MEET OUR 2020 BE THE DIFFERENCE AWARD NOMINEES
We are so proud to celebrate the nominees for this year's Be the Difference Awards. We'll highlight their work during our Watch Party Celebration on October 21st and we hope you will join us! In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about each nominee below.
To highlight the immensely diverse work of volunteers in Santa Cruz County, this year we've chosen to group our nominees by the causes they support.
Our Top 5 Nominees- Meet Our 2020 Winners
Our fabulous team of Judges had the challenging job of selecting 5 nominees from among our 55 to receive top honors.
2020 Individual Winner
Foster Andersen is literally a legend in Santa Cruz County. Through his work and volunteer activities he encourage community members of all abilities to participate in outdoor recreation activities, face new challenges, and widen the circle of community advocacy. He is most known as the founder and Executive Director of Shared Adventures, a nonprofit devoted to increasing recreational opportunities for disabled individuals. Starting in 1992 with the first Day on the Beach event, Shared Adventures has grown to an operation that hosts 80+ events and serves 2000+ participants each year. Additionally, he has served as a member of the Santa Cruz County Commission on Disabilities for 16 years, has been on the advisory board of the SC County In-Home Support Services program for 10 years, serves as the ADA advisory member of the Rail to Trail Commission and as the ADA advisory member of the SC County State Parks Commission. Santa Cruz County is a more accessible and inclusive community due to Foster's incredible dedication and we are proud to honor him as a 2020 Be the Difference Award Winner.
2020 Individual Winner
When the pandemic hit Santa Cruz County, Penny saw a very clear need to get masks into the hands of those who needed them and therefore she decided to established the FB group SC Mask Sewers. At the outset, there were 5 sewers and that group has now grown to more than 415. In the last six months this collective of talented volunteers has delivered more than 16,000 masks to the community. Penny has been the key organizer and facilitator of this important process. Folks from all over the county show up at her door to access supplies and drop of masks. She has coordinated the distribution to Santa Cruz County law enforcement, first responders, the Metro, doctors, nurses, health care providers (for-profit and non-profit), family organizations, mental health, nursing home and the list goes on. Her enthusiasm for the group’s efforts has united a group of men, women, and children in meeting a need for the community while instilling pride in their ability to contribute. She is a beacon of what community volunteerism is all about!
2020 Nonprofit Winner
With the help of a stalwart crew of volunteers, Youth N.O.W. delivers an after school program in Watsonville that provides a safe welcoming place for youth to thrive academically and socially. Volunteers support student’s academic success by providing homework help, 1:1 tutoring, and more. Youth N.O.W. has served 100+ students annually, providing them safety and guidance to make positive choices. Volunteers and staff partner together to create new experiences for youth such as an overnight backpacking trip, slacklining, guitar lessons, ice skating field trips, and a wide variety of art lessons, cooking, and enrichment activities. Youth N.O.W.’s outcomes show that 80% of students maintain or improve their grades, all students graduate high school, and 85% go on to further education (2 or 4 year, or CTE). Their current collaborations extend to 20+ organizations to providing additional interventions, classes, activities, and volunteer opportunities. Thanks to the incredible dedication of their volunteer team all of these successes are possible.
MEET ALL NOMINEES
This year we've organized our nominees by the key causes they advocate for:
• Equitable and Inclusive Communities
• Strong and Successful Families
• Social and Economic Justice
• Green and Sustainable Communities
• Empowering Youth to Succeed
• Health and Dignity for All People
• Pandemic and Fire Response
SANTA CRUZ UPS
2020 Business Winner
Santa Cruz UPS staff, led by Manager Joe Medina, have volunteered thousands of hours over years. Approximately 40 of their staff regularly volunteer with community projects throughout the year with their biggest volunteer activity being the Stuff the Bus campaign put on by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. As part of this project UPS staff volunteer their time to transport donations of school supplies where they need to go throughout the county. During the current wildfire emergency in Santa Cruz County, UPS Santa Cruz teamed up with the Volunteer Center and 15 members of their team volunteered their time on their day off to help at the Fire Recovery Donation Warehouse in Santa Cruz. UPS Santa Cruz has clearly chosen to make the community a key part of their bottom line and Santa Cruz County is better for it.
