.Online Donation Platform ‘Santa Cruz Gives’ Launched

When we started Santa Cruz Gives last year with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, we hoped to bring something new and innovative to the idea of a holiday donation drive. But it was only after analyzing last year’s results that we really started to understand the potential this campaign has to evolve charitable giving as we know it in Santa Cruz County.

To start with, Santa Cruz Gives is the first countywide crowdsourcing website for local fundraising. And what we discovered is that most donors were going to santacruzgives.org and taking advantage of the ability to contribute to more than one nonprofit; in fact, they gave to an average of four. The nonprofits who participated last year also reported an influx of new donors, and of young donors—two growth areas that are essential not only for Santa Cruz Gives’ groups, but also for the future of charitable giving.

So when we say we see Santa Cruz Gives as a “new way to give,” we mean it. This year, we’ve expanded the number of nonprofits participating in Santa Cruz Gives, which runs through Dec. 31, and we hope you’ll read here about these groups and the projects they want to fund with your donations, and then go to santacruzgives.org and make it happen.

Click on the name of the non-profit to visit its Santa Cruz Gives page.

Agricultural History Project

Organization mission:

The Agricultural History Project promotes knowledge about agriculture in our region in an engaging way that helps visitors experience daily life on farms and ranches, both past and present. AHP preserves, exhibits, collects and builds community awareness of the economic, cultural and ethnic aspects of agriculture in the area.

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Big Idea: Children’s Activity Center

Children are thrilled to pump and make the water flow at the AHP’s water-pump activity station.

This attraction can be used more fully to educate children and families about the broader issues of water use for growing food—from the mechanics of pumping and moving water to the protection of this limited natural resource. AHP also plans to build several vegetable garden boxes that demonstrate several different irrigation practices, from historic redwood runways to today’s state-of-the-art methods. By bringing families closer to the source of their food, we hope to create lasting impressions that grow into a full appreciation of agriculture’s role in a healthy society. It’s time to retrofit this station into an education exhibit complete with interpretive bilingual signage.

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Organization mission:

To provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Over the past 34 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has positively changed the lives of more than 6,000 local children.

Big Idea: Recruiting Caring Mentors to Change the Lives of Children in Santa Cruz

Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children facing adversity in Santa Cruz County reach their highest potential by creating, supervising, and supporting mentor relationships with caring adults. Mentoring has a proven positive impact on youth who face a wide range of challenges, and demand for this program is high. Big Brothers Big Sisters has an average wait list of 70 to 75 children. They believe there are many adults in the Santa Cruz County community who could serve as excellent mentors for these waiting children, and their goal is to find mentors for at least half the children on the waiting list.

Mentoring is extremely rewarding for the adults involved; many matches result in lifelong friendships. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ plan for 2017 is to ramp up mentor outreach and recruiting efforts with a community-wide campaign to reach potential mentors, including the use of current and past mentors to share their experiences and the rewards of mentoring.

Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Santa Cruz County (CASA)

Organization mission:

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a child’s voice in dependency court, providing advocacy, stability and hope to children in foster care who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. The volunteer advocate ensures that children receive health services, educational and vocational assistance, tutoring, therapy, and support to heal and grow into healthy, successful adults.

These children will be placed in a permanent, loving home more quickly and are far less likely to return to the foster care system than children without an advocate.

Big Idea: Birth to 5 Program

The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first five years of life, rendering children in the welfare and dependency court system especially vulnerable to biological and environmental stressors. The attempts by families in crisis to achieve health and safety are often hindered by poverty, historical trauma, substance abuse, and minimal education, to the detriment of the infants and toddlers in the family.

CASA’s newly launched Birth to 5 program addresses the most vulnerable children in the child welfare and dependency court system. CASA will offer specialized training to volunteers tailored to the special skills needed by these advocates, with a focus on developing the relationship between the child and their primary caregivers. Advocates provide support in accessing resources for both caregivers and child, and build rapport with caregivers to encourage them to build strong bonds with the child so that the child can thrive.

Coastal Watershed Council

Organization mission:

In response to the declining health of watersheds in the Monterey Bay region, the Coastal Watershed Council formed to protect coastal watersheds through community stewardship, education and monitoring.  

We partner with schools, community organizations, and local government agencies, and emphasize hands-on learning—getting community members out into the watershed to learn about water quality, riparian and wetland ecosystems and the solutions affecting our watersheds.

