"At a time when so much of the public narrative is about dissatisfaction and what is broken - we see hundreds of examples of people like the Schoellhamers quietly making things better."- Karen Delaney VC Executive Director

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Volunteer Profiles - Meet the SchoellHamer Family

In May 2017  11 students students from Watsonville High were awarded the Alicia Schoellhamer Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was conceived 27 years ago by the Schoelhamer Family in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County to honor the giving spirit of long-time volunteer Alicia Schoellhamer.

As a dedicated volunteer with the Volunteer Center, Alicia positively impacted the lives of thousands of community members in Watsonville.  In the 11 years she volunteered with the Center, she maintained boundless energy for encouraging and inspiring others. During her tenure, she provided services with the Transportation Program, the Literacy Program, helped to start the Adopt a Family Project, and served on the board of directors as well.

When she passed away from to cancer in 1990 her family and those who worked with her chose to develop a fund to honor her legacy. Maintaining the scholarship and selecting the winners has been a collective family effort and family members see it as an opportunity to carry on the work of Alicia.

"As far back as I can remember my mother worked to make the world around her a better place.  She believed in looking at the community she was part of, seeing who needed help and what needed to be done, and then putting in the work needed to make it happen.  Her approach was always low-key, thoughtful, caring, and effective.  She never backed away from the hours of effort required to make good things happen.  In her later years her community was south county, and so that was where she directed her efforts, and much of that was through the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center.  For her it was as natural as breathing, and she continued to do it as long as she drew breath,” states Alicia’s son Paul Schoellhamer who has remained actively involved in the scholarship process since it’s inception.

“While the world is filled with wonderful volunteers, Alicia had the rare ability to make others feel like a better version of themselves.  After she was diagnosed with cancer and went on chemotherapy, she was a lot weaker and we worried about her. She assured me that her work with the community in Watsonville didn’t tire her out but made her feel more alive. I have no doubt that it made those around her feel more alive as well,” states Alicia’s daughter in-law Kathleen Rose.

Alicia believed in philanthropy and saw it as an investment in the future of those who don’t have the benefit of a level playing field.  I think our scholarship is given in that spirit. Our family and those at the Volunteer Center who knew Alicia, wanted to create a scholarship that looked beyond academics and awarded students who utilize the spirit of generosity in spite of their own circumstance,” continued Rose.

Scholarship recipients are annually selected for their ability to reach out to others in need within the local community and for their willingness to improve themselves through service.

This year as the Volunteer Center marks their 50th Anniversary of service, the Schoellhamer family chose to increase the scholarship amount in her honor.

“Our family is proud to be part of the history of the Volunteer Center. For 50 years they have connected individuals like Alicia with meaningful opportunities to make our community more vibrant and generous. It is truly impressive,” states Rose.

“What began in 1990 as an idea to award one student $300 dollars has grown each year and now in 2017 this fund will provide eleven $1000 scholarships, ” states Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney.

It is incredible how the simple desire to honor the legacy of Alicia has evolved into 27 years of grassroots philanthropy. The Schoellhamer family demonstrates you don’t have to be Bill Gates to be a philanthropist.  At a time when so much of the public narrative is about dissatisfaction, complaint and what is broken - we see hundreds of examples of people like the Schoellhamers quietly making things better. These are stories of hope, determination and joy that need to be lifted up. We are so grateful for the long-term generosity that Alicia inspired,” continues Delaney.

"As the Director for over 30 years I had the fabulous privilege of  working with Alicia.  I think of her and a handful of other amazing women as the anchor volunteers for this organization. They help to shape who were are today and  I was so blessed to have them as mentors in my early years with the Center," states Delaney.

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