The Be the Difference Awards recognize the people, groups and businesses who make a difference in Santa Cruz County through volunteerism.
Each year we reach out to you to help us determine who should receive honors. We are lucky that we ask and you answer with extraordinary stories of those who have chosen to make their moments meaningful and transform our community through volunteerism. Check out our winners from 2011.
2011 Be the Difference Award Winners
Meet Michelle- Individual Winner
If you have a chance to meet Michelle Goodwin, you would immediately understand that you are in the presence of a unique and incredibly genuine individual with the highest standards and commitment. A small part of her volunteer resume includes: Docent at UCSC farm for Special Education students, frequent speaker at Santa Cruz City School Board defending school programs, Harbor High School Learning Center tutor, Youth N.O.W. tutor, Mock Trial President, Let’s Make a Difference Day at Harbor High School facilitator, Friday Night Live Council, and frequent volunteer at most elementary and middle school events. Michelle is a person who has the integrity, wisdom and leadership of someone way beyond her years, and who possesses exemplary community and school spirit.
Meet Stephan- Individual Winner
Stephan Nelson uses the healing power of service with a smile to transform the lives of people at the Homeless Services Center, where he began volunteering over 6 years ago when he found himself homeless. Stephan’s volunteering started the moment he stepped on the site to receive help himself, and he has since given back tenfold for the help he received. In addition to his full time job, Stephan volunteers with the Acts of Love Foundation serving weekend meals to the homeless; organizes regular clean-ups from Harvey West Park to the River Levee; works with the Museum of Art and History to restore Evergreen Cemetery and is an AA sponsor to over 30 people. Stephan’s inextinguishable passion for service, especially to those who are most in need of our community’s compassion, is an inspiration to many.
Santa Cruz Community Credit Union - Business Winner
Santa Cruz Community Credit Union integrates their dedication to employee volunteerism into their broader mission of improving the quality of life in Santa Cruz County by providing access to financial services to those under-served in the conventional credit market. More than 60% of Community Credit Union Employees volunteer in Credit Union sponsored projects. Among many projects, each year a team of Employees volunteer an entire work day to do the race day accounting for the Human Race Walkathon. The Credit Union also encourages their employees to volunteer as Board Members. Their exemplary volunteer efforts are complimented by their Community VISA, which donates 5 cents of every transaction into a community fund. Through this fund they have provided over $100,000 in grants to local nonprofits.
Meet Grey Bears - Non-Profit Winner
California Grey Bears harnesses the power of more than 500 senior volunteers in a variety of projects that make our world a greener more sustainable place, while supporting the distribution of over 4,000 bags of fresh produce weekly to homebound and low income seniors. From gleaning fields and picking up produce at grocery stores; to recycling; to repairing or recycling computers and other e-waste; to their thrift store – Grey Bears volunteers bring creativity and commitment to the task of seniors helping seniors. All volunteers walk away inspired by what this amazing group of seniors accomplishes for other seniors, and for our planet.
Meet Friends of Hospice - Group Winner
Friends of Hospice is a dedicated group of volunteers who raise needed funds to support those who are facing end of life issues. Formed in 1984 by a group of 10 women, Friends of Hospice is now 100 strong. These dynamic volunteers employ a model of shared leadership in an environment of dedication to serving the community, mutual respect, and celebration. Between their annual Oktoberfest and Fairways for Kids Golf Classic, they've raised over half a million dollars in support of Hospice Programs in the past 5 years. Hospice could not provide the support, education, outreach and grief groups our community members need without these amazing volunteers.