Award Winners 2018

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 ask and you answer with extraordinary stories of those who have chosen to transform our community through volunteerism. Check out our winners from 2016.  We are incredibly grateful to KION  5/46  for creating our videos this year.

2018 Be the Difference Award Winners- Videos Created by KION 5/46

Meet Carol Miller- Individual Winner

Carol has been a volunteer at Mountain Parks Foundation for over two decades. She helps to recruit, train, and manage volunteers who work in the Nature Store at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. She also provides information, educational materials, and park-related guidance to the 900,000 visitors that visit annually. Additionally, Carol has been an active member of the San Lorenzo Valley Rotary Club for over 15 years, serving as treasurer, secretary, and chairperson. For the past 11 years, she has distributed dictionaries to 3rd and 4th grade students at local elementary schools. She is also known among the firehouse for her baking as a member of the Felton Fire Auxiliary.

Meet Carol Williamson- Individual Winner

Carol has worked relentlessly for over 10 years as an advocate for mental health in Santa Cruz County. She has served as president of the Santa Cruz County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and also developed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for Law Enforcement in Santa Cruz. Through this program, Carol organizes local volunteers to share their stories of mental health related police encounters, organizes trainings, and develops effective presentations for the recurring CIT trainings. These 3-day trainings reach all branches of law enforcement in Santa Cruz. Carol acts as a valuable link between mental health patients and law enforcement officers to better equip them to successfully handle challenging encounters. As a result, this community has become safer for all its citizens.

Meet Michael Allen- Individual Winner

Michael has given his time, energy, talent, and personal resources to coach the Pleasure Point Surf Club since 2009. With the help of his volunteer coaching team, he takes up to 40 students out to surf every Wednesday. His organization encourages family participation by welcoming parents to join their children both in the water and on the beach. Additionally, Michael encourages safety by offering  a Surfing Wilderness First Aid Training program and lends both wetsuits and boards to those who cannot afford their own. In all he does, Michael teaches his students environmental awareness and respect for oneself and others. His patient and gentle nature brings even the shyest children out of their shells and into a sense of wonder.

Meet Camp Erin - Group Winner

Camp Erin recognizes that when grief is left unaddressed in a child’s life after the loss of a loved one, the results often lead to life long emotional challenges. As a branch of Hospice Santa Cruz, this camp aims to help youth develop tools they can use throughout their lives to manage stress, support mental health, deepen their capacity for empathy, and thrive. Each year Hospice of Santa Cruz hosts Camp Erin Santa Cruz for over 60 grieving children and youth, while supporting the rest of the family as well. The camp is a free weekend-long experience for ages 6-17 held at Mount Hermon Ponderosa Camp, a peaceful setting among Redwoods. Through a combination of traditional camp activities and education/support, their incredible camp volunteers are able to make a transformative impact on the lives of many. Together they show campers they are not alone and from that place of compassion, healing happens.



Meet the 60 + Senior Committee - Group Winner

The 60 Plus Senior Committee at the Diversity Center, have collectively given over 5,000 volunteer hours over the past 15 years. This group of seniors provides services to fellow seniors within the LGBTQ community who may be experiencing feelings of isolation and discrimination. They organize activities such as luncheons and social outings to welcome in new people and keep people connected. They lead the lunches by helping set up or acting as a “buddy” for new guests. Additionally, they work tirelessly with the Diversity Center to provide day-to-day operational support to maintain connections with over 300 LGBTQ seniors. This driven crew creates a welcoming environment for everyone in attendance and they demonstrate that we can engage in volunteerism at every age.

Meet Superior Foods - Business Winner

Superior Foods supports children with cancer and their families through their volunteer partnership with Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services. For many years and counting, every other week Superior Food employees have been volunteering to help deliver fresh groceries to families in need throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito, South Santa Clara, and Monterey Counties. Superior Foods employees not only deliver food during a families most difficult time, but they also help educate families and encourage them to make healthy eating choices. Every time a Superior Foods’ employee steps through the door of Jacob’s Heart, they wear a smile on their face. Whether it’s Lulu who delivers to Salinas, or Erika who consistently delivers to Watsonville. Without support from volunteers like Superior Foods, Jacob’s Heart would not be able to support food deliveries to 70 families every other week.