Big Idea: San Lorenzo River Revitalization

The San Lorenzo River is the primary source of drinking water for nearly 100,000 residents. It is critical habitat for endangered Coho salmon, threatened steelhead trout, birds and other wildlife. Coastal Watershed Council works to make the river feel more like a park than a back alley.

Despite the important resources the river provides, it is plagued with a negative reputation resulting from pollution and neglect. CWC leads the San Lorenzo River Alliance, a coalition of local agencies and organizations, to revitalize the river, and to improve water quality and the way in which we interact with this natural community space in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz.

Input from residents helped to create these goals:

  • River Health: Improve San Lorenzo River water quality by 25 percent by the end of 2018 (compared to 2014 bacteria levels)
  • River Revelers: Increase joggers, walkers, families, seniors, bikers, and picnickers visiting the Santa Cruz Riverwalk by 15 percent by June 2017
  • River Talk: Maintain media focus on the San Lorenzo River; increase positive press mentions about the river by 10 percent by the end of 2016.

We rely on the river, we impact it, and it can improve our daily lives.

Dientes Community Dental Care

Organization mission:

To create lasting oral health for underserved local children and adults.

Big Idea: Give Kids a Smile Day

Dientes aims to make prevention more common than treatment so that kids can focus on school instead of a toothache. This day of free care helps identify and serve kids who would otherwise fall through the cracks—families who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal, and can’t afford expensive or even discounted dental care at local clinics.

Dientes’ 13th annual Give Kids a Smile Day gives free dental care to 40 uninsured children from low-income families in Santa Cruz County. The event serves kids that would otherwise fall through the healthcare cracks, and instills healthy dental habits and positive experiences with the dentist. This way, kids can continue their good oral health throughout their life.

Farm Discovery At Live Earth

Organization mission:

To empower local youth and families to build and sustain healthy food, farming, social and natural systems. Farm Discovery provides year-round opportunities for people of all ages to learn to grow and prepare healthy, plant-based, organic foods through hands-on programs such as summer camps, field trips and community events.

Big Idea: Summer Farm Camp Scholarships for Low-Income Youth

Farm Discovery’s goal is to provide scholarships for 50-60 local, low-income youths to attend Farm Discovery Summer Camps at Live Earth Farm’s 150-acre patchwork of working organic farm, riparian corridor, oak and redwood forest in Pajaro Valley.

Farm Discovery aims to positively transform young people’s relationship to food and the environment as they learn about the importance of taking care of their bodies, environment and communities. Campers plant, pick, preserve and cook fruits and vegetables; save seeds; make compost; create healthy snacks; and feed and care for chickens, dairy cows and goats.

One in four low-income Santa Cruz County children ages 5-19 are obese, according to the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project, and summer learning loss inequitably affects economically disadvantaged populations. Farm Discovery wants more kids to have access to its educational programs, regardless of ability to pay.

Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries

Organization mission:

To support the Santa Cruz City-County Library System, in order to promote literacy and a thriving, informed community. Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries does this through fundraising, volunteer services and advocacy.

Big Idea: Guarantee Another 150 Years of Community and Freedom in Santa Cruz

Local historian Geoffrey Dunn said it well: “Even in the Age of the Internet—and perhaps because of the Internet—libraries remain a cornerstone of civilized society. They are at once democratic and collective institutions that feed and support civic goals and values. Libraries are power. Libraries are freedom. Libraries are strength. Libraries are community.”

Libraries have evolved to meet changing needs. Attendance is up, and support is needed to enhance programs. This year, Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries are asking that donors help to:

  • Foster a library system that builds community: New parents connect at storytime hours held at each branch; this year, branches will host story hours held in Spanish as well as English.
  • Foster library branches that are centers for the arts: Donations will ensure free art classes for children and adults alike through craft programs, creative writing workshops, and monthly free classical music concerts.
  • Build a library system that is a free university for many: Support programs that promote discussion, such as monthly book club meetings and frequent author talks—or hands-on courses.
  • Nourish a library system that champions youth: From toddler storytime and craft hours to the teen “Battle of the Bands” and other programs at our Teen Centers, donations will encourage youth to explore, interact and imagine.

Friends of the Watsonville Animal Shelter

Organization mission:

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH US Coastal Watershed Council is working to revive the San Lorenzo River. PHOTO: COASTAL WATERSHED COUNCIL

Friends of the Watsonville Animal Shelter works to reduce pet overpopulation and improve the treatment of pets in Santa Cruz County. In 2013, the organization opened a low-cost spay-neuter clinic in Watsonville, which has significantly reduced the number of stray and abandoned pets in South County.

