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March 16, 1998

Night custodian honored as model volunteer

Pat Clark, posing in front of photos of the UCSC custodial staff

By Francine Tyler

As Pat Clark led tours of Evergreen Cemetery for Black History Month in February, he described people buried there--teachers, farmers, and other pioneers--who had each played an important role in the life of the Santa Cruz community.

None of the people he described were world-famous, but that was part of the point: "You don't have to be a Michael Jordan or an Oprah Winfrey to be remembered in your town," said Clark, a night custodian at UCSC. "Everybody can be a hero in their own right."

Clark will be recognized Saturday, March 21, for his own brand of heroism. At a dinner in Pebble Beach, he'll be presented with a local Jefferson Award, recognizing his tremendous commitment to volunteer service.

"Pat does all kinds of incredible volunteer work with many different agencies in town," said Heidi Dunbar, youth programs coordinator at the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County.

"He's had great success at building bridges between different parts of the community with the common goal of bettering things for young people," added Dunbar, who nominated Clark for the award. She estimates he volunteers as many as 1,000 hours each year.

Clark is one of eight volunteers in the Monterey Bay Area to receive the Jefferson Award this year. He will receive a gold medallion and may be selected for national recognition in Washington, D.C.

KSBW, a local sponsor of the award, will broadcast a 30-minute special about Clark and the other winners of the Jefferson Awards on Wednesday, April 1, at 8 p.m..

Much of Clark's volunteer efforts center around programs for children and young adults. Clark, who has three grown children, said he volunteers his time with young people because he knows what a challenge it is to raise them and believes members of the community can provide needed help.

"It comes back to the way I was raised and the way I tried to raise my children," said Clark. "I want to always be a positive role model, and I want to be visible to kids in the community."

Clark cleans the Music Center from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. each workday, and several days each week goes nearly straight from work to his volunteer efforts.

On Tuesday, he's off to Santa Cruz High School to visit with teenagers in the Black Student Union and the Kiwanis Key Club (he's the local Kiwanis committee chair in charge of sponsored youth programs).

Thursday, he takes children from Mission Hill Junior High School to places in the community where they volunteer through the YouthSERVE Program. He also spends time with the students as a mentor.

On the weekends, he leads butterfly tours, tide-pool explorations, and nature walks at Natural Bridges and Wilder Ranch state parks. And he has many other commitments: He is chair of the Louden Nelson Community Center, a board member of the Children's Community Center, a volunteer at the Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, an adult adviser for Youth Coalition Santa Cruz, on the steering committee for "Teen Men's Day" ... and the list goes on.

In what spare time he has, Clark is also president of the local branch of the NAACP. As such, he worked with UCSC organizers to bring civil-rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams to Santa Cruz in January to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation. He also helped create an after-school tutoring program for youth at Garfield Park Christian Church.

Clark has received awards from UCSC for perfect attendance and superior work. In 1996, he and two other members of the Custodial Services staff were among those honored at a University House reception for their volunteer commitments. Clark has worked at UCSC since 1994, when he was hired for a two-week summer job cleaning residence halls and apartments.

"What comes back to us as custodians is 'you're just a custodian,'" Clark said. "It's not fair to us. We're individuals, and many of us are doing fantastic things in the community because when we leave our job each day it's finished. I'm proud to be on the graveyard shift because it allows me not only security in work but also the ability to do other things, too."

Clark credits his father's influence for getting him involved in volunteer work. "My dad passed away this time last year, and I'm sad that I didn't have him to share the award with," Clark said. "He wasn't a perfect dad, but to us as kids and to us as adults he made dreams come true. He didn't let anything stand in his way. He'd tell us 'don't let color stand in your way; don't let anything stand in your way to what your dream is.'"

The Jefferson Awards are given annually by the American Institute for Public Service, which was founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sam Beard, and U.S. Senator Robert Taft. KSBW and the Pebble Beach Company sponsor the awards on the local level.

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