UCSC MOLECULAR DIAGNOSTIC LAB
2020 Group Winner
We are incredibly grateful to this team of scientists, lab technicians and researchers who used their expertise to develop processes, procedures, and administration protocol for local COVID19 testing. In only 4 months they initiated the process for licensing, received approval from federal and state agencies, and developed the capacity to test 400 people per day in a lab they built from scratch. Once established the lab received a grant from the Santa Cruz Community Foundation to partner up with health-care nonprofits Salud Para La Gente and Santa Cruz Community Health Centers to provide testing for low-income and vulnerable residents. Thanks to an additional partnership with the County of Santa Cruz to purchase more lab equipment, they are now capable of processioning 800 tests per day. This team created this lab outside of their normal work responsibilities and burned the midnight oil to offer more testing to our community. We are incredibly proud to honor their live saving efforts with a 2020 Be the Difference Award.
Building More Equitable & Inclusive Communities
ARTS COUNCIL SANTA CRUZ CO.
The Arts Council of Santa Cruz County engages approximately 50 pivotal volunteers per year via their decision-making committees. This year as part of their volunteer work each committee was asked to center their attention on acknowledging the historically racist systems within which the organization operates and helps perpetuate. This resulted in a concerted effort to generate greater diversity with additional members of color on each committee AND a new committee to help the organization move more consciously forward in providing board recommendations regarding equity issues.
MEET VNES ELY
Vnes has been organizing officially and unofficially for the Santa Cruz LGBTQ+ community for many years. They are welcoming, and sharing to all who meet them. In terms of LGBTQ+ community volunteering, Vnes was Grand Marshall in 2019 Pride, they often support local LGBTQ+ events playing with their band Fruitie Flavors, organizing Homo Happy Hour, and the Santa Cruz Dyke/Trans March.
RACHEL ANNE GOODMAN
Rachel is a KSQD community radio founder who engages hundreds of volunteers as a board member. As a radio host, Rachel has produced many meaningful local and national shows with a focus on environment, social justice and sustainable agriculture. While evacuated from the fires, Rachel could be heard on the radio reporting from the evacuation and food distribution centers, gathering important information for others affected and sharing the voices and stories of those directly impacted.
Madiha is a friend to all and has volunteered with the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz (ICSC) since she helped establish the mosque. She has tirelessly volunteered to bring people together, get a larger space, support families in need, provide interfaith outreach, and organize holiday events. Additionally, she has taken part in the Tent of Abraham, and other regional groups encouraging exchange and appreciation with our neighbors. Finally, Madiha helped the Santa Cruz County Muslim community who normally gathers daily at the mosque during Ramadan to stave off discouragement due to the COVID-19 closures by arranging for the community to pick up hundreds of boxed meals in scheduled drive-up times, since Iftar (breaking fast meal) could not be held.
Wren is a dedicated community member who has demonstrated outstanding service as a volunteer since they were a teenager at the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County. They volunteer as a front desk host in the office, serving the community by being the face of the Center and offering vital resources to those in need. They volunteer as a Triangle Speaker, opening up about their personal journey to educate and inspire others. They have contributed to the Diversity Center's youth program in many ways, from assisting with weekly meetings and events, to helping to provide 24 hour virtual support whilst the Center is closed.
MEET WATSONVILLE WORKS
As a program of Community Action Board, the goal of Watsonville Works (WWKS) is to provide the necessary tools to individuals experiencing Homelessness in Watsonville, so that they may join the workforce and ultimately resolve their homelessness. It provides 12 days of Transitional Work experience, links to community resources, incentives, case management and assistance with creating resumes, and connecting people to the job force. In collaboration with the City of Watsonville Public Works, WWKS enlists enrollees to pick up trash throughout the city and make sure streets, sloughs, alleys, and levees stay clean and healthy for our community and environment.
Building Strong & Successful Families
Honoring those nominees who put families at the heart of everything they do and stand beside them in tough times.
