Our Mission

Transforming our community and ourselves through volunteerism, empowering everyone to Be the Difference.

When people are connected to causes they care about and given the right tools and support, everything changes for good. Real connections power personal happiness, strong families, healthy businesses, and vibrant communities.

The Home for Volunteerism in Santa Cruz County
The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County is a "one-stop shop" for all things volunteer related for individuals, organizations, and businesses.

We connect people, organizations, and businesses to:

Through our programs in Mental Health, Restorative Justice, Family Support, and Empowered Aging.

Through large-scale community initiatives, events, and fundraising - Disaster Response, Santa Cruz Gives, and the Be the Difference Awards.

Through volunteer match programs, pairing volunteers with local agencies and nonprofits, and partnering with local businesses that want to build a more connected community.

Rooted in Action

Founded by dreamers and activists in 1967 who believed people could make our community better by coming together in service, the Volunteer Center has served Santa Cruz County for over 55 years.

Three of our four original programs—Volunteer Transportation, Literacy, and Volunteer Matching—are still going strong. 

From Founding Mothers to the Heart of Volunteerism

We got our start in 1967, when  Marian McBee, Kathryn Merriam, and Marget Schaeffer, three remarkable women inspired by their passion for social work, set up shop at a loaned office space in downtown Santa Cruz to develop volunteer programs that would change the lives of residents in need. Their goal was to give a community voice to the most disenfranchised in Santa Cruz County.

Within one year, they raised the funds to hire a staff member and developed a mentoring program for boys in need of male role models, a tutoring program for adults who spoke no English, a jail visitation program, and 2 programs addressing the needs of home-bound seniors. Our Watsonville Center opened in 1969.

Our founders launched a powerful movement of local people working together to solve local problems that is still growing and serving our community today.

Their early work set the stage for a long history of volunteers working in partnership with local residents who desire a hand of support, a deeper connection with their community, and the opportunity to invest in outcomes that lead to greater prosperity for themselves and others.

Through their inspired beginnings, years of sweat equity by community members, and a growing collective of dedicated staff and leadership, the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County has evolved into what we now have today- 4 facilities, 22 programs, and over 14,000 volunteers who partner with over 7,000 community residents in need.

Together,  we give our time, talent, and resources to make Santa Cruz County a happier, healthier place to live.