Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County Executive Director Karen Delaney (left) accepts the 2018 California Non-Profit of the Year for Volunteerism and Service award by the Office of the Governor as California Volunteers Chief Officer Karen Baker listens on April 11. (Contributed photo)

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Local residents are invited to join the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, fellow nonprofits, and community leaders in celebrating volunteerism during National Volunteer Week, happening April 15-21. 

Widely celebrated across the country, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974. Each year during National Volunteer Week, the Volunteer Center and partners host events including appreciation parties, recognitions, and volunteer projects all with the goal of highlighting the amount of work completed by local volunteers.

This year’s National Volunteer Week is particularly significant for the Volunteer Center. On April 11, the organization was awarded as the 2018 California Non-Profit of the Year for Volunteerism and Service by the Office of the Governor. 

“On the heels of our 50th anniversary this is the perfect honor,” said Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney. “2017 was a year of reflection and local appreciation on how far we have come as an organization. It is wonderful to have this incredible legacy of our volunteers acknowledged at the state level as well with this award.”

The Volunteer Center was selected among 265,678 registered nonprofits in California for the organization’s ability to leverage volunteers in service to their organization and for their long-term commitment to the local community.

Founded in 1967, the Volunteer Center opened its doors when Marian McBee, Kathryn Merriam, and Margaret Schaeffer, three local social workers inspired by their passion for helping others, set up shop at a loaned office space in downtown Santa Cruz to develop volunteer programs designed to lift up 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 two programs addressing the needs of home-bound seniors.

What started as a few volunteers has now grown into four facilities county-wide, 16 programs, more than 50 staff and over 12,500 volunteers who annually partner with 9,000 residents in need.

“Together, our founders launched a powerful movement of local people working together to solve local problems,” Delaney said. “In the last 50 years, more than 200,000 people have step through our doors with a desire to transform our community for good.”

Santa Cruz County volunteers are part of a national movement of more than 62 million individuals who annually step up to volunteer in their local communities. 

“Dedicated volunteers are the backbone of so many communities across the country,” Delaney said. “Our communities would simply not function at the level they do without volunteers. Ultimately if given the right tools and the opportunity, people want to make a difference and they are quite effective at it. I look forward to sharing our award, celebrating the achievements of our volunteers, and most importantly, thanking volunteers during National Volunteer Week. I encourage others to look around and thank a volunteer as well.”

The Volunteer Center will host a National Volunteer Week Volunteer Appreciation Party for all of their volunteers on Wednesday at the Community Foundation Rooftop from 5:30-8 pm. All volunteers who would like to connect with Volunteer Center programs are invited to attend and can call 427-5070 to RSVP.

To learn more about National Volunteer Week or to connect with new volunteer opportunities, visit the Volunteer Center website at www.scvolunteercenter.org or call 427-5070.

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