(Contributed photo: Eighth-grader Ryan Convisser, winner of the Outstanding Community Spirit Award, shares a moment with 91-year-old Eola Cross, one of Second Harvest's Hunger Fighters of the Year.)
SANTA CRUZ — On March 7, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County hosted one of the organization’s most popular events of the year.
The celebratory dinner, held at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, aimed to honor citizens whose efforts helped to make last year’s annual Holiday Food and Fund Drive the most successful one yet.
Honorees included businesses, schools and private individuals who raised more than 4.75 million meals, exceeding the goal set by the drive’s two co-chairs, Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, and Martina O’Sullivan.
In addition to the awards recipients (ages ranging from 7 to 91 years old) who participated in last year’s Annual Holiday Food and Fund Drive, the evening celebrated this year’s Hunger Fighters of the Year, Eola Cross, who volunteers with Grey Bears’ Healthy Food for Seniors, and Margaret, Don Jesus, Sal and Nacho Sandoval, a family that has volunteered for Second Harvest for more than 40 years.
When members of the Blue Ribbon Selection Committee, who were tasked with choosing the Hunger Fighters of the Year, were asked why Cross stood out from the other nominees, Brown offered his thoughts.
“It was an easy vote,” Brown said. “Eola’s energy and dedication are just incredible. She gives back to the community every single day, and she is a role model for all of us.”
Members of the Blue Ribbon Selection Committee also included Noel Smith, editor at the Times Publishing Group, Zach Friend of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, the mayors of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Capitola and Scotts Valley, Audries Blake of UCSC’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.
“It’s remarkable how Margaret and Don Jesus’ dedication to community service was instilled in their boys at such a young age,” said Susan True, CEO of the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, and member of the Blue Ribbon Selection Committee. “The Sandovals are such a wonderful example of family strength and love.”