In partnership with the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, the FOWAS clinic performed 769 cat spay/neuter surgeries and 473 dog spay/neuter surgeries in 2015, in addition to providing free humane education programs for local schools and free pet supplies each month at the Watsonville Farmers Market.

Big Idea: Help Needy Pets Through Education Outreach

Last year, the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter took in 5,000 stray and abandoned pets, but there is still more work to be done to curb pet overpopulation and animal mistreatment and neglect.

In partnership with the county shelter, FOWAS’ 2017 project includes a comprehensive plan to educate the community about pet care, while also providing free pet supplies and free spay/neuter services for cats and dogs. FOWAS seeks support to help continue its free humane education programs in local schools, which build empathy for animals. Last year, the organization presented 139 lessons to local school children, as well as scholarship money for students to attend after-school programs and summer camp at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.

The organization will focus on outreach to low-income residents in the southern part of the county, which sees the most stray and abandoned pets.

Grey Bears

Organization mission:

Grey Bears improves the health and well-being of seniors through food distribution, volunteerism and community participation. Their vision is that all seniors live healthy, meaningful lives.

Big Idea: Brown Bag Program

After a devastating fire in 2014, construction is underway on a new 3,000-square-foot thrift store at Grey Bears’ Chanticleer campus. The profits from the group’s thrift store, electronics store and bookstore fund the Brown Bag Program, which delivers a bag of fresh produce and healthy staples weekly to 4,200 low-income seniors (1,000 are homebound). That adds up to two million meals each year.

From the simple act of sharing garden produce with senior neighbors in 1973, Grey Bears has grown into one of the most resourceful food distribution and recycling nonprofits in the U.S. Local, vital and multifaceted, the group’s programs sustain seniors, our community and our environment.

Homeless Garden Project

Organization mission:

The Homeless Garden Project is an urban farm and garden that provides job training, transitional employment, and support services to people who are homeless. With an emphasis on creating a thriving and inclusive community, as well as growing the local food system, the project provides people with the tools they need to build a home in the world.

The Homeless Garden Project also supports the broader Santa Cruz community with a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), and an education and volunteer program that blends formal, experiential, and service-learning.

Big Idea: Expanded Social Enterprises

The HGP is taking its organic farmworkers to the next level by teaching people to create more than 30 value-added products from the organic farm, including flower wreaths, beeswax candles, salves, lavender shortbread and more. The group needs funds to scale up its production of these goods and to purchase workshop materials, including containers, locally-sourced beeswax and organic ingredients for baking mixes.

This project is a social enterprise aspect of our transitional employment program that helps individuals experiencing homelessness build job skills.

Jacob’s Heart Children Cancer Support Services

Organization mission:

To improve the quality of life for children with cancer and their families. Since 1998, Jacob’s Heart has been at the side of more than 600 local children with cancer and more than 3,000 family members as they have navigated the journey from diagnosis through an uncertain future, and beyond.

Our vision is to create a community where every child with a serious or life-threatening condition has a supported and informed family empowered to fully participate in their care. The no-cost services are funded entirely through community donations. Jacob’s Heart receives no government support or reimbursement for services.

Big Idea: Camp Heart and Hands

Having cancer is isolating and scary, especially if you’re a child. Camp Heart and Hands is a life-changing weekend camp where families of children with cancer can forget about their disease and create bonds with other families enduring pediatric cancer. The camp is staffed by pediatric ICU nurses and oncologists from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford and includes campfires, support groups, movie night, a climbing wall, a skateboard park, a carnival, music, dancing, healthy food, art, swimming, games, magic, and pony rides.

Jacob’s Heart needs to raise funds so that the camp is free of charge.

By providing emotional, practical, financial and peer support to children and their families, Jacob’s Heart aims to create a support network and serve the unique needs of each child and family battling cancer.

LEO’s Haven/Shane’s Inspiration

Organization mission:

The mission of Shane’s Inspiration is to create inclusive playgrounds and programs that integrate children of all abilities, fostering acceptance, friendship and understanding.

Big Idea: An Inclusive Playground

A playground is a child’s creative classroom. It is where one learns to negotiate, share and communicate; strengthens one’s imagination and muscles; and learns to trust oneself and others. While we would never deny a child entrance into a classroom, children with disabilities are routinely prevented from entering life’s classroom: the playground.

