SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — As the demand on public services continues to rise, community centers are providing more and more to the residents they serve.

West Marin resident and Jefferson Award winner Dave Cort decided decades ago he could help others by helping his local community center succeed.

For the last three decades he’s been the Executive Director of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, which is now in its 50th year. When Cort took over the Center in 1991, it had one staff member and an annual budget of about $35,000. It’s now grown to 20 staffers and operates on $1.3 million annually.

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The Center’s Director of Human Services and Youth Programs Nicole Ramirez says Cort’s generous spirit is an encouragement to staff and others.

“The core of him is to really give back and help,” said Ramirez. “And I think he is in the perfect setting here.”

The Center offers a multitude of programs, some free and others low cost. Community members can access afterschool care, fitness classes, a food bank and weekly senior lunches. Other programs include art exhibits, concerts and even a book club. Cort is proud of the age range the center is able to serve and the variety of programs it brings to the community.

“Every day I love coming to work,” explained Cort. “I love working with our staff and being able to deliver these programs.”

Volunteers like Pat McGraw say Cort is the heart of the organization.

“He just provides a quiet, steady leadership quality that I really appreciate,” explained Cort. “He is always there listening and he never judges anyone.”

Cort honed his people skills early in his career, first working in the juvenile justice system, then early childhood education before seeing an ad for the Center’s Executive Director position. His wife encouraged him to apply.

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“The main three skills you had to have is be good with people, own a truck and be able to lift over 100 pounds,” recalled Cort with a smile.

Cort took the job and stayed in West Marin to raise his family. All the while intertwining himself with the community and the center, which now serves 15,000 people every year.

“I always felt that there was this huge magnet that was just pulling my wife and I into this community,” said Cort. “And I have talked to hundreds of other people who have lived here and they all have the same sense.”

So for serving the community of West Marin through the San Geronimo Valley Community Center’s free and low cost programs, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dave Cort.

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