Community Fund

coverwebCreate a sea of change. Begin by learning more about five local nonprofits in our annual Community Fund issue.

Sometimes the best gifts come unwrapped. No curly ribbons or bows. No frills. Often, these gifts come in the form of generosity and kindness—from family and loved ones, or from people we  hardly know at all. All of this factors into the mix of our annual Community Fund issue, in which we shine the spotlight on the very important and vital issue of housing. Look around: Many of us either have close friends or family who have experienced a housing issue, or, we know of people who have been thrust into such challenges. Whether it’s the young adult aging out of foster care or others we know that have been forced onto the streets, housing remains a serious issue in this county. To that end, take note of the five organizations featured on the following pages: Transition Age Youth Program, Habitat for Humanity, Watsonville Law Center, Homeless Services Center, and Pajaro Valley Services Center. The dynamics of these local nonprofits may surprise you, but here’s where you come in: Learn how your own contributions to the Community Fund are more vital now than ever before. One-hundred percent of your contribution goes to the nonprofit of your choice. In addition, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and Santa Cruz County Bank will match those funds. And be sure to read an additional feature this year, which spotlights the 30th anniversary of the Community Foundation at the bottom. In the meantime, consider giving the gift of making a difference.  | Greg Archer, Editor

Transition Age Youth Program

In addition to an Independent Living Resource Center which is open two days a week, the Transition Age Youth Program offers numerous services, including counseling, skill building and subsidized supportive housing, to current and former foster and probation placement youth, ages 15 to 24.

cover transitionWhitney Williams, Aaron Ramirez and Greg Hagio all have vastly different personal histories, but regardless of what they’ve been through, all three former foster children were given a new lease on life at the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Program.

The program, which was established in 2001 under the umbrella of the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center, was created in order to help curb what TAY Program Manager Susan Paradise describes as “an epidemic” in the number of young people who leave the foster care system without a place to live, and without basic independent living skills.

Part of the reason for that epidemic is that in California, when a foster child turns 18, they “age out” or emancipate from the foster care system, and no longer receive state benefits. Each year in the U.S., approximately 20,000 of the more than 500,000 youth in foster care “age out.” Often, those youth end up living on the street, without job training or guidance.

“There are so many things that you take for granted that you would know just by growing up in a family,” says Paradise. “Like ‘How do I open a bank account?’ ‘How do I pay a utility bill?’ ‘How do I use heat in a building?’ There are a million things like that, and when you have no one to ask, it’s debilitating.”

That’s where TAY comes in.

In addition to an Independent Living Resource Center which is open two days a week, the TAY Program offers numerous services, including counseling, skill building and subsidized supportive housing, to current and former foster and probation placement youth, ages 15 to 24.

The Independent Living Program (ILP) teaches youth independent living skills and helps them to achieve educational and vocational goals in order to transition to self-sufficiency. ILP services include counseling, assistance with obtaining ID cards, driving permits and licenses, and workshops at Cabrillo College on topics such as money management and health.

For 21-year-old Whitney Williams, those workshops were a godsend.

“This program provides a foundation for kids who don’t have the option to live at home until they’re 24,” says Williams. “No 18-year-old should have to worry about things like housing.”

Not only did Williams find housing and work through the TAY Program, but she also says she learned about the importance of integrity and a good work ethic. “I learned about priorities and how I have to put my stability first,” she says.

Not all former foster youth are as lucky as Williams, however.

In 2010, the TAY Program received federal stimulus money for Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing (HPRR), and was able to use those funds to provide short- and medium-term financial assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services to address the immediate need of housing for 39 youth over a two-year period. A full-time case manager was dedicated to the program, and youth received anywhere from $500 for rent, to $950 per month for 18 months to cover their rent while they stabilized, finished their education and found employment.

But while the HPRR program was a success, the stimulus funding ended this year. And as a result, more youth are struggling to find and maintain stable housing.

All together, the TAY Program has 23 housing slots. Eight of them are transitional Section 8 vouchers—18-month vouchers that require youth to pay 30 percent of their income as rent—and the other 15 fall under the state-funded, 24-month Transitional Housing Plus program. THP Plus participants receive assistance securing and paying for independent housing and meet regularly with coordinators to work on independent living goals.