Shane’s Inspiration is working with the Santa Cruz Playground Project and the County of Santa Cruz to design, fundraise and build the county’s first inclusive playground: LEO’s Haven at Chanticleer Park. The capital campaign includes funding the inclusive playground, restrooms, and a parking area. Even today, with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines in place, most playgrounds only provide an accessible path from the parking lot to an inaccessible play structure that is usually surrounded by also-inaccessible sand or wood chips.

An inclusive playground provides an ideal opportunity to prevent bias from taking root at an early age in able children by providing a place for them to play with children who have disabilities. LEO’s Haven will be a permanent legacy of compassion and inclusion in our community.

Mental Health Client Action Network

Organization mission:

The Mental Health Client Action Network of Santa Cruz County is a clean and sober mental health community center and a peer-run organization that supports both children and adults struggling with mental diagnoses and challenges through numerous services with an emphasis on providing a voice for peers in all matters. Advocacy, peer networking, addressing treatment disparities, creating programs created by peers, and educating the public about mental health issues are key.

MHCAN provides a day center for the severely mental health diagnosed in Santa Cruz and a safe space to socialize, celebrate lives and survive times of intensity.

Big Idea: Shower Room for Members

The vast majority of MHCAN members are housed and have access to showers and baths. A small minority, whether or not they are housed, have issues with daily living skills involving hygiene to the point where they make a negative impression on those around them. Often this mindset and lack of self-care comes from a history of child sexual abuse. As adults, some of us don’t like to change clothing because of the vulnerability, and don’t like to look in the mirror to groom because our own reflection is painful.

They need funds for a permit and to remodel a small room into a beautiful shower room designed to make people feel good about themselves. Taking inspiration from spas and retreats, the organization hopes to develop a reassuring space for people who may be coming from backgrounds of trauma, so users will feel safe enough to take a shower and practice self care. In addition to a non-institutional style shower and mirror, hygiene supplies will be provided, which are usually in short supply.

Good hygiene can go a long way toward self-confidence and finding one’s rightful place in the world.

NAMI Santa Cruz County

Organization mission:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Santa Cruz County exists to educate, advocate and support those affected by mental illness, their families, friends, and our community.

With a focus on education, support and promoting public understanding, the organization offers free classes, presentations, leadership guidance, support groups, initiatives to advocate for better services for county residents and more.

Class topics include managing crises, communicating effectively, handling stress, supporting children’s issues with compassion, impacts on the family, advocating for a child’s rights, current treatments, understanding the difference between “bad behavior” and symptoms of a mental health condition and understanding public mental health care, school and juvenile justice systems.

Big Idea: Reducing Stigma—Focus on Youth and Their Families

One in five kids experience a mental health condition at some point in their development, and only 20 percent get help. Early identification and intervention is key to minimizing a crisis. By empowering youth, teachers and parents, NAMI’s programs in schools make a lasting difference.

For youth experiencing emerging mental health issues, navigating school, friendships, and family life can be even more frightening and challenging than for other children. NAMI seeks to ease those challenges and bring hope to all through free classes, support groups and access to resources for parents.

Next year, the organization aims to provide more than 2,000 students and teachers with dynamic “Ending the Silence” and “Teachers and Parents as Allies” presentations that offer inspirational real-life stories from young adults and parents who have survived a mental health crisis. These real-life experiences equip young people with new ideas and offer resources that help to prevent mental illness from escalating.

Nourishing Generations

Organization mission:

Nourishing Generations is dedicated to educating children, families, and people of all ages about cooking and eating a healthy, whole foods diet and enjoying regular exercise. They aim to maximize optimal health and minimize disease.

Big Idea: Cooking for Health

Nourishing Generations brings together chefs, nutrition educators, fitness specialists, and community members who are passionate about motivating children, teens, and adults to eat better and be more active. In recent years, the group has offered a dynamic six-week series of engaging classes at one of the Mid-Peninsula Housing sites each year, but this program has been so successful that they have been asked to increase their class offerings to five affordable housing communities in South Santa Cruz County in 2017.

The weekly program will consist of a healthy snack, engaging nutrition activity, hands-on cooking, fun fitness activity, and food sharing during a two-hour session. Staff prepare and present lessons such as rethinking your drink, a balanced plate, and reading nutrition labels. Nutritionists present the lessons, chefs help the children prepare healthy meals, and fitness instructors help kids have fun while moving.

