Photo Courtesy of Jim Hobbs
Photo Courtesy of Jim Hobbs

Correction: City on a Hill Press has corrected an error saying the American Red Cross has operated with government funding, when in fact they do not receive government funding. The online version of this article reflects this change and a correction will run in the following week’s print edition.

Since its foundation in 1881, the nonprofit American Red Cross, without the help of government funding, has been aiding those in need through community service.

The local 115-year-old Santa Cruz County Chapter continues these efforts, honoring 31 exemplary volunteers at the Volunteer Recognition Dinner on Jan. 30 in Aptos. The organization will honor more volunteers at the Santa Cruz County Chapter Heroes Breakfast Event, which will take place on May 15.

“The most important thing about this dinner is giving recognition and a token of appreciation so that it inspires other people,” said communications specialist of the Santa Cruz County Chapter, Pooja Trivedi. “It’s a good inspirational and motivational tool.”

In addition to the Program Excellence Awards given to exemplary members, the Hazel K. Snow Award, the Rountree Award and the Special Recognition for Exceptional Volunteer Award honored specific members for their contribution to the Chapter.

As one of the highest honors, the Hazel K. Snow Award is unique to the Santa Cruz Chapter because it was inspired by Snow, a distinguished member in the 1950s–1980s who formed Blood Clubs, an early blood donation program. Her work continues to be acknowledged by honoring a member “who goes the extra mile,” according to the Chapter’s web page. This year, Don May of Santa Cruz won the award for his work in disaster training.

The Rountree Award — in honor of the 1960s members Edward Rountree and his wife Bertha’s “dedication, inspiration and modesty that exemplify the spirit of volunteerism,” within the American Red Cross — was awarded to Watsonville’s Craig Jenni.

The 2013 Special Recognition for Exceptional Volunteer Award was awarded to current board chair Chris Maffia of Scotts Valley. As a six-year member on the board, she helped build the exceptional 22-strong Board of Directors in recent years and advocated for the Red Cross in the community.

“In the last few years, I was mainly just getting the [organization] out there and bringing it to the forefront,” Maffia said. “What [the board] wants to accomplish is bringing it to the community and helping people understand what we do in the face of disaster. What’s rewarding is the satisfaction of knowing I helped build the Chapter and bring awareness to the community. It has helped me grow as an individual.”

Since the Red Cross is comprised of 97 percent volunteer work, the organization believes it is important to recognize the hard work that goes into the organization. The Santa Cruz County Chapter Heroes Breakfast Event aims to recognize those who deserve it most. Anyone can nominate heroes in the community “whose actions exemplify the true spirit of heroism through their courage, dedication and character,” as stated on the nomination form.

“We are so fortunate to have the volunteers do what they do,” said development manager Camilla Boolootian. “They are really the heart and soul. It’s [volunteering] not just here, [but] in the country. All of these people who have taken training, come into a strange community and they come to support other people — it’s magic. They come for the purpose of another community and that is pretty amazing.”

The Santa Cruz County Chapter currently has more than 861 volunteers and 277 youth volunteers who help the community on a local, national and global level through disaster training, deployment to disaster areas and other causes. Just this past year, the Chapter helped 87 local families and deployed 75 volunteers to disaster sites.

“It’s quite a powerful chapter, when you think about how small the community is,” Maffia said.