Greg Hagio, 19, was a recipient of one of those Section 8 vouchers. A member of the TAY Program since age 16, Hagio says he feels forever indebted to the TAY Program for helping him to find his first and second job, obtain housing, and pay rent for four months.

“It’s helped me out tremendously—I just can’t believe it,” says Hagio, who was placed in a group home after being put on probation. “I started going to meetings to learn about living on my own, paying bills, and finding places to live and work. I’ve matured a lot, and I’ve been living on my own ever since.”

With a limited number of vouchers to disperse, there are currently 30 youth on the TAY Program’s waitlist for housing. While they wait for slots to open, they are either couch surfing, staying with their biological family, or living on the street.

“If you’re afraid or don’t know where you’re sleeping at night, it’s really hard to go on a job interview—where is a person going to call you back?” says Paradise. “All these other things that could help you get out of homelessness, they’re really hard to pursue when you don’t have a home.”

In Aaron Ramirez’s eyes, he had it easy.

“I was homeless for about a week,” recalls the 23-year-old. “I chose to leave my former foster care because my pitbull couldn’t stay there. So my dog and I lived in my two-seater car.”

In dire need of a place to stay, Ramirez reached out to his biological father, whom he ended up living with for a year and a half. When the living situation no longer worked out, Ramirez moved in with his sister, who was living with a former foster parent.

“When I moved in with my sister I was really worried about how I was going to make ends meet,” he says. “But I got involved with the [TAY] Program and didn’t have to worry as much. I have a little bit of a cushion now, until I get a savings account going. I’ve been trying to save up for the future.”

After three years of attending workshops with the TAY Program, Ramirez believes it’s his mission to spread the word about the good work that they do.

“A lot of former foster youth turn to crime when they don’t know about this program,” he says. “By advocating for this program I can be a voice for them.” | Jenna Brogan

Learn: about services, programs or current activities. Connect: to the most pressing need or event.
: to the Transition Age Youth Program through Community Fund online overview pageMake a Donation. Visit cfscc.org, call 662-2000, or mail in the form on page 25 of the Nov. 20 issue of Good Times.


Habitat For Humanity

According to Habitat for Humanity, 95 million Americans have housing problems—and many of those people live in the 831 area code.

Watching scenes of utter devastation in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy is a frightening yet humbling experience. To see homes torn from foundations, roofs lying on street corners and entire sides of buildings stripped off like peeling wallpaper is enough to make us Californians feel supremely fortunate—despite our occasional earthquake. But just because we haven’t endured a natural catastrophe like our fellow citizens on the East Coast doesn’t mean that another type of disaster hasn’t struck right here in Santa Cruz County.

cover HabitatIn fact, since the economy went south a few years ago, the demands for quality, affordable housing have skyrocketed. But mention Habitat for Humanity, and many people’s minds flash to scenes of devastation—think Hurricane Katrina and now Sandy—and so many families struggling right here in their own backyard.

According to Habitat for Humanity, 95 million Americans have housing problems—and many of those people live in the 831 area code. Santa Cruz may be on the doorstep of Silicon Valley, but not everyone reaps the six-figure rewards. As Beth Bowman, resource development director for Habitat for Humanity Santa Cruz County, explains, more than 220 families are on the mailing list to be notified when a new Habitat home is under construction. Also notified are service agencies, other nonprofits and churches. Word circulates through the community, and hundreds of needy families are, in a sense, competing for the same home.

The good news, according to Bowman, is that despite economic woes, Habitat for Humanity has doubled its output of homes this year, and expects the trend to continue through 2013 and beyond. “We’ve gone from building a home in half a year, to completing three homes a year,” she says.

The trouble is, funding is down as corporate sponsors and individuals struggle to pay their own mortgages.

In an effort to defray reliance from government and private funding, Habitat for Humanity has opened a retail outlet of its own. Though it may seem similar to any other big-box home improvement store—17,000 square feet of items like paint, wood and tools—the Habitat ReStore is unique in the fact that all of the items for sale have been donated from the community and that proceeds are then funneled back into the community through the homes built.

Here’s how it works: Individuals and contractors donate surplus building supplies such as furniture, appliances, doors, windows and lighting fixtures. Habitat for Humanity is then able to sell those to the public at a fraction of the retail value, and the revenue supports the Habitat program for building homes. “One of the things we’ve been looking to do is develop earned income to support the program so we’re less reliant on the government and some of the other private funding,” Bowman says, explaining the thought process behind the opening of the Habitat ReStore in Westside Santa Cruz. 