MEET FELICA DAVIDSON
For the past 22 years, Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services has been addressing the financial, emotional and existential challenges faced by families enduring the unimaginable. Five months ago, Granite Construction offered Jacob’s Heart an additional 5,500 square foot space, and Felicia Davidson stepped up on behalf of over 300 local children with cancer and life threatening conditions Jacob’s Heart serves. During the design of the new space, Felicia has dedicated 32 hours a week for the past four months to bring this project to fruition, allowing staff to focus on kids and their families.
MEET DAVID LYNG REAL ESTATE
David Lyng Real Estate helps with so many organizations, United Way, Adopt a Family at the Volunteer Center, and more. During the fire evacuations, staff found volunteers to place 30 families. Employees enjoy volunteering to help every year during Adopt a Family, and volunteer with other community programs. Their staff volunteer with United Way bag drive for schools, and a Gift Fair during the holiday season for local artist and vendors to sell holiday gifts and donations are made to the United Way and Second Harvest Food Bank.
MEET CRADLE 2 CAREER
Cradle 2 Career (C2C) believes that every parent has the power to make a better life for their children, families, and community. The C2C model gets to the heart of local families' hopes, dreams, and needs by building relationships with parents at local schools, then co-creating solutions with community partners. C2C has also played a critical role in supporting families through the COVID-19 pandemic - everything from doing house visits to assist families with distance learning technology, delivering meals, providing financial assistance, and bringing parent leaders into Zoom meetings with legislators to advocate for critical family needs. C2C parent leaders helped to ramp up the volunteer-driven Passion for Produce food distribution to meet the increasing demand from families facing food insecurity, and have helped with parent-to-parent outreach and support.
MEET CHERRY MAURER
Cherry Maurer has made extraordinary contributions to the betterment of our community through her dedicated volunteer work in helping families and individuals affected by serious mental illness, through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and through Twin Lakes Church. She is a dedicated NAMI leader, Family to Family teacher, facilitator and help line responder. Her faith is also an inspiration. She is a facilitator/teacher of the Grace Group at Twin Lakes church, an educational series for families of people affected by mental health challenges. Countless families in distress have been touched by her kind support and experienced advice. many have learned from her public speaking or her classes.
Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA), as an agency, attends primarily to social, emotional, and mental health needs of youth in Pajaro Valley Unified School District. They provide counseling and therapy services, case management, and health promotion services. Since COVID has affected the community they serve on such a deep level, their scope of work has expanded. The Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance organization stepped up to meet a need for food bank activities in Pajaro when the area (on the county line between Santa Cruz and Monterey) didn't have a food bank close enough to meet their needs. They provided rental assistance, diapers, pet food and met needs as they arise all thanks to dedicated volunteers alongside staff.
MEET SANDY WARREN
A valued tutor at the Volunteer Center Literacy Program for over 12 years, Sandy donates more than 200 hours yearly. She enjoys seeing her adult-second-language learners succeed. In addition to tutoring, she was on the Outreach Committee dedicated to connecting the Literacy Program to the community, the Advisory Committee working to solve the many fiscal and program challenges through several years, and has been in charge of organizing Tutor Workshops for the continuing education of the Literacy Program tutors.
Promoting Social & Economic Justice
Honoring those nominees who inspire us with their hard work, commitment, and solutions to restore social and economic justice.
COMMUNITY EDUCATION & ENGAGEMENT WORKGROUP
Over the past 3 years the Community Corrections Partnership Community Education and Engagement Workgroup (CEEW) has worked to develop the Santa Cruz County Blueprint for Shared Safety: Survivors at the Center. The CEEW, which includes representation from justice, government, community members, service providers, and survivors of crime, came together on a monthly basis to grapple with complex issues and topics related to public safety and crime survivors/victims. Many of the workgroup members have gone above and beyond to work on this project – attending meetings on their days off; supporting the engagement of crime survivors after hours; and allocated countless in-kind contributions to move this transformational work forward. The report produced in May provides a focus on what survivors need, and how to increase restorative practices in the community.
THE DAY WORKER CENTER ADVISORY BOARD
The Day Worker Center (DWC) of Santa Cruz County is a nonprofit organization under the Community Action Board with an advisory board composed of 5 members. The Day Worker Center of Santa Cruz County supports the day laborer population and contributes to our community in many ways. Besides providing a location for potential employers to reach workers by phone or email during Center hours of operation, the Center reaches out to day workers who would normally be soliciting work on the streets and informs them about the Center’s services; providing secure, safe employment, developing job skills, improving wages, and helping workers become more fully engaged members of our community.
THE FRIENDS OF THE SANTA CRUZ LIBRARIES
Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries logged over 11,000 volunteer hours for the year of 2019. Whether it is work within branch-specific chapters or organization wide initiatives, such as the Bookmobile that goes around the whole county, members of the organization really put the work in to ensure successful outcomes for our community. Friends recognizes that our most vulnerable communities need to be uplifted in order to create a more equitable Santa Cruz; this is reflected in programs such as the eMaterials campaign of this April that raised over $15,000 to put technology into classrooms that needed it most, or the Summer reading program which targets disadvantaged youth. Thanks to robust outreach from the Friends, our community passed a $67 million bond to renovate or replace every neighborhood branch library.
GOLDEN HAMMER CREW
There are many “building blocks” required to construct a Habitat for Humanity home: a shovel-ready construction site, qualified homebuyers eager to contribute sweat equity, funding for building materials, and more. There is an element, however, that makes Habitat homes magical – dedicated individuals fondly referred to as the “Golden Hammer Crew.” These volunteers include Ron Buswell, Dave Cantanho, G. Jim Chambers, Lynn Comeskey, Jon Hooper, Paul Kaneko, Eric Nelson, John Reisdorf, Hans Schermann and Paul Zemlim, who make up a group of skilled volunteers who have been volunteering on Habitat build sites for several decades, some since the first Habitat home builds in Santa Cruz County. The Golden Hammer Crew has left their Midas touch on 56 Habitat homes since 1989.
MEET SCOTT ROSEMAN
As one of the founders of New Leaf, Scott has built a business that has given so much to our community. He has been on the Temple Beth El board and currently serves on the national board of the Reform Jewish Movement. He is a great contributor to Jacob’s Heart and has served on their board. He is also a major contributor to The Boys and Girls Club. So many people have benefited from his generosity. He helped establish a Fire Relief Fund at Temple Beth El.
WINGS HOMELESS ADVOCACY
Wings Homeless Advocacy is dedicated to moving people out of homelessness by identifying and overcoming barriers to permanent, supportive housing. Working with service providers and community organizations, they provide transportation, help people complete housing assistance paperwork, and provide mattresses and basic household supplies to newly housed clients. Their program at the main library, and other locations enlists volunteers who assist in obtaining birth certificates and vital documents which is pivotal for access to services for people experiencing homelessness. Wings has been an instrumental part of the community for the past 10 years; in the past 5 years alone, they have provided almost 1,000 rides to critical appointments, 409 haircuts, over 250 beds provided for new housing, over 750 cases of vital documents, and much more.
Making our Community Green & Sustainable
Honoring those nominees who make our community greener, more sustainable and cultivate a love for our natural world.
Phyllis joined Santa Cruz County’s Animal Shelter Green Team as a general volunteer during 2019. She and her groundskeeping volunteer team spread deep layers of mulch to keep down weeds, and began plantings of tough, durable, yet colorful succulent groundcover to gradually take over the barren surfaces. Her work has generated non-stop compliments from the neighbors and has even inspired some of them to come sign up as shelter volunteers. First impressions matter, and her volunteering has truly beautified this nonprofit that could not afford the landscaping without her help.
ADVOCATES FOR NISENE MARKS
The Advocates for the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a non-profit volunteer organization that supports the maintenance and improvement of the park. The Advocates engage in a number of activities which support this goal acting as a “liaison” to State Parks advocating for the wants and needs of the park users. In that role, they have been supportive in the development of the General Plan, installation of Margaret’s bridge, the creation of the ADA trail to the Wagoneer Overlook, benches at Santa Rosalia, Interpretive Panels and Dust Abatement on the Fire Road. The Advocates raise money to fund these projects and many others.
