Volunteers are active in all phases of the Center program and have been an integral part of the program since before the Center actually opened. Center volunteers have twice been winners of the JC Penny Golden Rule Awards for exemplary service.
In addition, one of the Center's most outstanding volunteers, Bob McGaw won the Golden Rule Award for individual achievement and became one of the top ten finalists nationwide.
Volunteers were the founders of the Stroke Center. The founding director was a member of the all-volunteer Stroke Advisory Group that was established to do a needs assessment of the community. The Stroke Club that resulted from the Advisory Group’s efforts, and that eventually gave birth to the Center, was a volunteer group. A few of the founders are still alive and continue to support the program in various ways.
Volunteers have been instrumental in creating and maintaining the strong collaboration among the local community college, local governments, and private individuals. Volunteers were instrumental in raising the money and finding the labor to completely renovate a 16,000 square foot abandoned building, turning it into a model educational setting. In 1990, with the guidance of the all-volunteer Auxiliary, they added a new deck to the facility and remodeled the lunchroom. Over the past decade, they added a portico in front of the building to protect students arriving in cars and busses from the rain.
Early in the program’s history, recreational therapist, Dana Gibson assumed the role of Volunteer Coordinator. Under her guidance and support over the past 30 years, volunteers have:
- Led tours
- Helped at the front desk and in the office
- Answered the phone
- Gathered news and published the program newsletter
- Assised students in the halls and bathroom
- Assisted in cooking and art classes
- Repaired broken equipment
- Devised and built adaptive equipment
- Painted walls
- Worked on simple building maintenance problems
- Participated in fundraising
- Testified at public hearings locally and at the state
For as long as their health permitted, most of the members of the Stroke Club and their spouses actively assisted in the day to day activities of the Center. Howard Miguel, whose wife, Alice, was one of the first students at the Center, provided routine maintenance and built special equipment at the Center.
Jim Slater, retired Santa Cruz fire chief, kept the building safe and created close bonds between the Elks and the Kiwanis Clubs and the Center. Upon his death the Kiwanis created a scholarship, which is awarded annually in his nameto a Center employee, or volunteer who is pursuing a career in allied health.
Most notably, for over 20 years, three volunteers, Fran Pedemonte, Audrey Mekis, and Bob McGaw have done the lion's share of daily facility and equipment care, student scheduling, onsite attendance accounting and the archiving of all student records.
Whenever Maintenance and Operations personnel come from the main campus to provide major repairs, they always check with Fran Pedemonte. He is the now the only living person who thoroughly understands and can locate all the idiosyncratic wires and pipes that have gone into the building and remodeling of this pre-World War II facility! He has designed and modified countless pieces of adaptive equipment at the request of instructors.
Audrey Mekis has assumed responsibility for archiving all of the student records. For over 20 years she has brought a smile and a consistent dedication to this important task.
Bob McGaw is a nationally recognized volunteer. In 1992, he was one of 10 national finalists for the Golden Rule Award. He is a remarkable human being in allrespects and is a constant source of inspiration for all who are privileged to know him. Bob contracted polio at age 12. He spent two years in an iron lung and then fought a courageous battle to achieve an education. He was the first physically disabled student to break barriers and obtain a degree in mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and has utilized his life experience in a polio-ravaged body to serve and inspire others living with disabilities. His work at the Center is priceless. Bob McGaw’s story is one of courage, determination and the power of the human spirit.