December 2020

Local Nonprofits Wrap Up a Great Year of Giving

Now it’s Our Turn

By Jeanne Howard

Every now and then, the benefits of local nonprofit efforts is thrown into high relief by events. 2020 will be one to remember. The demand for services increased exponentially while revenues decreased and forced staff cuts, and willing volunteers had to be turned away due to insufficient PPE and distancing requirements that many facilities could not accommodate.

Local nonprofits are always laboring away like year-round elves meeting crucial needs, enriching the culture, and cleaning up messes made by many of us, but this year the community leaned extra heavily on them. These hardworking groups are doing more with less and can really use our support.

Santa Cruz County’s holiday crowdfunding campaign, Santa Cruz Gives, makes it easy to provide that support. The platform features forty nonprofits that present one project each that will benefit Santa Cruz County, and collectively cover a range of needs. It’s easy to learn about each group and use the shopping cart to donate, with a minimum of $5.

This year, the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter Foundation and the Santa Cruz SPCA rescued, fed and cared for nearly 6,000 animals due to both the fires and poverty induced by the pandemic. Community Bridges, the premier nonprofit agency addressing poverty in our County (they run Meals on Wheels, their best known program), maintains four resource centers that provide assistance with FEMA disaster relief, support for mid-low income households affected by the fire, cash aid for rental assistance and groceries, and more.

Plenty of the work of local nonprofits is visible and immediately gratifying, such as when Save Our Shores volunteers skim through a beach and remove 150 pounds of garbage, an ounce at a time; or Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes serves up thoughtfully prepared lunches crafted from half a million pounds of food each year; or Farm Discovery at Live Earth Farms donates tens of thousands of pounds of organic produce (since the pandemic); or Second Harvest Food Bank distributes an astonishing 9 million pounds of food to 100 agencies that in turn get it to our neighbors in need.

Other organizations work on longer-term needs, such as one-on-one mentorship provided by Big Brothers Big Sisters to youth in need of support (since the pandemic began more than one-third of youth they serve have become caretakers, breadwinners and tutors). Or Food, What?! staff, who gradually modify the eating habits, acquired taste for less-than-nutritious food, and fast-food tendency for less privileged teens. Exploring New Horizons and the Bird School Project both pull youth away from their devices into the wildness all around, hoping to replace the quick hit of a text with something more elemental, more sustainable, and more crucial to the well being of the planet as well as the individual.

One positive result of Zoom and online education is that many who were kept from participating in nonprofit programs because of a lack of transportation or due to limitations of facility space can now join in and benefit. Staff and specific technology is still needed to prepare and offer compelling distance learning, as well as outdoor education, to our children. Please consider a donation to the organizations that inspire you.

2020 sponsors are:

Good Times; Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County; Community Foundation Santa Cruz County; Applewood Fund; The Joe Collins Fund; Santa Cruz County Bank; Wynn Capital Management; Oswald Restaurant; The Pajaronian; and the Press Banner.

To read about each nonprofit’s project, or to donate, go to

Jeanne Howard founded Santa Cruz Gives with the support of Good Times, the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, and additional business and individual sponsors (listed on the home page of

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *