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Community Gathers to Thank National Guard Members

Members helped distribute food, staff evacuation centers and more for months

National Guardsman Luis Reyes of Hayward is served a complimentary dinner Sunday as part of a thank-you farewell to the California National Guard who helped with countywide food distributions and more. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Seventy-two members of the California National Guard got a warm thank you Sunday for their widespread efforts with food distributions, staffing evacuation centers and more during the coronavirus pandemic and the CZU Lighting Complex fire.

In addition to gift bags stuffed with Santa Cruz T-shirts and sweatshirts, local logo beach towels and other treats, the 58 men and 14 women plus family members were honored with a catered dinner before they were treated to a sunset sail out of the Santa Cruz Harbor aboard several local charter boats.

City of Santa Cruz Councilmember Sandy Brown said she was deeply touched by the National Guard members’ efforts.

“I’m just so thrilled to be here and to be able to pay thanks,” she said. “Our council is so grateful. I mean, these folks came here as complete strangers and did a lot of the heavy lifting to help feed people in trying times. On top of Covid issues, then we had the fire and smoke and these folks were here—they left their families and helped our community get through.”

Sgt. Marci Boozer of San Diego said she has been in Santa Cruz County helping with food distribution for Second Harvest Food Bank, both at the county fairgrounds and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

“Our whole mission is to serve, so yes, I am honored to be here to lend a hand,” she said. “The thing I love the most about the Guard is it’s all about California first—period. It’s been really nice to be here, but it has also been a big sacrifice. I had to drive north and leave my family behind. My kids are 13, 15 and 25. It’s definitely been a big commitment.”

Rebecca Campbell, who used to run Rebecca’s Mighty Muffins on Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz, headed up the catering table that was festooned with a rich array of donated foods from bakeries between Boulder Creek and Santa Cruz.

“Why wouldn’t I be here today to help these wonderful folks out?” Campbell said. “I’m so grateful for these people that have been here for six months; I’d do anything for them.”The event was coordinated by Dawn Roh, president of the High Council Foundation under their Creative Collective Acts of Kindness program.

“We only had about two weeks to pull this off,” Roh said. “There were over 50 businesses—Trader Joe’s, Verve Coffee, Rebecca’s Flowers, Desserts First, Freedom Bakery, the list goes on—that stepped up to help.”

Toni Ramirez of Petaluma, who has been in the National Guard for three years, said he came to Santa Cruz seven months ago.

“It feels great,” he said. “Just helping people out—even folks I don’t know. I’m glad to be here. It’s a little sad to be leaving, but I’m happy for what we did.” 

The National Guard is scheduled to pack off and head home Wednesday, Sept. 30.

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