonstrated that her commitment to the Volunteer Center and Santa Cruz County runs deep. Trēa is a proud mom of two school-aged children and her second full-time job is schlepping her kids to orthodontist appointments, soccer games, and concerts. She enjoys photography, art, and design projects with her husband.


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.




Kathryn Sanchez - Director of Finance

Kathryn’s story began at the Volunteer Center on 1010 Emeline Street in 2002. During her tenure she has witnessed the growth, ups and downs, and the incredible energy and passion of all who bring the spirit of volunteerism to the Volunteer Center. This has inspired her dedication to stewarding our funds, keeping our budget balanced, and maintaining our financial relationships. Outside of work, Kathryn's passion is playing the piano, which she traces back to the first time she sat and played with her father at the age of five. This experience planted a seed for the love of music. Playing the piano and singing bring her joy and comfort after a hard day of crunching numbers. Kathryn also enjoys creating her own music.


Alicia Dayton- Director of Contracts, Grants, and Budgets

Alicia joined the Volunteer Center as a Program Coordinator for CitySERVE and the Volunteer Initiative Program in 2008. She transitioned to the administrative team in 2010 to serve as the Budget and Data Analyst and is currently the Director of Contracts, Grants and Budgets. She is enthusiastic about guiding our team to ensure excellent stewardship of the funds entrusted to us from all of our generous funders. When not at work she can be found exploring the wild country of California on horseback.



Crystal Cruz- Division Manager Criminal Justice Programs

After receiving her degree in Human Services, Crystal immediately began her work with the Court Referral Program. As a 15 year veteran of the program, she brings incredible dedication to the table and thrives as advocate for all people needing assistance to navigate the court system. Born and raised in Santa Cruz she believes wholeheartedly in giving back to her home community. She as been a volunteer since the age of 7, with jobs ranging from cleaning CPR mannequins to delivering holiday food boxes to labor camps in south county.


Tara Ireland- Senior Programs Manager

Tara joined the Volunteer Center in 2015. She holds a B.A. in Business Management from San Jose State University. She is a Certified Master Trainer for A Matter of Balance, fall prevention program. Tara has extensive experience in program development and management. She is passionate and engaged in non-profit collaborations that support senior independence and reduce isolation. Outside of work she is an avid hot springs explorer and ocean swimmer.

board member bob-bowles

Bob Bowles – Board Member

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.


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.


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.



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.

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