Pajaro Valley Arts Council

Organization mission:

Celebrating its 32nd year, Pajaro Valley Arts continues to bring exemplary art exhibits and arts education to a richly diverse multicultural population. Their mission is to bring the community together through the arts. Annually PVA presents six to eight rotating visual art exhibits and cultural events in partnership with guest curators, schools, city government and local organizations.

PVA believes that every person deserves to have access to the arts, and conducts programming year-round at no cost to the public to fulfill this vision.

Big Idea: Photojournalism for Impact

In spring of 2017, Pajaro Valley Arts will produce a six-week gallery exhibit around the theme of photojournalism, featuring the work of some of their most beloved local photojournalists: Bob Fitch, Shmuel Thaler, and Tarmo Hannula, all of whom are well-known for their artistry and craftsmanship, as well as their contributions to journalism.

Fitch’s nationally-known work speaks to issues that resonate today throughout our communities, such as nonviolence, labor rights, and economic and racial equality. Because these photojournalists have lived and worked in Santa Cruz County, reflecting life here on a daily basis both in the news media and through social activism, their work has had a continuous impact on Santa Cruz County. They have focused attention on critical social issues, as well as bringing awareness of the beauty and uniqueness of our local area. In this exhibit, PVAC will turn the focus to the extraordinary work of these artists.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

Organization mission:

To assist Santa Cruz County homeless women, children and families in obtaining stable housing through temporary shelter and services.

Big Idea: Ending Family Homelessness, Building Skills for Self-Sufficiency

PVSS inspires and supports families as they build skills to move out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency and stable housing. Funds from the Santa Cruz Gives campaign would go toward housing families while they go through PVSS’ program to build financial and emotional stability. The organization is asking for support to go toward their case management services to guide families experiencing homelessness in gaining the skills they need to become independent.

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

Organization mission:

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte provides excellent, affordable reproductive health education and services. Since 1964, it has remained committed to compassionate, nonjudgmental family planning and health care, and to presenting the knowledge and opportunity to make every child a wanted child, and every family a healthy family.

A diverse group of 30,000 patients are seen annually in Santa Cruz County—and many come from out of the area for trans care. Education includes parent-child communication workshops and a Farm Worker Family Health Program.

From reducing unintended pregnancies to promoting responsible behavior and communication related to sexuality and health, PPMM is an essential resource for women, families, teens and communities who may not otherwise have access to such health care.

Big Idea: Stronger Than Ever

“Stronger Than Ever” is the theme uniting thousands of PPMM’s patients and supporters in response to an increase in attacks by anti-reproductive rights legislators and zealots around the country, whose goal is to shut down PP’s services for those who cannot find excellent, affordable reproductive health care elsewhere.

In 2017, Stronger Than Ever aims to see more patients, increase education programming for teens and young adults, and provide enhanced health care services—including behavioral health counseling, family medicine health care, and transgender services at its Coast health centers.

PPMM will also rally thousands of new supporters to advocate on its behalf, while demonstrating how attempts to block access to contraception, cancer screenings and education only proves how very necessary PPMM is. Outreach will fortify PPMM’s ties with communities committed to ensuring that the organization remains, stronger than ever.

Salud y Cariño

Organization mission:

Salud y Cariño opens doors for girls to take action and gain confidence through physical activity and healthy choices to live their best lives now and in the future. By supporting and empowering girls, they strengthen the community for generations to come.

Big Idea: Leadership Surf Camp for Girls

Mentoring is proven to have a lasting impact on both the mentor and mentee. Salud facilitates these meaningful connections at a one-week leadership camp where girls learn to surf and develop a wide range of healthy habits that they can pass on to younger girls two years later.

Eighth-graders who have been with the organization since sixth grade will participate in the leadership camp in summer of 2017, where they will develop the confidence and leadership skills to return as Junior Facilitators to lead and inspire incoming sixth graders. The camp will include leadership modules, nutrition, and surfing in alignment with their mission to use physical activity and healthy choices to enable girls to live their best lives.

Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail and Trail

Organization mission:

To promote, support, and enable the development of a rail with trail transportation system in Santa Cruz County.

Big Idea: Help Build the Trail

Imagine a community where thousands bike to work and school each day separately from car traffic. Right here in Santa Cruz County, a 32-mile paved bicycling and walking path along the coast from Davenport to Watsonville is underway, and Friends of the Rail and Trail are asking donors to help finish this project.

This big-picture legacy project will benefit hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors for decades to come. It will set an example for other environmentally progressive cities to follow. With unparalleled coastal views and proximity to local schools, beaches and towns, the Rail Trail will provide substantial environmental, health, economic, and quality-of-life benefits for the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay regions for generations.

