Second Harvest hosted its Annual Awards Ceremony on Wednesday March 2nd at the Elks Lodge in Santa Cruz. Transformed for the evening with silver and black accents, candlelight and music, the venue looked truly elegant and set the perfect mood for this special evening.
It always seems like everyone knows everyone in Santa Cruz and it certainly appeared that way as the honorees and guests entered by way of a red carpet and mingled with neighbors, friends and business associates during the cocktail hour. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of new faces as well—and some young faces too—with plenty of local students on hand to represent the fund raising efforts of their schools through Grind Out Hunger.
Jeremy Lezin, Board Chair, Second Harvest Food Bank, provided opening remarks. Referring to Second Harvest as “the little engine that could,” he pointed out that raising over 2.2 million pounds of food during the 2010 Holiday Food Drive was quite an achievement, given the size of the county and current economic conditions.
Chief Development and Technology Officer, Danny Keith, presented Special Awards to several of the individuals, schools and organizations that came up with great ideas, worked really hard to bring those ideas to fruition, and met or surpassed their goals. Honorees stood for a round of well-deserved applause. Danny also recognized the Grind Out Hunger winners and talked about the amazing youth of Santa Cruz County and what they are able to do when then put their hearts into it.
Then it was time for Second Harvest CEO, Willy Elliott-McCrea, to greet the crowd. He talked about what a great feeling it is to see different parts of the community coming together with compassion to help thousands of families living on the brink. Willy introduced the 2010 Holiday Food Drive Co-Chairs, Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty and Annie Morhauser, owner of AnnieGlass, who both expressed great appreciation for the way our community always comes through to help their neighbors in need.
Ryan Coonerty will continue to serve as Co-Chair in 2011 along with Pastor Rene Schlaepfer of Twin Lakes Church in Aptos. Pastor Schlaepfer related his personal story of being raised by a single mom after the death of his father. He discussed the insecurity a child feels when there is nothing to eat and how the generosity of neighbors can change that feeling of insecurity to a feeling of security. We feel very fortunate to have Rene, with his infectious enthusiasm and drive, on board for the 2011 Holiday Food Drive.
Willy took the stage again to acknowledge all of the Holiday Food Drive Can Award winners and presented special awards to the heavy hitters, each of whom came up to accept their awards and talk briefly about how they met the aggressive goals they had set for themselves. An atmosphere of good-natured competition filled the air as Plantronics took the Heavyweight Award for the most pounds overall, which had previously been won by Twin Lakes Church. A little competitive spirit can be a good thing when it motivates people to go beyond what they think they might be able to do.
Perhaps the most heartfelt moment was when the 2011 Hunger Fighters of Year, Jolly Bilstad and Midge Morrison of the United Presbyterian Church in Watsonville, accepted their awards and proclamations. “It’s humbling to receive this honor,” said Jolly. “ We firmly believe no one should be hungry and that’s why all of us do what we do.” Find out more about the 2011 Hunger Fighters of the Year.
Every pound raised during the Holiday Food Drive is being distributed by Second Harvest’s network of 200 local agencies and programs and their 3,000 volunteers. Together these agencies provide food and hope to 50,000 Santa Cruz County residents each month, half of whom are kids. A short video highlighting several of the agencies and the work that they do was shown at the dinner. Watch the Video
View a list of Second Harvest Member Agencies
View a complete list of all Award Winners
Special thanks to all of our Sponsors
Be sure to check back next week for a slideshow of the event!