Aptos >> Cici Stebbins was incarcerated in the Santa Cruz County Jail in November after she was arrested for a drunken driving warrant.
She lost friends, family and savings as a result. But she got help from Gemma, a nonprofit service geared toward helping incarcerated women.
She told her story Friday to a crowd of about 175 people at the annual United Way luncheon. The Santa Cruz County United Way supports and funds various nonprofit organizations, including the program that helped Stebbins transition from jail to everyday life.
Comprised of local business leaders, city leaders and volunteers, the crowd applauded Stebbins.
"I wanted to thank and be grateful to United Way for its service to us," she said. "I wanted to be here to let them know that there are programs that do require support from the community and they do work."
The luncheon also recognized the organizations involved in the annual fund-raising campaign to support county health and human service programs. More than 30 programs will be supported by the $1 million the campaign aims to raise. Contributions will be collected through June, officials said.
"We know that we can't solve all the issues by ourselves so we rally around and get other community nonprofit organizations and other experts in the field to join us in solving all our community's problems," said Keisha Frost, director of community giving and marketing at United Way.
There were roughly 6,000 people who donated to the campaign so far, said Mary Lou Goeke, executive director for United Way.
"It's important to pause to say thank you and that's what today's all about," Goeke said.
Monica Martinez, outgoing executive director for the Homeless Services Center, was at the luncheon.
"United Way provided a voice of advocacy for many people who would otherwise not have a voice in our community," Martinez said.
The organization has provided a platform for people in the county to give support to a number of programs in the county, said Martinez, who will start her new job as chief executive officer of Encompass Community Services in mid-July.
Steve Moody is a board member for Dientes Community Dental, which provides oral health care to underserved children and adults in the county and region. While Dientes, a larger organization, doesn't rely heavily on support from United Way, Moody said there are smaller nonprofits that depend on the contributions.
"Many nonprofits rely on outside funding, and the funding from organizations such as United Way are vital," Moody said.
United Way campaign
What: United Way of Santa Cruz County annual fund-raising campaign
When: Funds will be collected through June 30
Who: More than 30 county programs will benefit from the campaign