Save Our Shores

Organization mission:

Save Our Shores mission is to care for the marine environment through ocean awareness, advocacy, action and access.

Big Idea: Summer of Clean Beaches

Through their Summer of Clean Beaches program, Save Our Shores keeps the shores of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary clean and healthy for all to enjoy. SOS activates nearly 5,000 volunteers to educate beachgoers, hand out trash bags, and encourage everyone to do their part to leave beaches clean in their wake. They also run more than 50 cleanups throughout the summer months to ensure debris that visitors failed to pack out is removed before the tides wash it into the Sanctuary. Additionally, they run weekly cleanups on this area’s most-visited shores and on days after holidays. The Summer of Clean Beaches culminates with the Annual Coastal Cleanup each September, which includes 80 sites (sloughs, levees, river watersheds and beaches) where more than 3,500 volunteers pick up trash from Waddell Creek to Big Sur.

Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County

Organization mission:

To end hunger and malnutrition by educating and involving the community. Through a network of more than 200 community partners, nutrition programs and emergency food distributions, Second Harvest delivers 8.2 million pounds of healthy food—including fresh fruits and vegetables—to local children, seniors, working families and individuals in need every year.

With community wellness as the organization’s focus, Second Harvest also provides 600 healthy living classes across Santa Cruz County and acts as a community hub where volunteers give 42,000 hours each year and 5,000 individuals are directed to the nearest food resource.

Big Idea: Fill a Virtual Barrel with Food for $25

Second Harvest Food Bank’s efficiency at buying and distributing food in volume means they can serve a lot more families than ever before. This year, they are introducing the Virtual Barrel for the holidays: for $25, donors can fill a barrel and provide 100 meals for families and seniors in need in Santa Cruz County.

Second Harvest has grown to operate as a hub that works with 200 smaller nonprofits and program sites throughout Santa Cruz County—food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, churches—that reach deep into our neighborhoods where food is most needed. Their partners don’t simply hand out food, but work to eliminate the root causes of hunger, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues for the healthy future of Santa Cruz County.


Organization mission:

Senderos is an all-volunteer organization that forges pathways to success for Latino youth through the performing arts, and fosters educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available. Since its founding in 2001, Senderos’ music and dance programs grew from serving seven to 80 youths, and established cultural pride in the face of racism and gang involvement.

Big Idea: Creating Pathways for Youth

Senderos’ 2017 project is to meet the demand for its free after-school dance and music instruction for Latino youth, many of whom are low-income. The classes promote family unity, push for academic success leading to higher education, and enhance self-esteem. There are now more than 20 community and school performances annually, seen by more than 10,000. There is a need for instruments to expand the instrument lending library, and for traditional dance outfits for Senderos’ young performers.

The results reverberate into the community by fostering creative thinking, confidence, problem-solving, accountability, relationship building, communication, adaptability and dreaming big.

Senior Citizens Legal Services

Organization mission:

Shared Adventures Day at the Beach
WADING IN Shared Adventures’ Day on the Beach event provides ocean recreation to more than 120 children and adults with disabilities. PHOTO: SHARED ADVENTURES

Senior Citizens Legal Services provides free legal services to elderly residents with an emphasis on those who are low-income, disabled, minority and geographically isolated.

SCLS focuses on advocacy to ensure that seniors have access to health care, decent housing, a liveable income and a life free of physical, emotional and financial abuse.

For low-income seniors, meeting basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medical care is a daily challenge, putting the services of a private attorney for legal matters far out of reach. SCLS is the only local, nonprofit law firm offering legal assistance at no cost (including representation in superior court and administrative law judge proceedings) to these members of our community.

Big Idea: Protecting Senior Citizens from Scams and Elder Abuse

Senior citizens are the fastest growing population in our county, and they are particularly susceptible to predatory scams. In 2017, SCLS will focus on education for both staff and clients to protect senior citizens from scams and to protect their rights after they have been defrauded.

SCLS will use funds raised to create and deliver presentations on elder abuse prevention to empower older people in our community to recognize and protect themselves from predatory scams.

Shared Adventures

Organization mission:

Founded on the belief that recreation, challenge, fun and access to the outdoors are essential parts of a fulfilling life, Shared Adventures is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with disabilities.