WATSONVILLE WETLANDS WATCH
The Watsonville Wetlands Watch actively works within the Watsonville community and beyond to preserve some of the largest remaining freshwater wetland ecosystems in the state of California. They restore habitat for hundreds of native species, over 20 endangered plants and animals, and provide education to students in local schools and general public events. In 2019 the WWW Education Team reached over 4,500 students with hands-on outdoor programs about our wetlands and other environmental issues and careers while they helped to restore our watersheds. Volunteers spent more than 8,000 hours restoring habitats, educating students and the public, and much more. Since March they’ve responded to the pandemic with digital lessons and socially distanced restoration projects, including providing six weeks worth of summer school activities for 1,280 students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District to enjoy learning about wetlands at home.
Linda Mandel volunteers with Watsonville Wetlands Watch in many of their education programs including Wetland Wonders with 5th graders, Wetland Stewards with High school and younger students, and summer school with 3rd and 4th graders. Linda was also an enormous help with education efforts during COVID and was instrumental in helping create 6-weeks of summer school kits for 1,280 3rd and 4th grade students to learn about wetlands virtually. Linda has educated over 1,000 community members about the importance of wetlands, has spent time teaching over 500 students of all ages in two major programs and has made our community better for it.
Farm Discovery has over 50 volunteers at Live Earth Farm with a mission to empower youth and families to build and sustain healthy food, farming, social and natural systems. They achieve their goals through teaching healthy food habits, developing environmental literacy, teaching farming skills, and encouraging students to build relationships with food that is healthy for people, the environment and the economy with a goal to reach low-income, diverse and underserved populations. During this year of COVID-19, they have transitioned from volunteers helping with varied tasks, to now assisting with our community resilience programs including Produce Distribution and Farm Care. Over the last 5 months, the community has seen an increase in the fresh organic produce supply at local pantries thanks to Farm Discovery's produce distribution program and the reliable and ever willing volunteers.
TINY PAWS PUG RESCUE
Tiny Paws has 50 volunteers that foster dogs, fundraise, hold events, and transport dogs in need. In the three short years Tiny Paws has been established, they have rescued or helped over 500 dogs. Last year alone they took in 167 dogs, gave them medical attention, and matched them with the best possible family to be forever homes. While based out of Santa Cruz county, Tiny Paws travels throughout California to rescue and connect these dogs to their forever homes throughout the country.
Volunteering 4-10 hours per week, Wendy donates labor and skill to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Her contribution of time and labor to the store has persisted for 8 years. Her range of skill and contribution (from handy person to friendly customer service) aids in many functions within the store. Volunteering for 8 years, 6 hours means she has donated 2,500 hours to a wonderful store and organization.
Empowering Youth to Succeed
Honoring those nominees who devote themselves to empowering youth to realize their dreams.
MEET MIREYA GOMEZ-CONTRERAS
Mireya Gomez-Contreras has volunteered and worked within the local non-profit sector since she was 15. She has worked on the frontlines of the immigrant and LGBT movements, receiving awards for her volunteerism. Her reach in the community includes volunteering on the Board of Directors for Activities4All, and work with local artists.
MONTE VISTA HS HONOR SOCIETY
Under the direction of Jessica Sokol, Freshman Guidance Counselor and National Honor Society Advisor, Monte Vista Christian School has just begun their third year collaborating with Youth N.O.W. All students in the National Honor Society pledge 8 hours of volunteering and chose to work with Youth N.O.W. using their hours to tutor our Middle School youth. Youth N.O.W. provides no cost academic support and enrichment activities
In our first year we had 43 volunteers each volunteering 8 hours. This allowed for 344 hours of tutoring/homework help. The value of this is that every week 8-10 students received direct support. Most of our students do not have someone at home to help them with their homework.
