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Be the Difference Awards ceremony honors volunteers in Santa Cruz County

October 18, 2013

By Calvin Men - Santa Cruz Sentinel

A woman who helps youth publish their stories in a book and a man who talks to people with depression were among those recognized at the Be the Difference Awards luncheon Thursday.

Hosted by the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, the annual event is an opportunity to recognize the impact volunteers have on the county.

"We really thought we want to have the community take one day where all these people who are out there doing wonderful things get to be center stage," said Karen Delaney, executive director for the Volunteer Center.

There are three categories for nominees: groups, businesses and individuals. Nominees are accepted from the public and winners are named in each category by a panel of judges.

"What they really look for are stories that will have that extra little jolt of inspiration and excellence," Delaney said.

Delaney, who was recognized Thursday for 30 years of service with the center, said the award ceremony has the power to inspire.

"It's motivational to be in a room full of people who are doing great things," she said.

With an estimated 300 people in attendance, there were roughly 50 people who were nominated for their volunteer work.

Work like that of 82-year-old Roy Vigliecca of Santa Cruz, who was nominated for his work befriending other seniors. Through various county organizations, Vigliecca works with senior citizens who are needy, helping them with daily tasks as well as emotional needs. He was one of two people who won in the individual category.

He advised people to start volunteering at any local organization to help the community.

"Please, volunteers are needed in all organizations," Vigliecca said. "It's an opportunity to give yourself to others."

Jody Lust, who was nominated but did not win, works with youth in grades four to 12 at the Young Writers Program in Santa Cruz. The program publishes the youth's stories in a book, said Lust, holding the first book in her hands.

Lust works with a group of volunteers in the program and said she felt humbled by the nomination.

"So many people are working there and everything makes a difference," she said. "I represent a lot of people who do everything for the children."
There's a certain kindness inherent in people who volunteer and make an impact on others.

"The kindness reaches out and opens people's hearts and connects them to each other," Lust said.

Looking around at other nominees in the room, Lust summed up their volunteer efforts in four words: "These people are powerful."


BE THE DIFFERENCE AWARD RECIPIENTS

GROUPS: Nine physicians who have worked with the tattoo removal program to help more than 300 people remove tattoos for a fraction of the cost. By removing tattoos, the doctors give clients a better chance of finding a job and boosting self-esteem.
BUSINESS: New Leaf Community Markets was one of two winners for donating money to support the community and encouraging employees to volunteer. Santa Cruz County Bank also won for giving employees 40 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer in the community.
INDIVIDUAL: One of two winners, Soquel High School student Justine Dice won for facilitating numerous extracurricular activities at school, including starting the Environmental Club and organizing a Bike to School Day. Roy Vigliecca won for his outreach to the senior community, which includes emotional support and counseling.

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