Even with the ReStore, the backbone of Habitat for Humanity is still the many volunteers that donate their time and energy to assist in construction of these homes for needy families. “We encourage anybody in the community who wants to come out and volunteer,” Bowman shares. Contractors, school groups, corporate groups, individuals and the family who will live in the home all come together to make the program work. Now, however, people can also volunteer at the ReStore.

“Not everybody wants to go out and hammer nails or do hard physical labor,” Bowman says, chuckling. The ReStore needs sales clerks, merchandisers, drivers—you name it.

The success of the Habitat ReStore has assisted in Habitat for Humanity’s goal to continue funding homes that are currently in the pipeline, such as three homes in Scotts Valley that are expected to be completed in March 2013. Next summer, the program has plans to begin a home in the Beach Flats area, as well as seven three-bedroom, two-bath units on an acre of land in Live Oak. “Our goal is to serve more families in Santa Cruz County,” Bowman explains simply. “We want homeownership opportunities to be available to more people.” | Leslie Patrick

Learn: about services, programs or current activities. Connect: to the most pressing need or event.
: to the Habitat for Humanity through Community Fund online overview pageMake a Donation. Visit cfscc.org, call 662-2000, or mail in the form on page 25 of the Nov. 20 issue of Good Times.


Watsonville Law Center

Since the foreclosure crisis began, the Watsonville Law Center has seen an influx of locals—young and old—seeking housing services.

While attending Santa Clara University School of Law in 1998, Watsonville resident Dori Rose Inda recognized an unmet need for legal services among the low-income and farmworker populations in the Pajaro Valley.

cover wattslawDetermined to fill that void, Inda began working on plans for what would become the Watsonville Law Center immediately after she graduated in 2000.

With the support of the California Endowment, the California Consumer Protection Foundation, the County of Santa Cruz and Catholic Charities, Inda’s dream became a reality in 2002 with the opening of the WLC under the auspices of Community Bridges, a larger nonprofit organization. By 2007, the WLC had grown to such an extent that it was able to break off into its own independent nonprofit.

Fast-forward five years, and not only is the WLC still going strong—it’s doubled its funding and staff since 2007. But along with the recession has come an exponential increase in the need for services within the community. Currently, the WLC serves a few hundred low-income families and individuals per year with direct legal services, and reaches thousands through its programs and clinics, which are designed to educate and empower them.

For Henry Martin, senior attorney and project manager at the WLC, the decision to join the WLC in 2005 was a no-brainer.

“The legal system touches everyone,” he says. “It’s a fearful experience, whether you have money or not. Even minor things can drive families into poverty.”

Initially drawn to the WLC because of its work in economic justice, Martin says he has stayed on because of its commitment to some of the most vulnerable groups in the area, particularly Spanish-speaking agricultural workers and working immigrant families.

“They’re poor, but they’re paying bills,” says Martin. “They’re hoping their kids will get to go to college and that the next generation won’t be field workers. That’s really hard, because [on the one hand] you’re proud of your work, but you don’t want your kids to be put in that situation.”

But immigrants aren’t the only ones suffering right now. Since the foreclosure crisis began, the WLC has seen an influx of locals—young and old—seeking housing services. The WLC has served more than 250 people with legal services concerning housing and has served nearly 800 more concerning issues of economic justice.

“The cost of living here is so high, it’s on par with San Francisco. Under normal circumstances it’s hard for families to deal with,” says Martin. “If you have folks losing housing in your neighborhood that affects everyone. In the past, it was easier to point out people who are struggling as different from you—but this is an opportunity to really feel empathy for one another.”

To address the foreclosure crisis and its local impact, the WLC formed the Central Coast Foreclosure Collaborative, a working group of city and county agencies, community-based organizations, and community groups that meets to share best practices, identify emerging issues, and leverage resources to assist embattled local homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

“Many people will come in with credit card debt because they’ve been trying to make monthly house payments with it, and then they might get their car repossessed,” says Martin. “Housing is often the last thing to go. If you can spot that early, you might be able to fix that car problem or credit card problem. It’s about financial education and consumer education.”

In an effort to help low-income people navigate the legal system—including workers’ compensation, wage claims, consumer fraud, debt and credit issues, criminal record clearance, child custody and visitation, access to small claims court, and foreclosures—the WLC has four legal attorneys on staff who provide direct legal service, as well as two paralegals who work at the self-help center inside the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County.

Based on the clinic model of Santa Clara University School of Law’s East Side San Jose Community Law Center (now the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Center), the WLC provides services primarily in an advice clinic format. By providing services in this manner, it leverages pro bono attorney resources, meets client needs effectively, maximizes client self-sufficiency and manages its scarce resources.

“Providing equal access to justice is our number one mission,” says Martin. “But sometimes, people just need information or questions answered.”

Office Manager Monica Pereira also joined the WLC team in 2005 because she saw a little bit of herself in the clients.

“I really understood the issues that the clients have,” she says. “I could be a client. I’m low-income. These are the same issues that my family deals with.”

It’s for that reason that Pereira is appealing to the community this holiday season to assist the WLC in its efforts to make the Central Coast a better place to live for low-income families.

All donations—large or small—“will fund direct legal services, helping low-income families recover from economic crisis, avoid loss of home, and recover home-ownership,” she says. | Jenna Brogan

Learn: about services, programs or current activities. Connect: to the most pressing need or event.
: to the Watsonville Law Center through the Community Fund online overview pageMake a Donation. Visit cfscc.org, call 662-2000, or mail in the form on page 25 of the Nov. 20 issue of Good Times.


Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services uses a holistic approach to helping people. Its services include counseling, teaching people how to manage their money and providing school supply assistance for children.

Five years ago, when Leticia Yasin was living in Monterey, she was nearing a breaking point. She had fallen into a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction, lost custody of her four children, lost her Section 8 housing, and found herself living on the streets for cover pvsseveral months. After receiving a court order to get sober and moving in with her mother, Yasin made a decision that was pivotal to getting her life back on track. She called the Pajaro Valley Shelter Services.

Two weeks after making that phone call, in March of 2008, pregnant with her now 4-year-old daughter, Yasin moved into the shelter’s emergency housing. “I just got tired—tired of being tired,” she says. “Being away from my kids is what did it. I was tired of everything.”

Since then, she has entered the PVS Transitional Housing Program, which supplies her with a Section 8 house in Watsonville. She has her children back and she has finished school, qualifying her for a Medical Assistance Certificate. This December, Yasin will have been off drugs and alcohol for five years and will be continuing her studies to become a nurse.

“It’s a struggle every day, and I couldn’t do it without the Pajaro Valley Shelter,” she says. “They have helped me in so many ways.”

Suzy Hunt, development director at PVS, says that Yasin is a good example of someone coming to them in need and successfully turning their life around.  “She was lost for a while, but things are looking a lot brighter for her and her family now,” Hunt says.

The shelter’s aim is to provide people in need with the skills to overcome the barriers that got them into such challenging situations. “It’s giving them the basic tools that, for whatever reason, they didn’t get before,” Hunt adds.

PVS manages 17 transitional housing units for families in trouble who are working to get back on their feet, she says. There is always a waiting list for transitional housing, but those in need should continue to call and let the shelter know that they still need help.

Hunt describes the shelter as being different than others, saying that it uses a holistic approach to helping people. Its services include counseling, teaching people how to manage their money and providing school supply assistance for children.

“One of the things that distinguishes our program from others is that we require that our clients save 90 percent of their income,” Hunt says, adding that in some cases,  people who participate in their program save enough to purchase small homes or start their own businesses. And Yasin proudly says that she has saved more than $10,000.

Bottom line: Donating to PVS is an investment in families.

PVS’s mission statement is “Ending homelessness one family at a time.”

“It’s incumbent upon us, as human beings, to create an environment for children, whether they’re ours  or other people’s, so that they can find success and give back to our community,” says Hunt. “That’s how Pajaro Valley Shelter operates.”

On Nov. 8, the shelter held its annual donor appreciation picnic, where it recognized people for their contributions as well as families who have been successful going through the program. Yasin was recognized for her exceptional progress and she took the opportunity at the picnic to thank the shelter staff for all they have done for her and her family.

