Our Stories

Our Work With Families

Our Goal is to strengthen local families by giving parents the skills and resources they need to succeed.

Here is one example of how we helped local parents build a better life for themselves and their children:

A single mother came to our program Community Connection , homeless and recently separated from an abusive partner, trying hard to improve life for her children with minimal supports in place. She was able to work on emotional and practical matters after building a support network, which included counseling and Career Works staff. With support, determination and a strong work ethic; she was able to complete a vocational training program and obtain housing while working two part time jobs and will be set for a lucrative career after taking a licensing test. She has shown strong commitment to self-sufficiency and family wellness.

Our Work With Youth

Our goal is to engage youth in positive activities that promote skill development and a sense of community involvement outside of school hours.

Here is one example of how we helped youth feel better about themselves and their community:

“I learned to enjoy what I am doing and to always stay on task when volunteering. I am trying to make extra time in my schedule for community service. As I look back over my experience, I realize I had a great time volunteering and I have enjoyed getting to know the people in the group. My greatest challenge was getting myself out of the house to go volunteer.  My biggest success was getting eight hours of community service and three projects!”

~Edward, 12 years old, excerpt from his Jr. Volunteer’s service learning journal

Our Work With Elders and

People with Disabilities

Our Goal is to provide services to elders and people with disabilities that enable them to sustain or increase their independence, and engage in activities that enrich their quality of life.

Here is an  example of how we made a difference in the quality of life for an elder or person with a disability from our Program RSVP …

In July we received a beautiful thank you note from one of our Agency Partners.  This community center offers onsite programs to enable seniors and disabled persons to improve their skills, develop financial literacy, provides educational assistance for the children and promotes healthy lifestyles. This agency wanted to thank us for recruiting volunteers to assist in their reading club. They said that this is an invaluable service because it helps them fulfill their goal of improving the children’s skills in literacy.

Our Work To Build a More Caring Community

Our Goal is to promote effective engagement of volunteers so that local schools, agencies and governments are able to meet the needs in our community.

Here is one example of how our volunteers made a stronger, better community:

Arturo, a 14 year old high school freshman at Watsonville High, was referred by his guidance counselor, Stephanie Lock. Upon meeting Arturo, he told us that he was passionate about bikes and wanted to learn more about fixing them. We showed him a video about the origins of the Watsonville Bike Shack, a tool and labor collaborative that supports the Watsonville cycling community with free tools, bikes and bike repair instruction. Arturo was immediately interested in volunteering to support the Bike Shack and wanted to learn more from the Shack’s mechanics. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the Bike Shack by phone, we walked Arturo over to the Bike Shack site during open hours to introduce him to staff. Serendipitously, the Bike Shack crew was having a meeting that very night to train young volunteers who are serious about fixing bikes, with the possibility of promoting them to become junior mechanics with stipends. Arturo was delighted and had a huge smile on his face. He planned to stay for the meeting and was also going to get connected with the youth empowerment group, the Brown Berets, through his involvement at the Bike Shack.

And a few highlights from our family of programs

Friends Outside- Providing support to the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated for successful community re-entry

Todd came to Friends Outside after being incarcerated in the State penitentiary system for 15 years. He was lost and confused and did not know how to begin planning for his future. His volunteer set him up with a list of small goals to complete and offered once a week meetings as an immediate needs resource respite from the stress. Armed with a bus pass and some clothing, Todd came back week after week, checking off each small goal with a smile. Today, Todd has accessed social services, has a resume, applied for jobs, goes to AA daily, and began volunteer activities. He even recently got a call back for a job interview. He has completed all of this while homeless and on a waitlist for the shelter. Todd exemplifies how, with minimal resources and ongoing support from a trained and caring volunteer, clients can be motivated to achieve success, one step at a time.

Literacy Program: Providing tools for success by matching volunteer tutors with adult English language learners

Felipa and Roberto have owned a housekeeping business for about 7 years. The first 5 years were very difficult for them. Felipa spoke very little English and Roberto didn’t speak or understand English at all. Two years ago they came to the Literacy Program. Felipa is now conversing freely. Roberto is still shy about speaking, but he reads and writes at a high intermediate level. Recently, a situation came up that required Felipa and Roberto to solve a problem with an English-only speaking client. Felipa was dusting and Roberto was vacuuming.  By accident, the vacuum bumped a table. A vase fell and broke. Roberto was worried. Although Felipa was concerned as well, she felt confident in her ability to explain the situation to the owner in English. She wrote an apology letter and discounted that days housekeeping fee. The client was impressed with their integrity and honesty. She paid them the full days fee and gave them a tip.

