Seventh Annual “Be the Difference” Awards

The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County and sponsors will celebrate the 7th Annual “Be the Difference” Awards honoring the individuals, groups, and businesses that make a difference through volunteerism in Santa Cruz County. The event will take place at the Hotel Paradox from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Oct 17 to honor 50 local service champions.

Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney said, “This event resonates with so many individuals and as such our pool of nominees has grown larger each year. Each of us can think of a volunteer that has touched our lives in some way, big or small. The “Be the Difference” Awards provide the annual opportunity for the larger community to say thank-you and to share the powerful stories of our local change-makers.”

Five nominees have been selected to receive special honors for their outstanding community work: business winners Santa Cruz County Bank and New Leaf Community Markets, non-profit program winner the Tattoo Removal Program of Santa Cruz County, and individual winners Justine Dice and Roy Vigiliecca.

In addition to celebrating volunteers from across the county, the Volunteer Center will honor one of their own. 2013 marks the 30th year of Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney with the organization.

“We are thrilled to honor Karen’s achievements alongside of our local service champions as she is one of Santa Cruz County’s most influential community advocates for helping others make their moments matter ”, states Volunteer Center Communications Coordinator Christine Loewe. “ Anyone who meets Karen immediately recognizes her passion for community development and the local service movement. She is a true visionary and has a gift for motivating others.”

“She is one of those individuals that I am constantly in awe of. I love watching her weave magic with a new staff member or volunteer. It is as though she has some uncanny ability to flip a switch. Individuals walk away from a conversation with her believing they will change the world today with the work they do, whether they are heading out the door to update a database or lead a volunteer training,” continues Loewe.

Under her leadership the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County has grown tenfold from a tiny loaned space downtown into one of the largest and most respected Volunteer Centers in the Nation, with 18 programs, 3 facilities and nearly 10,000 volunteers engaged in volunteer center programming each year.

In the last five years alone, she has guided the organization towards:

• The completion of a new community headquarters in Live Oak through a multimillion-dollar partnership with County Redevelopment and fellow non-profit the Live Oak Family Resource Center.

•National awards for the use of technology and innovation within the volunteer sector.

• More than a million dollars in cost-saving measures for the city and county through her guidance on Volunteer Center programs like Friends Outside, CityServe, and VIP.

Outside of her work with the Volunteer Center, she is recognized as a go-to individual for the local non-profit sector. She has served on numerous local boards and advisory committees and has helped to start four different local non-profits including Save our Shores and the Human Care Alliance.

Her list of accomplishments as a leader for the National Service movement is equally long. In her tenure she has served on California Task Forces and Work Groups for four Governors, has served on Boards with Mitt Romney, Neil Bush, Arianna Huffington and Andrew Card; testified before Congressional Committees; has represented the Volunteer Sector in meetings with political figures like Colin Powell and George H. W. Bush and has served as a US representative for international governments seeking consultation on the development of a non-profit sector.

“Due to her leadership and dedication we have a local home for all things volunteer related. The Volunteer Center serves as the “go-to” place to move ideas for community engagement to action,” states Loewe.

With 30 years under her belt, Karen shows no sign of slowing down on her commitment to serve others.

What keeps her going at 110%? For Karen it is about the creative process of helping individuals discover what they are passionate about.

“Humans are innate problem solvers. I find it eternally fascinating to see the many pathways that individuals take towards resolving issues. I get great satisfaction out of helping to harness this creativity towards meaningful action. With the right tools, training, and awareness about where the needs are, it is amazing what can be accomplished,” states Delaney.

“Driving through our community each day, I am able see the indelible mark that volunteers have left on our public spaces, our beaches, and our way of life. It is a wonderful feeling to know you have been a part of this,” states Delaney.

“I tell people that I have the best job in the world because I am constantly surrounded by people who are kind, smart, generous and who take actions that make a difference for others. The richness of that reality is a steady source of hope and happiness in my life,” states Delaney.

All community members are invited to join the Volunteer Center in celebration of local service champions at the Be the Difference Awards Gala. For more information about the event visit

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