Hunt notes that it is very gratifying for donors when they see and hear the people they have helped with their contributions. She recalls a recent triumph of one of their client’s daughters being accepted into college.

And then there’s Yasin’s oldest son, Anthony Cantrell. The 17-year-old sophomore at Pajaro Valley High School was recognized last month for breaking the county’s high school football record for most yards gained and was named player of the week.

“It’s these families that are the future of our communities,” Yasin reflects. | Joel Hersch

Learn: about services, programs or current activities. Connect: to the most pressing need or event.
: to the Pajaro Valley Shelter Services through Community Fund online overview pageMake a Donation. Visit cfscc.org, call 662-2000, or mail in the form on page 25 of the Nov. 20 issue of Good Times.


Homeless Services Center

The Homeless services center works to not only manage the homeless population, or address the symptoms—like lack of food, showers or places to sleep—but actually end the homeless condition.

The Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center is using a new approach to ending homelessness by prioritizing the most vulnerable people living on the streets for supportive housing—a formula that has been shown to save more lives and cost the county less money.

cover homelessThe shelter’s new approach was launched last spring in the form of the 180/180 campaign, an initiative in which the county identified the most at-risk, homeless individuals—those who require the most emergency services—and is now working to get them into housing by 2014.

The goal is to transition people from a place where they’re costing the county half a million dollars per year in emergency services, to supportive housing that costs only about $12,000 a year, says HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez.

Because of their severe needs and inability to access preventative health care, this chronically homeless population ends up being taken to jails and shelters, hospitals and emergency rooms frequently over the course of a year, representing a disproportionate financial burden on the system over the rest of the homeless population.

Of an estimated 2,700 homeless people living on the streets of Santa Cruz County, just 10 to 15 percent account for 70 percent of the costs incurred by countywide services.           

Regardless of people’s motivation—whether humanitarian or economic—Martinez notes that contributing to this cause is beneficial for Santa Cruz.

“There’s no denying this saves money,” Martinez says. “It’s an economic, smart solution to homelessness, and it also saves lives.”

The ongoing  process will be to get individuals housed by connecting them with federal housing subsidies, like Section 8 and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, and to provide them with ongoing support that ensures they remain housed.

“That’s the model of supportive housing,” Martinez says. “We’re really focusing on taking a different approach to this population than we ever have before and prioritizing this population for housing first.”

The 180/180 campaign relies on community donations, which go through the HSC, the campaign’s fiscal agent, to assist with the move-in process. “Move-in kits,” which cost about $1,000 per person, include household items such as pots and pans, silverware, a dresser and rental deposit—the kinds of things that will help people get started taking care of themselves.

“We’re recognizing that the path required for these individuals (to get out of homelessness) was so out of reach that we had to make changes,” Martinez adds. “So, we’re bringing all the partners together [groups such as the Santa Cruz County Homeless Persons Health Project, the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center and the Veterans Administration] to make it so that these people don’t have to navigate as many obstacles as before. We’re bringing down those barriers and actually holding their hand as they walk through the entire process into housing.”

So far, the 180/180 campaign has housed 11 people and they are planning to take care of several more each month throughout the fall, she says.

The HSC is working with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz to direct more housing vouchers to the vulnerable homeless population. For ongoing services, they are working with existing county service providers, volunteers, and various local networks.

“A lot of it is getting people to think differently about this population,” Martinez says. “We’re working with the whole community to raise money and make this campaign successful.”

Martinez says the idea is to incorporate new methods that don’t simply manage the homeless population, or address the symptoms—like lack of food, showers or places to sleep—but actually focus on ending the homeless condition.

On Dec. 20, the eve of the winter solstice, the Homeless Person’s Health Project will hold the annual Homeless Memorial, in which they will pay tribute to the homeless people who have lost their lives.

“At these kinds of events, we talk about how we’re sad, but we don’t really ever do anything differently,” Martinez says. “This is the first year we can say we are doing something differently.” | Joel Hersch

Learn: about services, programs or current activities. Connect: to the most pressing need or event.
Give: to the Homeless Services Center  through Community Fund online overview pageMake a Donation. Visit cfscc.org, call 662-2000, or mail in the form on page 25 of the Nov. 20 issue of Good Times.