YouthSERVE: Empowering teens to engage in community through service learning

Pacific Collegiate School was extremely pleased to see their garden was well kept by the YouthSERVE volunteers, who adopted the space over the summer. The youth elected to plant a Pineapple Guava bush to represent all of the hard work that the group put in over the summer. On our last meeting at the garden, the youth picked out a sunny spot near the fence and dug a deep hole together to make a new home for the plant. The youth are very excited to return to see the growth and progress of the plant next summer. YouthSERVE is planning to adopt the garden for a third year in a row.


Community Connection: Supporting adults with psychiatric disabilities and their families

Mark came to us as a schizophrenic homeless referral from Homeless Persons Health Project.  He was camping, had recently had his transportation stolen and had broken his glasses. Not only has he managed to attend every class and maintain a B+ average, but we have made referrals for him so that he has new transportation and the Lion’s Club is assisting him with a new pair of glasses. Separately, he is pursuing his SSI claim and, as of the last appeal, it had been granted. We hope to see him in a home and on his way to becoming a happier and more solid member of society before the end of the year.

Helping Hands: Supporting low-income seniors to maintain independence through safety related home repair

We had two senior clients who are both disabled and living in a house with many serious safety issues. Their damaged home blocked the route to the propane tank. If the repairs to the home were not made, the propane company could not deliver a winter supply of propane. Thanks to a donation of materials by an individual and over twelve hours of volunteer repair work, the repairs were completed and propane was delivered for the upcoming winter.


Retired Senior Volunteer Program: Empowering seniors to be the difference

In July we received a beautiful thank you note from one of our Agency Partners.  This community center offers onsite programs to enable seniors and disabled persons to improve their skills, develop financial literacy, provides educational assistance for the children and promotes healthy lifestyles. This agency wanted to thank us for recruiting volunteers to assist in their reading club. They said that this is an invaluable service because it helps them fulfill their goal of improving the children’s skills in literacy.  We are happy to help Make A Difference.


Transportation: Increasing independence for home-bound seniors and the disabled by providing rides to needed appointments

We had several wonderful comments from clients who deeply appreciate our transportation services. Stella, a long-time client with the program told us that she is 88 years old and lives alone, so finding transportation was a constant source of stress. She really appreciates the transportation service and her driver, Kenneth, who she calls a great friend.  After a period of not using the transportation program, we reconnected and she told us, “ I never expected to get such quick service! I called and had a ride scheduled the same day! It’s great to be reunited with (my driver), Kenneth; he’s a good friend of mine. I’m 88 and I live alone—it’s a big stress to find a ride.  I love you guys—thank you so much. I will be calling again soon!” Stella

CitySERVE: Connecting community members with civic opportunities

Nancy has done an outstanding job in her volunteer position. She has written a grant and secured funds for work on a watershed area in one of the Santa Cruz City Parks. Though her efforts she has organized a large group of volunteers to rid the area of invasive species that were destroying the location. Soon this area will be replanted with native species and restored to its original beauty.


Graffiti Removal Program: volunteers taking action to keep our neighborhoods safe, clean,  and beautiful

C.C. was assigned to the Graffiti Removal Project program through the District Attorney’s anti-graffiti vandalism program.  C.C. had been assigned over 250 hours with our program as part of a sentence for graffiti vandalism.  During his time with us he proved to be a reliable, conscientious and hard working volunteer.  He drove north to Davenport and south to rural Watsonville, always cleaning what we asked and often going above and beyond requirements.  C.C. was nominated for this year’s Be the Difference Award because he proved to be a community asset proving that the DA’s program in tandem with The Graffiti Removal Project is a successful program aiming at reducing graffiti vandalisms recidivism rate.

Volunteer Initiative Program: Connecting community members with civic opportunities within county departments

An elderly woman who was feeling isolated and unproductive decided to volunteer with Animal Services in the hopes of connecting with other like-minded people, as well as do her part to serve her community. With the help of her family and the staff members at the Animal Services Authority, she has been able to feel like a more productive part of society and she has met a few new friends that share her love of animals. “This experience has made such a difference in my life.”- Lilli


Volunteer Match-Making: Helping community members find the perfect volunteer fit through one on one consultation.

Arturo, a 14 year old high school freshman at Watsonville High, was referred by his guidance counselor. Upon meeting Arturo, he told us that he was passionate about bikes and wanted to learn more about fixing them. We showed him a video about the origins of the Watsonville Bike Shack, a tool and labor collaborative that supports the Watsonville cycling community with free tools, bikes and bike repair instruction. Arturo was immediately interested in volunteering to support the Bike Shack and wanted to learn more from the Shack’s mechanics.  Volunteer Center staff took  Arturo  to the Bike Shack to introduce him to their program. Serendipitously, the Bike Shack crew was having a meeting that very night to train young volunteers who are serious about fixing bikes, with the possibility of promoting them to become junior mechanics with stipends. Arturo was delighted and had a huge smile on his face. He planned to stay for the meeting and was also going to get connected with the youth empowerment group, the Brown Berets, through his involvement at the Bike Shack.

Download our First-Quarter-Report-10-11

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