We create opportunities for social and recreational interaction that encourage:

  • Personal growth and self-confidence
  • Cooperation, decision-making, and leadership skills
  • Outdoor skills and environmental awareness
  • Increased level of happiness

Big Idea: Day on the Beach

Next year is the 25th anniversary of Day on the Beach, the foundational event of the Shared Adventures program, and they hope to make this one truly memorable. Day on the Beach creates an opportunity for disabled individuals to participate in ocean sports such as kayaking, outrigger canoeing, and SCUBA diving, as well as cruising in the sand on beach wheelchairs. Approximately 6,000 square feet of plywood on frames will be constructed over Cowell Beach to enable those with mobility issues to travel over the sand all the way to the water.

More than 120 children and adults with disabilities will experience an ocean sport, while hundreds more join in for the festivities. For the day, a city on the beach comes alive with live music, free food, and beach games for all to enjoy.

Many who have physical and mental challenges rarely have the chance to cross over the sand to the water, something that able-bodied people have constant access to. By offering this event in a safe, accessible environment, individuals are able to forget any obstacles they may have and be free to enjoy the beauty of our coast from a new perspective.

Special Parents Information Network

Organization mission:

SPIN helps children with special needs achieve their full potential by empowering their families and the professionals who serve them through information, support and resources.

When someone feels they are the only one going through the experience of raising a child with special needs, it can be debilitating. The moment they feel they are not alone, a huge burden is lifted in a way that has been described as miraculous. SPIN helps families maintain a healthy outlook on life while living with a child with special needs. This is done through various programs, including parent support groups in English and Spanish, educational training, a resource library and networking opportunities.

Big Idea: Mentor Parent Program for Parents of Children with Disabilities

The Mentor Parent Program matches parents who are dealing with a child’s disability—whether it is physical, cognitive, developmental, medical, learning, neurobehavioral, or emotional—with volunteer “veteran” parents, or mentors, who have traveled a similar journey.

There can be medical, emotional, financial, and social issues that impact an entire family. SPIN mentors are experienced with what can be an overwhelming and isolating experience. It is a profound contribution to receive emotional support and information to new parents embarking on a difficult journey.

Teen Kitchen Project

Organization mission:

Teen Kitchen Project brings about healthier people, healthier communities and a healthier environment through healing food, empowerment of the next generation, and love.

Big Idea: Expansion of Teen Kitchen Program

Teen Kitchen Project is the county’s only prepared-meal delivery service for those in crisis due to illness and is also the only nonprofit offering free, healthy cooking instruction for young people each week. Youth volunteers at TKP have been preparing and delivering meals to families in need in Soquel, and the organization expanded to South County in March of 2016 thanks to generous donations from Santa Cruz Gives in 2015.

In order to meet the increasing need for their services, the goal for 2017 is to engage 50 percent more teens to generate 20 percent more meals. Delivery “angels” provide a weekly connection and a friendly face during a time of isolation and recovery from illness, and can be a powerfully transformative experience for a young person as they serve the community in a meaningful way.


Organization mission:

UnChained pairs at-risk youth with homeless dogs in need of training and adoption. The youth prepare the dogs for adoption, and in the process develop respect, responsibility and compassion for themselves and others, while improving the chances of adoption for the dogs by 50 percent.

Teachers have reported that participating youths were more engaged academically and that their truancy rates were down.

Big Idea: Canines Teaching Compassion

The Canines Teaching Compassion program offers an innovative way of instilling positive values in at-risk youth. In the upcoming year we hope to expand this successful eight-week program by adding three more programs in Santa Cruz County.

UnChained offers an affordable, effective solution to reducing violence among youth through dog training and relationship building. The youths train the dogs using reward and praise versus force and punishment. This method supports positive interpersonal relationships with humans, as well. When youths are given the opportunity to change the lives of homeless dogs who share similar experiences of neglect, abandonment or abuse, they can begin to see the possibility of their own second chance.

Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

Organization mission:

To transform the community through volunteerism, empowering everyone to be the difference.

Big Idea: Expansion of Reading Buddies Project and Senior Tech Day

Being of service to others is one of the most rewarding experiences in a person’s life. Young people have an unbridled passion for making the world a better place, but they are consistently told they can’t contribute because they are too young.

Our YouthSERVE program provides adult supervision and guidance to more than 300 young people each year who share their time and talents to be the difference in our community.

The Volunteer Center seeks to expand the efforts of two of YouthSERVE’s most successful initiatives, Reading Buddies Project and Senior Tech Day.

