Court Appointed Special Advocates annually honors an outstanding organization, educator and individual in Santa Cruz County whose special efforts help support children in the county’s foster care system.
In anticipation of the awards, Patch interviewed the three winners. This is the first of three Q&As where the honorees—in their own words—explain their motivation to serve.
Cyclists for Cultural Exchange, best known for organizing the annual Strawberry Fields Ride in South County, is the CASA organization of the year.
Patch asked Patrick Kretsch of Cyclists for Cultural Exchange to talk about how his group got involved with CASA, meaningful experiences with the organization and what has surprised him about the work. Kretsch was also asked what other local causes CCE champions and for some advice on how the average person can improve the lives of foster kids. This is what he had to say.
Cyclist for Cultural Exchange became acquainted with CASA through my recommendation and experience as a court social worker. I worked for CPS in both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Because of federal, state and court mandates I was often unable to give enough time to the children and their families. As a result, one of the first things I did when assigned a new family was to call CASA.
My experience with CASA was always positive. CASA volunteers are dedicated to the children and willing to spend much needed time and support for them. They would inform me of the challenges and progress the children were making. If the children needed more support than I was giving them the CASA volunteers were always eager to keep me up-to-date. I have deep respect for the CASA volunteers and consider them an essential part of the foster children's support system. I believe foster children experience greater success today and are better able to contribute to the community because of CASA volunteers.
I am an avid bicyclist and have many fond memories of riding a bike as a youngster. I always wanted to provide bicycles for foster kids. However, Child Protective Services lacked sufficient funding. About six years ago, as a board member of CCE, I brought up the idea of buying bicycles for foster kids. Thanks to the all the CCE volunteer board members and workers of CCE this has been a successful ongoing project. We have, over the past four years, provided CASA with sufficient funds to purchase over 50 bicycles for foster kids.
For the past three years Aptos Bikes has negotiated with the bike manufacturer for a reduction in price and assembled the bikes. This past year they provided helmets and locks as well.
Ordinary citizens can purchase their bicycle needs at bike stores, like Aptos Bikes, that provide services to foster kids. They could also attend fundraisers put on by CASA.
for their dedication to helping foster children at an event Monday evening in Watsonville.
Editor's Note: Who are the movers and shakers making a difference in Watsonville? Those who lead by example, change things around and make us better by challenging the status quo and having integrity? This is one installment in our .