Since 2015, Santa Cruz Gives, the digital holiday fundraising program for local nonprofits, has provided financial support to an array of agencies that do good work for others. Whether providing meals, financial assistance or access to job opportunities, the 501c3 organizations selected by Santa Cruz Gives to participate in the end-of-year donation haul find themselves basking in the glow of appreciation for their efforts.
As outlined in last week’s edition, Valley Churches United in Ben Lomond is one of the recipients of the goodwill—and good funds—generated by the Santa Cruz Gives program. This week’s good news is brought to you by the letters F, O, T, S, C, P and L: Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries.
Incorporated in 1979, the nonprofit has dedicated itself to supporting local public libraries in Santa Cruz County, including the architecturally stunning libraries in Felton and Scotts Valley, and the newly renovated Boulder Creek Branch.
With 10 branches in its collection and a pandemic in full swing, the Friends’ board of directors finds themselves trying to navigate a new normal while continuing to provide access to quality materials on the shelves.
According to Board President Janis O’Driscoll, their partnership with Santa Cruz Gives has provided a financial boost for the group in a time of uncertainty.
“We are beyond excited that at the moment the Friends stand at 99% of their 2021 fundraising goal. Should we fall short, we will review the percentage of the goal we designated for each branch and distribute the funds we have accordingly. Our community has been so responsive this year that my hopes are high that we will reach our goal,” said O’Driscoll.
The onset of Covid-19 created a new normal for the Friends group, including a large move towards virtual services. All virtual services have remained available so people can search the catalog, use the databases, and even reserve materials for non-contact pick-up, said O’Driscoll.
In addition, branches that have remained open have maintained Wi-Fi connections so they can be available to those who need it, and many programs quickly moved from in-person to virtual.
For example, said O’Driscoll, children continued to read to animals over Zoom in the popular reading enrichment Tales to Tails program. And book clubs and community conversations continued online.
“Our Library staff has been amazing during the pandemic and their energy remains constant,” said O’Driscoll.
In 2016, Measure S was passed to support construction or upgrades to all 10 of the county’s branches.
“Though $67 million was raised through this measure, construction costs have risen in part due to the pandemic shortages of supplies and labor. The Friends are dedicated to raising money to fill the gap between construction costs and Measure S funds,” said O’Driscoll.
With only three full-time employees and 175 volunteers, the Friends group works hard to create usable spaces in libraries, including exhibits and collaborative study areas comfortably furnished to keep visitors engaged.
So how did the Friends group become aligned with Santa Cruz Gives for 2021?
“It was suggested to us by Cynthia Mathews, who is one of our very active supporters and volunteers,” Friends’ Executive Director Bruce Cotter said. “She told us it would be a great program and we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to participate—and she was absolutely right. Jeanne Howard and all the folks at Santa Cruz Gives have been very helpful and great fun to work with.”
While the Santa Cruz Gives fundraising event is conducted in a small window at the end of the year, the Friends group has been engaged in a year-long campaign.
“[Our goal is] to raise funds for the Garfield Park, Branciforte, and Aptos renovation projects,” said Cotter. “We had set a very aggressive goal of raising $1 million dollars to support those branches, and we were looking to raise $20,000-25,000 from Santa Cruz Gives to help us to achieve those goals. At this point, it is clear we are going to raise at least $1 million from various sources, and we are grateful for the support that has come in from Santa Cruz Gives.”
As of Dec. 22, Friends was the beneficiary of nearly $38,000 from the Santa Cruz Gives efforts, allowing the group to move forward in 2022.
“The Friends have not stopped raising awareness and funds for the revitalization of the 10-branch system. Friends’ chapters have continued the Capitola Mall bookstore, book sales in the community, and the popular Our Community Read program,” said O’Driscoll.
Want to help your local library realize its next chapter? Visit santacruzgives.org to donate.