As we close out National Volunteer Week, we want to ensure that every volunteer in our community has received our full gratitude. THANK YOU to each and every person who helped sustain our community and our organization in the last year. Santa Cruz County has weathered so much and at every turn, volunteers have been there to help us shift and expand services– From emergency response to sustaining the critical needs of vulnerable community members, thousands of local volunteers have given their time.
At the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County helping others connect to their community is our number one priority. We know that when we bring people together in volunteer action, we build a stronger, caring, and safer place to live.
Of all the astonishing things we’ve gone through together this past year, what inspired us most is how many people made room to help others, despite their own challenges. While our world was politically fractured, and contagious, and on fire – so many of our neighbors chose to work together to restore the common good. This wasn’t easy! In the last year finding creative ways to safely activate community members has been vital to ensuring that all of our neighbors can still thrive.
While we can’t celebrate Volunteer Week with in-person parties and events, we felt it was important to share some of the thousands of stories of how your neighbors, and maybe you – stepped up.
Within our programs, over 2,000 people helped with fire response last summer, hundreds of volunteers helped to sustain vulnerable families over the holiday with more than $100,000 in gifts and donations, 70,000 pounds of groceries have been distributed to our mental health participants in the last year, 5,201 masks have been donated and 7,000 handmade cards have been gifted to seniors in assisted living facilities. Most recently 340 volunteers have contributed 1,800 volunteer hours to the largest national volunteer mobilization in our history as we fight the pandemic through vaccine clinic support.
Through our county partnership program VIP, volunteers have continuously stepped up to assist our community with key roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, CZU Lightning wildfire, and the mass vaccination clinics. They served as COVID-19 Screeners, Contact Tracers, and phone center operators. In August 2020, these volunteers were called upon once again to assist with the CZU Lightning Wildfire evacuations, Resource Recovery Center, Donation Centers, and Temporary Shelters. Currently, many are supporting the mass vaccination clinics throughout the County.
The efforts of 8 VIP volunteers and one VIP group will be highlighted at the virtual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony during the Board of Supervisors meeting on April 27th at 9:00 am. Those being honored include:
Nabeela Ariqat is a VIP volunteer with the Homeless Persons Health Project.
John Mizell serves as a volunteer with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team.
Nancie Newby and Brian Gustavson are committed volunteers at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.
Mike Conant is an RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program) volunteer who assisted at the wildfire shelters and later became a Volunteer Liaison.
Eugene Lineham is a dedicated Parks and Rec volunteer and Disaster Service Worker.
The Quail Hollow Trail Crew who volunteer through Parks and Rec. We would like to personally thank Al Keuter, Tim Jolly, Jon Hudson, Lee Summers, Tom Davey, Jim Bahn, and Larry Cupry.
Mary Saccullo is a Contact Tracing VIP volunteer who has been supporting the program since the beginning of the pandemic.
Seth Suresh is a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer that has been a driving force in the technical side of the Contact Tracing program.
PROVIDING CRUCIAL SUPPORT FOR SENIORS
We know that the pandemic has hampered people’s ability to meet their daily food needs, make personal connections, and access health and community resources. Fortunately, volunteers have stepped up to close the gap to these life sustaining resources. This support has been particularly important for local seniors who have struggled with navigating interactions online throughout the past year. Volunteers have played a critical role in bridging the digital divide for seniors through programs like the Volunteer Center Grocery Shopper Program and Stay Connected.
Through the Grocery Shopper Program trained volunteers are matched with seniors who can’t visit a grocery store because of great risk to their health. Volunteers are recruited to take grocery orders, purchase groceries on behalf of the senior, and deliver the groceries to their doorstep using social distancing practices. Over the last year, 272 volunteers have stepped up to support this program and are delivering up to 300 bags of groceries to seniors each week.
Through the Stay Connected Program, seniors are matched with a friendly volunteer for regular phone check-ins to help seniors navigate the resources that will be most helpful to them. This could include learning about grocery delivery, falls prevention classes, vaccine information, or how to increase social connections.
What we love most about each of these programs is how the connections made benefit both the participant and the volunteer. Some of our volunteers, as former social workers or teachers, love that they are able to use their professional skills in a new context and other volunteers have discovered that giving their time not only benefits the participant but is helping them overcome their own sense of isolation.
These volunteer connections are at the very heart of our mission. Nothing heals division and transforms a community like working together. It is how we build a civic framework and move our community forward even in the worst of times.
As we move into the weekend we encourage all community members to seek out a local volunteer and give them a shout out. And finally, we invite you to lend your hand to this movement for good. Together, we can sustain these large-scale projects that build community strength, vitality and connection.