At The Heart Of Community Change For 50 Years

Founding Mother Marian McBee.

1967 was the Summer of Love in California.

LBJ’s Great Society and the signing of the Voting Rights Act sparked activists in communities all over America to work for positive change. Marian McBee, Kathryn Merriam, and Margaret Schaeffer, three remarkable women inspired by their passion for helping others, set up shop at a loaned office space in downtown Santa Cruz to develop volunteer programs that would change the lives of residents in need.

Within a year, they hired a staff member and developed a mentoring program for boys in need of male role models, a tutoring program for adults who spoke no English, a jail visitation program, and 2 programs addressing the needs of home-bound seniors.   Together, they launched a powerful movement of local people working together to solve local problems that is still growing and serving our community today.

For 50 years our doors have been open in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, City Hall, Felton, Cabrillo and Live Oak and tens of thousands of our neighbors have walked in to offer their time and talents, or get the help they needed. Across years and issues, together we have created something profound and enduring.

So much has changed in those 50 years. We’ve been through 4 names and dozens of locations. We’ve grown to engage 12,000 people a year, our Impact Programs provide services to 9,000 local people, our Mobilization Team supports 500+ nonprofit, school and local public partners.

But at our heart we are still about what happens when hopeful people work together to transform our community for good.

We are launching six months of celebration, reflection and renewal to honor the legacy and accomplishments of the thousands of volunteers who are part of our movement. We’ll be sharing our history in stories, film and photos. We’ll be talking about our vision and plans for the next 50 years. Above all, we’ll be reaching out to everyone with this simple message: acts of kindness, performed by average people, matter a great deal to this community.   That was true 50 years ago, it’s true today and will be 50 years from now. In a time of great divisions, we stand firm in the power of what we can accomplish when we act together as a constructive force for good. So join us!

Learn More About our History and Upcoming Celebrations


Blog Post Written by Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney.  Karen has led the Volunteer Center for more than 30 years and is an internationally recognized leader, trainer and speaker in the field of volunteerism, community building and nonprofit management. Karen’s formula for success is “hope, fun, curiosity, gratitude, belief in people and good data.”

Share this:
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply