by Allen Martin and Jennifer Mistrot
NOVATO (KPIX 5) -- Seven years ago, Alicia Yepez went from being a client in need of services to being hired as an employee at what is now North Marin Community Services.
As the nonprofit's bilingual Administrative Coordinator, Yepez, a single mother of two, says she remembers the tough times her family had when her then husband's business failed.
"My husband lost his job, lost his business. We were facing bankruptcy, our home was foreclosed, and I just had my second child," said Yepez. "We were desperate and looking for help."
LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service
Yepez' boss Cheryl Paddack, CEO of North Marin Community Services, says the nonprofit sees families and community members struggle daily.
"We typically are finding families in crisis," said Paddack. "They can't afford food. They can't afford rent and they can't afford subsidized childcare."
Paddack knew the need for services was great so she searched for a better way to serve the community. After running Novato Young Center for ten years, Paddack oversaw its merger with another nonprofit, Novato Human Needs Center, and in 2018, North Marin Community Services was born.
With an annual budget that's grown to $4.2 million , North Marin Community Services now serves 6,000 people a year, offering programs such as rent assistance, subsidized child care, mental health services and a food pantry.
About 20% of its operating budget comes from government funding, and the rest comes from fees and private donations. Board member Jim Duckworth says Paddack is the driving force behind North Marin Community Services' success.
"Cheryl's vision and her energy and her skills as a leader were responsible for that merger," explained Duckworth. "It wouldn't have happened without her."
Yepez says she could not agree more. As a former recipient of services offered through NMCS, and now the first person families interact with when they come to the nonprofit, Yepez is extremely grateful to Paddack and her staff.
"I was being hugged and comforted and supported all the way around," recalled Yepez of the time she received help.
Now with the merger behind them, Paddack says she sees nothing but a future of successfully helping others in the community.
"I just want to make a difference," said Paddack. "And be the voice of those people who may not feel like they have a voice."
So for more than a decade of helping community members in need in North Marin, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Cheryl Paddack.
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