Community Heroes honored by United Way of Santa Cruz County
By Sarah Derouin, email@example.com, @Sarah_Derouin on Twitter
Aptos >> What do a fifth-grade student and a public official with 30 years of service have in common? They both care deeply about their community, striving to make people’s lives better.
These two people were part of the 2016 Community Heroes honored by the United Way of Santa Cruz County on Monday at Cabrillo College. Ayla Dingman, the youngest Hero, is a fifth-grade student who raised money to purchase backpacks and school supplies for kids. She raised enough money in 2015 to buy 65 backpacks; this year she raised enough for 75.
The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Martina O’Sullivan, chair of the United Way’s Women in Philanthropy. O’Sullivan was previously the director of community engagement at Dominican Hospital, striving to serve the poor and underserved in Santa Cruz County.
The award ceremony highlighted findings presented in the 22nd Annual Community Assessment Program, commonly called the CAP. The CAP report summarizes biennial data collected to assess the quality of life in Santa Cruz County across six sectors: economy, education, health, public safety, social environment and natural environment.
“The goal of the CAP is to better understand and improve the lives of people in Santa Cruz County,” said Laurel Jones, superintendent and president of Cabrillo College, who helped MC the event.
Representatives from each of the six areas presented information on victories and positive growth, as well as areas that may need more work and attention. Each area named their own Heroes, showcasing those who made a difference in their communities. Although these Heroes were identified for a particular sector, many of the projects overlap.
“We are a collaborative county,” said Elisa Orona, executive director of Health Improvement Partnerships.
Abby Bell is an example of this collaboration. She was honored for her work at “Food, What?,” a program that uses food and farming as a medium to foster youth empowerment. Although a Hero in the Health sector, it’s easy to connect her work to education and environment.
“There’s something magical and powerful about the experience of planting seeds and watching it grow,” said Bell. “Getting your hand in the dirt can be a healing process.”
Another Hero who exemplifies the collaborative spirit is Ingrid Trejo, regional site director for the Veterans Resource Centers of America. Trejo was recognized for her work with the “Be a Hero, Help a Hero” program to help veterans in the county find housing. The program started in January 2015 and since then, homeless veteran numbers have gone from 242 to 96. Veterans in crisis are supplied tools and support to get them into a home and employed. Trejo said veterans feel a renewed sense of dignity and respect when they are able to provide for their family.
“The program is transformational,” said Trejo.
Details on all the Heroes and the CAP report for this year can be found at www.unitedwaysc.org/cap-2016.
Get involved in Santa cruz county
Economy: Help create housing solutions and preserve housing for the most vulnerable populations. Join the Santa Cruz County Housing Advocacy Network: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education: Engage with your local school district by contacting Martine Watkins at 831-466-5705.
Health: If you’d like to improve the health of the community, visit hipscc.org/hip/organizations to learn more.
Natural Environment: Check out the many environmental actions you can take including: biking to work (ecoactbike.org), saving water (watersavingtips.org) and water monitoring (coastal-watershed.org).
Public Safety: Help prevent crime in your community by getting involved with various prevention groups at the United Way. Visit www.unitedwaysc.org for more details.
Social Environment: Get involved with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action at 831-728-3210, or copa-iaf.org.