QUEER, TRANS, & ALLY YOUTH COUNCIL
The original Queer, Trans, and Ally Youth Council was founded in 2012 by high school students, and has since been working tirelessly to improve the lives of queer youth in Santa Cruz County. The 2019-2020 youth council focused on education school staff about queer students’ rights. They worked hard to put together a presentation which covered LGBTQ+ terminology, legalities of teaching queer-centric subject matter, and staff’s legal obligations to LGBTQ+ students in need. The presentation was overall highly informative and received positive feedback from a number of different sources. When COVID-19 broke out, the council didn’t give up— instead, they created voice-overs for the presentation and worked with the Safe Schools Project to distribute it for free to schools both in and outside Santa Cruz County.
PAJARO VALLEY HIGH GREEN GRIZZLIES
The Green Grizzlies Club at Pajaro Valley High School started as an effort to get the campus recycling program better organized. Within a few months the students that had joined, passionate about wanting to make their campus greener, started a movement to get the student body composting. Within three months the Green Grizzlies had collected over 140 pounds of compost and significantly reduced the amount of trash coming out of the school. They'd educated well over 1,000 students about the meaning and importance of composting, and they had begun campaigning for increased focus on environmental issues at student council meetings and working with other environmental clubs to start other school-wide projects including terracycling program and a campus energy audit. Inspired, students started a similar program at Watsonville High School modeled after their efforts, and more may come with time at other schools such as Aptos High School.
Linda is fearless and tireless. She spends endless hours calling donors and writing grant proposals for the Santa Cruz Symphony. She is always eager to discover innovative ways to expand music education for students of all economic and sociological backgrounds. More than 5100 students at schools throughout Santa Cruz County have attended 6 youth concerts, 42 local youth have performed side-by-side at concerts with musicians of the Santa Cruz Symphony, and 21 local students have received scholarships to continue their music studies because of Linda's tireless dedication to music education in our community.
Stacey Kyle is the co-founder and volunteer executive director for the Live Oak Education Foundation (LOEF) whose mission is to raise money to ensure that students in the Live Oak School District have enriching opportunities in the visual and performing arts; the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and positive play. Stacey’s support as a mentor and grant writer has helped Salud y Cariño serve over 400 middle school girls in Live Oak, including nearly 50 Junior Leaders who continue to participate, volunteer and give back to our community. The ripple effect that Stacey’s contributions have made with SyC and other organizations is invaluable.
FREE 2 BE A KID
Free 2 Be A Kid started off as a children's clothing exchange where women from all over can gather and get free bags of clothes, blankets, shoes, and other baby items for their families. At the start of COVID Emily Dore and her group of volunteers with the Free 2 Be A Kid took extreme steps to find a way to continue to help families during the COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place order here in Santa Cruz County. Using their own time and money, the arranged for clothing items to be picked up and delivered to families in need. The group would then utilize their own personal homes and cargo vans to store and sort through all the clothes to make request bags for those families in need. The Free 2 Be A Kid group page became one of the biggest platforms that families could cry out for help during COVID.
When the pandemic hit, Digital NEST made a quick transition to virtual programming for members and personally contacted all youth and families to check in on how they were doing. It was through these efforts that NESTaid was created and thanks to our NEST family of supporters over $15,000 in funds were raised for a total of 34 members and their families to help during these early months of the pandemic. NESTcorps was launched at the end of March in response to COVID-19 community needs, and projects have all been volunteer led including: PVUSD Elementary School Project to provide content for students K through 2nd grade in Pajaro Unified School District, Campesino Project an appreciation caravan to bring advocacy and recognition to farmworkers who are essential frontline workers, and the NEST partnered with UndocuFund Project to provide resources to undocumented workers.
Providing Health & Dignity For All People
Honoring those nominees who create a vibrant and healthy community for us all.
Christina Borbely is a dedicated advocate for youth, mental health, and prevention. Christina has volunteered with Community Prevention Partners, a multi-sector youth substance use prevention coalition for the past 6+ years. She recently dedicated her volunteer efforts to develop and implement a survey assessing substance use and mental health services and needs in our local schools. Christina is constantly growing her skill-set through training (Mental Health First Aid, Leadership for Community Transformation etc.) and then leveraging her learning to improve our community wellbeing. Her advocacy for youth, can-do attitude, and ability to navigate and communicate complexity, are an inspiration!
Hopes Closet's mission is to provide gently used clothing, equipment, blankets, shoes, books and toys (Bundles of Hope) to 300 children in need in Santa Cruz County (in 2019). There are no paid staff at Hopes Closet: volunteers handle every detail of running a successful nonprofit. This year due to the global pandemic, they faced a shortage of clothing donations but not a shortage of requests for help. In order to be able to continue to serve the most vulnerable in our community, they expanded services by providing home pick-up of donations and by delivering their Bundles of Hope to South County families unable to travel to Santa Cruz during the Shelter in Place mandate and limited bus schedules.
Rebekah Crill is the bookkeeper for Camp Krem / Camping Unlimited for the Developmentally Disabled in Boulder Creek, yet finds time to do animal rescue work on a regular basis. When wildfire swept down on Camp Krem from Big Basin, Rebekah, who was already busy rescuing large animals in her horse trailer and taking them to safety at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, changed her urgent plans to rescue Piggie Smalls, Camp Krem's giant 300 pound pet pig and two rescue Llamas.
Bob Geyer is one of the most dedicated volunteers currently serving the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Like many of our volunteers, Bob first connected with Vista Center as a client and soon became a volunteer. Whether it’s co-editing our newsletter or assuming the role of Zoom master for many of our virtual activities, Bob is helping clients to learn how to participate and often moderates discussions as well. During this time of social distancing, isolation has become even more present in the daily lives of many blind and visually impaired people, elevating the need for the Vista Center’s clients to connect with one another more than ever.
MEET MARY & MIKE ERICKSON
The Erickson family together, and as individuals, are inspirational to our permanent staff of 10, our summer staff of 100, our board of directors and the numerous high school, college and adult volunteers who support our program. As a result, like pebbles dropped in the water, the good will they create around them passes through our community and is hugely supportive of our charitable activities.
SANTA CRUZ WARRIORS
The Santa Cruz Warriors coaches, players, front office staff and mascot participate in over 250 community events each year. In partnership with Kaiser Permanente, the Warriors offer these four free programs – Read to Achieve, Math Warriors, Get Fit and Sea Dub Classics ensure that students and adults alike in Santa Cruz County have the resources they need to lead healthy lives and thrive. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warriors have engaged with the community in many ways. In partnership with Marianne's Ice Cream, the Warriors donated ice cream to local hospitals and front line workers. Head Coach Kris Weems and the Warriors donated breakfast to front line workers at San Jose Kaiser Permanente Hospital. On the Warriors social media channels, the Warriors have engaged with fans with a Graduation Celebration video, Welcome Back to School video, virtual school programs and a T-Shirt Campaign (Sea Dubs Together) that raised over $5,000 for the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation COVID-19 Local Response Fund.
PAJARO VALLEY LOAVES & FISHES
Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes (PVLF) is truly a volunteer-supported organization; thousands of local volunteers, including youth, seniors, and people with disabilities, volunteer with Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, giving a total of up to 25,000 hours annually. People of various ages, abilities, socioeconomic classes, education levels, races and ethnicities, genders, languages, and religious affiliations work together at PVLF to ensure that our fellow residents do not go hungry. The organization builds community, bringing together a true cross section of the community to work to end hunger. PVLF partners with local schools in service learning programs, partners with local youth and adult job training programs, and collaborates with Community Life Services to provide training opportunities for young people with disabilities.
UCSC ARBORETUM VOLUNTEERS
The UCSC Arboretum & Botanic Garden has about 15 different active volunteer groups at the Arboretum, some of which have staff leadership & guidance and others that are led primarily or completely by long-time Arboretum volunteers engaging over 150 volunteers weekly throughout the year. The Arboretum provides a wide variety of volunteer activities where people can share their expertise and learn more about gardening, natural science, plant propagation, running a gift shop, running special events, horticulture, membership development, fundraising, strategic planning, wreath making, library support, garden docent interpretation and more. Since the beginning of the Arboretum over 50 years ago, countless meaningful and lasting friendships have grown between garden volunteers, students and staff, working side by side. None of this could happen without the steadfast and caring leadership of our Volunteer Group Leads.