Reading Buddies project volunteers mentor K-2 students to help them develop a love of reading and succeed in school. We are excited to add a new location at Schapiro Knolls, an affordable housing complex in Watsonville.

Senior Tech Day matches youth volunteers with seniors to teach them how to use tech devices so they can stay connected to their friends and family. This year, it will expand to the San Lorenzo Valley, where SLV middle school students will tutor seniors in Felton.

Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center

Organization mission:

Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center provides support and services so that women, children, and families will have the opportunities and skills to thrive.

Programs in child care, youth development, parenting, domestic violence prevention, and advocacy are their primary focus. Many families served are from underserved populations due to poverty, early pregnancy, homelessness and domestic violence.

Big Idea: Financial Empowerment Education for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Financial abuse remains one of the most common ways of keeping survivors of domestic violence trapped in abusive relationships. Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center would like to offer two series of workshops on financial management to participants in their Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence programs. The curriculum was established by the Allstate Foundation specifically with survivors in mind, and the goal is to provide survivors with the financial management skills that will increase their likelihood of not just “getting by,” but actually thriving after an abusive relationship.

Warming Center Program

Organization mission:

Warming Center Program has taken a strong stand to reduce and end hypothermia for those who sleep outside. On the coldest and wettest nights of the year, Warming Center Program provides a warm, safe place to sleep for anyone who needs it and can adhere to a simple set of rules.

The program serves a large unmet need in the county, and includes an activation alert system, a community awareness campaign, several site locations, a large stock of floor pads, clean bedding, volunteer coordination, an emergency phone hotline, a shuttle van and shuttle stops, soup and coffee all night, and a small breakfast.

Big Idea: Shuttle and Soup Stop

Loss of Homeless Service Center’s drop-in emergency shelter and the traditional location of the Winter Shelter at the Armory means Warming Center Program will work to expand capacity this winter, using different locations throughout the winter.

A centrally located pop-up Shuttle and Soup Stop is set up when the shelter is activated. The population of people who sleep outside, as well as the community-at-large, need to be aware of it and know how and when they can access it.

They need resources for an emergency hotline, printed materials, banners and street signs, print advertising, street team outreach, structural elements, food heating and serving, and shuttle pickups that occur until 2:30 a.m.

Watsonville Film Festival

Organization mission:

The organizers of the Watsonville Film Festival believe that film is a catalyst to spark conversations, expand possibilities and transform communities. Their mission is to share films that inspire and engage their diverse community, encourage conversations between filmmakers and audiences, empower local youth through video production and film culture as a way to transform the world, and promote economic and cultural development of the Monterey Bay region through the cinematic arts in Watsonville.

Big Idea: Celebrating This Region’s Multi-Dimensionality

Reopening the historic Fox Theater to host the Watsonville Film Festival in 2016 was a breakthrough for the local community. The group’s focus in 2017 will be to establish a cultural destination in the heart of Monterey Bay and to make their interactive program ongoing.

This will be done through creating a permanent home in downtown Watsonville; acquiring their own equipment; screening local as well as international films rarely seen in our region; creating a platform to support unique films, including many produced by local youth that portray underrepresented communities; encouraging post-film conversations between filmmakers and the audience; and promoting entrepreneurial development of this region through the cinematic arts in Watsonville.

They also offer programming for schools, bring directors to the classrooms and actively engage youth to volunteer, attend the festival and gain experience by covering our events through social media. The theater will also be used for events — from live music and Batucada parades to regular film-centric gatherings that spark intercultural conversations among the disparate people of the region.

Youth N.O.W.

Organization mission:

Youth N.O.W. is a place of new beginnings that provides after-school resources for underprivileged youth, ages 10-18, in the Watsonville area. At the heart of the mission is engaging young people in a nurturing community where they succeed personally and academically through participation in individualized programs that cultivate critical life skills.

Nearly 300 students per year participate in a variety of programs including one-on-one tutoring, enrichment classes, college field trips, and more. These programs increase educational-attainment levels, reduce after-school risky behavior, and increase local hiring for high-skilled jobs.

Big Idea: Pathways N.O.W.

The Pathways N.O.W. program provides college and career readiness for high school students. The program is created in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and Your Future is our Business.

It’s designed to give youth an opportunity to have a long-term, one-on-one mentoring relationship with an allied adult. These relationships provide mentees with support, guidance, and a sense of belonging to a community of caring individuals to which they may not otherwise have access.

The impact on the youth, their families and the community is positive in the short-term, and will also benefit generations to come.



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