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GOLD - Lorena Vazquez, Veterans Services

In the years immediately prior to the appointment of Lorena Vazquez as South County Veterans Services Representative, budget constraints and staffing shortages had caused the office to slip into a state of almost non-existence.  As a result, the office was left inoperative, forcing South County clients to travel to Santa Cruz to seek services.  Lorena is credited with single-handedly reestablishing the Veterans Services Office in Watsonville, a feat accomplished during a period when the office was simultaneously being reopened, relocated and remodeled.  The immediate client response to her presence was overwhelming, and the South County clientele now constitutes approximately one-third of the County's veteran population.  This significant growth in active cases is the direct result of the tenacity, outstanding outreach efforts and commitment that Lorena Vazquez demonstrates on behalf of her clients. 



SILVER - Shared by members of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team:

Bonnie Breda Linda Howe Maria Luis Sandy Skezas Catherine Ellis Denise Laxier Steve Fitzgerald Bill Atkinson Gail AldermanFrom Adult Protective Services 

Sandy Skezas

Linda Howe

Catherine Ellis

Marta Hirsch (not pictured)

Gail Alderman

Denise Laxier

Maria Luis

Bonnie Breda  

From the District Attorney's Office 

Dave Genochio (not pictured)

Bill Atkinson

Steve Fitzgerald  

Members of the Adult Protective Services unit and District Attorney's Office are being recognized for their successful work as members of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (or FAST).  The FAST team is a group of county and community agencies working together for the prevention and prosecution of financial abuse against the elderly and disabled.  

Sandy Skezas has provided key leadership and facilitated all coordination with the District Attorney's office and law enforcement agencies.  The work of Gail Alderman, Marta Hirsch, Denise Laxier, Linda Howe and Catherine Ellis was essential in creating a dynamic team committed to the prevention of financial abuse.  Maria Luis has played an instrumental role as the screener responsible for assessing allegations of financial abuse.  They have each demonstrated exceptional investigation skills, ferocity in the face of injustice, and compassionate care for their clients, many of whom have dementia and cannot protect themselves. 

Bonnie Breda provides critically important staff support necessary to ensure that the administrative demands of the FAST team are met in a thorough and timely fashion.   

Assistant District Attorneys Dave Genochio and Bill Atkinson also played a critical role not only in getting the team off the ground and running, but in successfully prosecuting numerous cases.  As an Inspector with the District Attorney's office, Steve Fitzgerald has led the team of inspectors in pursuit of both evidence and suspects, ensuring that attorneys in the DA's office would have the necessary investigative results in order to successfully prosecute cases.      

The exceptional work of each member of the FAST team has sent a clear and direct message that financial abuse of the elderly and dependent will not be tolerated in Santa Cruz County.   As a result of the efforts of the FAST team, over $18 million in lost property and assets has been prevented and/or recovered.


BRONZE - Shared by members of the Electronic Benefits Team Myna Bushman Brenda Lane Renee Brown Rick Allemandi Sue Gilchrist:


From the Human Resources Agency   
Rick Allemandi  
Sue Gilchrist  
John Sprague
(not pictured) 
Renee Brown  

Brenda Lane 

From Information Services 

Myna Bushman

Utilizing the talents of staff in the Human Resources Agency, Information Services Department and Auditor's Office, Santa Cruz County was one of the first counties in California to implement the Electronic Benefits Transfer system.  This system is mandated by federal and state law for the issuance of food stamps to provide clients with electronic access to their benefits.  

While the Electronic Benefits Transfer program was and continues to be a team effort, six key people were involved in several stages of development and implementation.  Key elements included system design and installation, interfaces, office operations, business procedures, user and staff training, coordination with outside vendors and other departments, client service and quality control.  Members of the team did their utmost to mitigate the impact on staff and clients, and their efforts were crucial in making the system run smoothly.  As a result of their leadership, State representatives have stated that Santa Cruz County had the smoothest implementation of all the counties in the state thus far. 



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