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Good Morning and Happy New Year! For the first day of 2021, you can expect some intermittent clouds and a high of 59.

Today’s newsletter is going to be a little different. After one of the toughest years in recent memory, we want to focus on the hope of healing that 2021 brings. And, of course, we still have the latest headlines on our website, including a story about a mountain lion who was rescued from a downtown Santa Cruz apartment complex yesterday.

If you’ve read my newsletter before, you’ve seen us feature new profiles in our 21 for ’21 series. At the midway point, our Wallace Baine talked recovery with four of those people: Ruby Vasquez, Bonnie Lipscomb, Bella Bonner and County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty. If you missed it, watch the whole thing here.

Today, we want to make sure you’ve met them all. Here are our 21 community-builders who will shape and inspire Santa Cruz County in 2021:

Top row, from the left: Bonnie Lipscomb, Ruby Vasquez. Bottom row, from the left: Ryan Coonerty, Bella Bonner
Top row, from the left: Bonnie Lipscomb, Ruby Vasquez. Bottom row, from the left: Ryan Coonerty, Bella Bonner Credit: Images by Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz. Image of Coonerty from public Facebook profile

1) Maria Elena De La Garza: As the executive director of the Watsonville-based Community Action Board of Santa Cruz, De La Garza faces daunting challenges in normal times. But 2020 was definitely not normal.

2) Sibley Simon: As president of a nonprofit housing development company, Simon is building 120 units of permanent supportive housing on the Housing Matters campus in Santa Cruz. It’s yet another step in his mission to achieve ‘functional zero’ on homelessness.

3) Toby Corey: The former Silicon Valley entrepreneur/executive is adamant that consumer behavior has changed and will never go back to what it once was pre-COVID-19. His mission is to help them adapt.

4) Marm Kilpatrick: The UC Santa Cruz professor and infectious disease expert is searching for a clearer understanding of COVID-19 — in his lab, and on Twitter.

5) Ann Morhauser: She oversees Annieglass, a small luxury manufacturing business with a national market and a local tourist destination at its Watsonville site. The former is surviving. The latter is on hold until the pandemic passes.

6) Bella Bonner: A young activist came out of nowhere in 2020 to spur dramatic gatherings of diversity discussion and police reform. But her voice really was developing long before George Floyd’s death.

7) Ruby Vasquez: The educator and her friends regularly visit the agricultural workers of the Pajaro Valley with a message of gratitude and information on how to stay safe. Those community connections will continue to be essential in the new year, she says.

8) Bonnie Lipscomb: She and her team at the City of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development office set aside business-as-usual and create new models to help businesses survive 2020.

9) Creedence Shaw: Santa Cruz County Bank’s Creedence helped lead a team to keep the local economy from cratering. Then he donned search-and-rescue gear to help hundreds out of harm’s way during last summer’s fires.

10) Rabbi Paula Marcus: As senior rabbi at Temple Beth El and one of Santa Cruz County’s most high-profile religious leaders, she’s had to learn a few lessons in adaptability and vulnerability amid the pandemic.

11) Phil Kramer: The executive director of Housing Matters wants to take the compassion and love Santa Cruz County used to get through 2020 and keep it flowing to help the homeless next year.

12) Hallie Green: When the Boulder Creek native lost her own house to the CZU Lightning fire, she sprung into action to assist others who were perplexed about, and left vulnerable amid the recovery process.

13) Jason Borgen: When the pandemic changed the way schools operate, the chief technology officer at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and his colleagues had to make sure students had the tools they needed to learn from home and teachers were trained on how to navigate distance learning and online classroom settings.

14) Juan Morales-Rocha: His advocacy is credited with helping to kick-start a countywide partnership working to bridge the stubborn “last mile” of Santa Cruz County’s digital divide and extend reliable internet to thousands of families.

15) Jacob Martinez: If you build a solid nest at home, it’s a pretty good jumping-off point for building community nests far and wide. At least that’s how it’s played out for the innovator behind DigitalNEST, the organization seeking to establish Silicon Valley equity for underserved Latinx communities across the Bay Area.

16) Leslie Conner: The CEO of Santa Cruz Community Health Centers can’t wait to break ground on a new 20,000-sq. ft. clinic in Santa Cruz County that will be connected to housing and other services. It will be her 10-year anniversary at the nonprofit.

17) Cat Willis: As the founder and executive director of the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center, she’s leading the way in the center’s evolution from a dance studio to a community stronghold.

18) Jennifer Beusing: In a turbulent year for schools everywhere, this Santa Cruz native and the director of school safety for the County Office of Education has tried to “create order out of chaos” and helped guide schools through the pandemic.

19) Ryan Coonerty: The Third District County Supervisor was already having a difficult year before the August fires tested his skills at communications, logistics, and emergency management. A key question for 2021: ‘How are we going to help each other?’

20) Kathleen Crocetti: The artist and teacher is using an imposing downtown parking structure in Watsonville to reflect the character and the heritage of the city.

21) Community Foundation Santa Cruz County: Susan True and her team at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County were the crucial link between Santa Cruz County’s donors who wanted to help and the many who needed that help.

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying this newsletter, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters we offer. Also, even though Christmas Day has come and gone, it’s never too late to gift a Lookout membership or become a member.

Thank you for reading, have a great weekend and Happy New Year!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

Follow Tulsi Kamath on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. Tulsi Kamath was the originator of Lookout Santa Cruz’s flagship Morning Lookout newsletter and its original Managing Editor.