The Art of Giving 

At 30,  Community Foundation Santa Cruz County continues to thrive

From the outside, the building doesn’t look like much. Its grey concrete walls blend into the sidewalk across from the hustle and bustle of the Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center. But Community Foundation Santa Cruz County’s new digs are a lot more impressive than they first appear. In fact, the 9,200-square-foot building is an architect’s dream.

cover SCCCBuilt in 2010, with the help of a donation by Jack and Peggy Baskin, and contributions from 60 donors, the Jack & Peggy Baskin Center for Philanthropy, as the building is formally named, earned Gold Level certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for its sustainable design by Mark Cavagnero Associates. From its energy-efficient concrete walls, to its 100 percent recycled furniture, to its use of natural light in 90 percent of the building, the structure is one of the greenest and most high-tech in the county.

Designed to withstand natural disasters and the test of time, the building is a fitting metaphor for the Community Foundation, which, after 30 years of serving locals, is not only still committed to matching donors with deserving nonprofits, but also looking ahead.

“Community foundations tend to be the best-kept secret, because we’re a quintessential middle person, and our tendency is to shine the spotlight on our donors and the nonprofits that receive the money,” says Lance Linares, chief executive officer of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

That may be true, but the Community Foundation’s impact on the lives of locals is anything but unnoticed.

Aside from partnering with Good Times for the annual Community Fund issue, the Community Foundation has given away $56 million to local nonprofits since it opened in 1982, according to Linares.

“Our foundation was really born out of the floods of ’82,” he says. “There was a response to raise money to help [people in need] and a number of community leaders did. At the same time, there was a parallel effort to think about community foundations, and the two intersected when people realized we need a permanent resource—we can’t just depend on spontaneous raising of money.”

For some organizations, a 30th anniversary is an important milestone, but for the Community Foundation, which plans to be around for generations, it’s comparable to a birthday. “We’re going to be here forever,” says Linares, who has been with the foundation for 18 years himself. “We’ve seen substantial growth in not only assets, but, more importantly, in what we’re able to do. We’re here to try to effect change through our grant-making.”

In the last two years, the Community Foundation’s role in the community has expanded with the arrival of its new building, which local nonprofits can use for free during work hours. According to Linares, 200 community groups currently utilize the facility’s multiple meeting rooms, resources and event space—“the sheriff is one of our biggest users,” he says.

Linares says he appreciates the opportunity to engage with community groups and spread the word about other aspects of the Community Foundation’s work, including cost-effective trainings and workshops.

But beyond assisting nonprofits, the Community Foundation also works with ordinary people—of all economic levels—who want to support causes that they care about.

Whether they’re animal lovers, “tree-huggers” or child advocates, the Community Foundation works hard to match donors with local organizations that share their values and are doing good work in the community.

“It’s really about what the donors care about,” explains Linares. “If someone wanted to start a fund for Pop Warner football, I could work with them; if they wanted to save the red-legged frog, I could work with them—we’re such a flexible organism.”

According to Linares, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future.

“Death is a very difficult concept to talk about,” he says. “But when you die your assets go three places, and you have to pick two. They go to your heirs, they go to charity, or they go to the government. Which two would you like to pick?”

It’s for that reason that Linares encourages people to make out a will or a trust, or revise the one they already have, so that they can determine how their money will be distributed.

“Our only competition is apathy,” he says. “Because we can help you find that sweet spot that adds value to your family’s values, whether it’s a faith-based charity, an educational institution or something else. Our job is not to control [where you designate your money], but rather to educate you about what your options are.”

Educating youth about the importance of giving is one way the Community Foundation hopes to combat apathy for future generations. The organization currently leads a giving circle that involves 10 families and their children. According to Linares, the families pool their money and meet twice a year to determine where their funds will go.

“When they were little it was animals and the environment,” says Linares. “As they’ve grown, it’s still the environment, but they’re looking at other things too. It’s a great solution for families who are looking for ways to teach their kids about giving. It’s not easy to give away money.”

Part of the reason that Linares believes that residents of Santa Cruz County are often willing to donate to local nonprofits is a shared desire to make it a better place to live, now and in the future.

“People come here for quality of life, the creativity, the embracing of the environment, the fact that they can actually see something done in their small county,” he explains.

“I pretty much have the best job in the county,” he goes on. “I get to sit with people who have money, who care, and help them invest in causes they care about.” | Jenna Brogan
Photos: Keana Parker

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