2018 Volunteers of the Year

Each Year we honor a few extra special volunteers for their many years of service to Grey Bears, and for their work and inspiring stories. Our 2018 Volunteers of the Year will be honored at the 45th Annual Grey Bears Holiday Dinner.

Irma and Peter Andrews

The Path to Santa Cruz: Irma grew up in Nova Scotia, leaving in her 20’s for the big city of Montreal. Peter grew up in coastal southwest England, and traveled the world to seek adventure. Fate brought them together in Montreal, but they didn’t stay long. They moved to Southern California, then Nova Scotia, Ontario, Silicon Valley, and eventually Sweden, retiring to Santa Cruz 16 years ago.

Favorite Place: Nova Scotia, where they have a summer home and enjoy the slower pace and peaceful environment.  “But you can’t beat the delightful climate and good food year-round in Santa Cruz.”

Work: Irma taught high school math and physics. Peter was an accountant, usually in engineering companies. “I probably should have been an engineer instead of an accountant.” Peter now volunteers at the Seniors Council in Watsonville, helping folks do their tax returns.

Family: Daughter Emily teaches in Edmonton (Canada), with her husband and 3 children. Son Tim is in Hartford, CT, with his wife and 2 teenagers.

Surprising thing about retirement: “Instead of down-sizing, we’re making more room for when the grandchildren visit.”

Passion: Playing bridge. Their photo is from a recent tournament in Mexico. (editors note: they’re formidable opponents!)

Volunteering for Grey Bears: “A neighbor introduced us to Grey Bears as soon as we moved here.  We’ve been delivering weekly bags to homebound seniors ever since. It’s so satisfying and meaningful when the recipients tell you how much they appreciate it.”

Favorite Grey Bears anecdote: “A few years ago, Grey Bears received computers to give to seniors, along with some training. I told everyone on our route. A woman in her 90s replied “Is that the truth? You’ve made my day! Now I can write my grandchildren!”


Martha Mangan

Martha says her main passion is travel. “I’ve been to nearly 100 countries, and every continent.  Including Antarctica – on a cruise ship that was a converted Russian tanker. At the other end of the world, I was in Alaska on the 4th of July – I kept waiting for the sun to set and it never did!  And I’ll never forget seeing 100 elephants in a parade in Sri Lanka.” Martha also volunteered with the Sister Cities Program for 15 years and visited all six of Santa Cruz’s sister cities.

But Martha has many interests and stories to tell from right at home. She’s proud of her 4 children, 3 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren, and is an accomplished watercolor painter and published author.  A retired teacher and principal in the Santa Cruz public schools, Martha speaks fondly of her 6th Grade classes at Natural Bridges Elementary School. That job provided one of her first connections to Grey Bears.  Always conscious of the environment, she sought a place to recycle paper from school – and found it at Grey Bears.

Martha’s early volunteering efforts included finding a re-use for newspapers – wrapping flowers at local floral shops.  In 1992, she was on the Grey Bears glean team, harvesting fruit from local orchards for our Brown Bag program.  She did her share of “working the line” to fill the Brown Bags as well, then turned to the Thrift Store.  “I’ve been volunteering for Grey Bears Thrift since before it even had a building! We’d sell the donations outside – like a glorified yard sale.  And for 20 years I’ve been the Thursday Girl, cashiering and serving customers for Grey Bears.”

Why? “Grey Bears is such a vital part of the community. It’s been so gratifying to watch it grow over the years – so many people contribute and participate, but I want to spread the word even more. Everyone should know about Grey Bears!  The Brown Bags of food are just the tip of the iceberg.  To be able to recycle and reuse such a variety of things – from books to computers – it’s what our planet needs.  To provide jobs and volunteer opportunities shows how Grey Bears is a real community project. The friends I’ve made at Grey Bears are incredible – it’s like a second family.”


Jean Smith

Originally from Philadelphia, Jean and her husband Frank started their family in upstate New York in the 1950s.  They moved to Arizona so their children could breathe easier, then to Los Gatos, where Jean worked as a librarian. She served 19 years as Willow Glen High School librarian before she and Frank retired in the late 1980s. They built their home in Bonny Doon and have been part of the community there for 30 years.

How’d you hear about Grey Bears?

“While recovering from surgery in 1995, a neighbor brought me a bag of groceries each week – that’s the kind of community we have in Bonny Doon. She told me it was from Grey Bears, and when I asked to learn more, she told me to come with her to volunteer. I’ve been a volunteer and a member (Brown Bag recipient) ever since.”

Jean volunteers at Grey Bears in two ways. Every Tuesday she helps in the Thrift Store, taking donations of linens and pricing them for sale. She and Frank help coordinate drivers for the Thursday brown bag deliveries to Bonny Doon, where more than 50 bags are distributed to community members.  They have done the route themselves one month per year – “seems like our turn is always the rainiest month!”

 Where were you in the 1989 earthquake?

“We were living in Bonny Doon, but Frank was with his elderly mom in upstate New York.  I was driving to a friend’s birthday party in Saratoga – I had just picked up the cake from her favorite bakery. While driving on Hamilton Avenue I could tell something was happening – the truck next to me was shaking and bouncing – I thought there were horses in it that were really jumping around! I soon realized we were in an earthquake. I made it to the party, and expected the cake to be a mess when I opened the box, but it had survived! I spent the night there because it was impossible to get home.”