Connecting People for Good

Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. … You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Volunteering in service to others helps our local community, and inspires and enriches our participants’ lives. Our participants in the Avenues program come to us with the goal of managing symptoms of their mental health and substance use disorders that create barriers to them living a meaningful life. 

Photo caption: Avenues program participants volunteered at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, distributing donations of food and goods to families displaced by the floods in Watsonville and Pajaro.

Due to the pandemic and safety precautions, The Avenues had placed their volunteer partnerships on hold. In October 2022, we were able to begin volunteering again with Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville. Over the last 6 months, we have developed an excellent relationship with Second Harvest through volunteering in the warehouse and distributing emergency supplies to families who were evacuated during the multiple floods our county and neighboring communities have faced. Second Harvest volunteer coordinator Suzanne Garcia shared with our team “It has been such a pleasure having Avenues volunteer with Second Harvest Food Bank, Avenues always has such great team spirit and willingness to help!”

Our team leader Peter shared “Volunteering is a great opportunity for our participants to practice community integration and social skills and break the norm from the routine of a daily program while still practicing coping skills that can be applied to future employment opportunities. We get to build relationships with other volunteers and practice teamwork.” 

One of our participants, Sean, came to Avenues through the legal system. While this is not his first time working with us, he feels this time is his most fulfilling because of volunteering. “Volunteering makes me believe in myself, that one day I will be able to go out in the world and do something. I volunteered in the past, but it was never consistent. The routine helps me out with my recovery and focusing on my sobriety.” 

Our participants and staff look forward to working with Second Harvest every week and continuing to implement the greatness that comes from serving our community. 

About the Avenues Program

A program within the Community Connections division of The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, The Avenues Program is an outpatient program for adults with co-occurring substance abuse & mental health disorders. The Avenues Program partners with Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health to take a “person-first” approach using mental health and substance use recovery activities, employment-related activities, volunteerism, and education support as the primary tools for stabilization and early recovery. Through groups and individual counseling services and participating in volunteering with Avenues, participants learn new skills that can help them with future employment and independent living, and boost their mood and confidence through the fulfillment of seeing the impact they make on our community.