Met Critical Needs With the Pandemic & Fire Disaster Response
Honoring those nominees who have helped us respond to Covid and rebuild from the devastating fires.
Jec Ballou has been volunteering 12-16 hours every day at the County Fairgrounds organizing and caring for countless animals evacuated during the CZU Fires. She organized a vast team of volunteers, while she secured food and medical care for hundreds of animals displaced by the fires. She has found help from far and wide, and has organized volunteers among veterinarians, gotten truckloads of hay brought in from far away, and done so much more.
STEPHANIE BARRON LU
With the onset of the fires there was so much being shared on social media and electronically to connect people with vital and life-saving information. Unfortunately, much of this information was provided solely in English. Stephanie saw a need to ensure that our Spanish speaking community received this crucial information as well and therefore focused her volunteer efforts on providing translation for the organization Positive Discipline Community Resources. Due to her efforts their social media and a website remained accessible, dependable and up-to-date with information about the fires and resources for evacuees and those wanting to help in Spanish. Thank you Stephanie for reminding us that access matters.
Teri has volunteered for the Volunteer Center Grocery Shopper project which began in response to COVID-19. She helped many vulnerable seniors by volunteering to shop for fixed-income folks, and even made herself available on short notice for folks in the wide-spread San Lorenzo Valley. She contacted the Volunteer Center on the day she was being evacuated from Boulder Creek due to the threat of fire, and informed us that she may not be able to shop for her clients scheduled for the following day, making plans to meet their needs in her absence. It's people like Teri that show up in times of critical need and support others to the best of their ability.
When the pandemic closed Santa Cruz County schools, students had to turn to online learning. It quickly became clear that many low income families don't have good internet connections and can't participate in the new educational methods. Jesus volunteered past his normal duties, he did not let a single request drop. He called every one of the applicants and spoke to them personally, explaining to parents how to sign up for free/discounted services. Thanks to Jesus, dozens of families who couldn't afford internet now have high speed connections in their homes in time for school.
SC COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER
COVID-19 forced many businesses and organizations to shut down, including dozens of animal rescue groups, but the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter has remained open seven days a week throughout the pandemic. They revised protocols and added new safety features permitting them to respect public health guidelines while still taking in surrendered animals, receiving strays, redeeming lost pets and providing adoption services. They offered free pet food and mobile pet pantries to people struggling to feed their animals and helped hundreds of families keep their pets despite economic hardship. Volunteers serve at all levels of the organization - administration, fundraising, veterinary services, spay/neuter clinics, animal care, animal transport, training and mentoring, humane education, community outreach, pet food pantries, client services, graphic design and landscaping.
MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY RESOURCES
The SLV mountain community is very blessed to have Mountain Community Resources. Their staff and volunteers have been a crucial support during the pandemic for those in need of food and economic relief. Their food by selection program allows individuals to make their own choices about the items they want and need. This Food program has consistently helped 80-100 people/families individuals fight food insecurity throughout the past six months.
MEET TWIN LAKES CHURCH
Twin Lakes Church jumps into action to support our community when there is a need. They have a food pantry, support Second Harvest Food bank, and on a regular basis support families in crisis. During the COVID-19 crisis they have been proactive and done online services while still keeping their food pantry open and even delivering food to doorsteps. Due to Santa Cruz fires they have opened the campus to evacuees in RV campers, trailers, and even tent campers who were displaced by the fires.
VICTORY VEGGIES VOLUNTEERS
Victory Veggies is a Soquel-based, grassroots effort to reduce food waste and hunger in Santa Cruz County. In only 4 months, this group of local residents and volunteers has donated 978 pounds of fresh produce from their own personal farms or gardens to help Second Harvest Food Bank meet the increased need for food during COVID-19.