The Inter-service Club Coordinating Council of Redwood City’s annual Unsung Hero luncheon recognizes volunteers in the community that do great deeds but receive little or no recognition for them. Steve Garland and AJ (Elizabeth) Jackson (husband and wife) are Sequoia YMCA’s 2019 Unsung Heroes. 

Steve and AJ

Good examples of volunteerism in our community are Elizabeth (AJ) Jackson and her husband Steve Garland. AJ and Steve are long time Redwood City residents and Sequoia YMCA members. AJ is a registered maternity nurse at Stanford in the antepartum-postpartum unit. Steve is a retired attorney and patent paralegal. In his retirement he informally advises people on intellectual property questions. 

AJ has volunteered at the Y for years as a campaigner for our annual campaign drives, teaching kids in our Safety Around Water program, and planning special events. AJ convinced Steve to sign up and help with our Safety Around Water program several years ago. Their active and consistent involvement as two of our key volunteers in the pool during SPLASH Safety Around Water has been key to the ongoing success of the program. Sequoia YMCA has offered this free week-long program for kids ages 5-12 to learn water safety during spring break for the last 26 years. Over 300 kids a year participate. This last year, AJ also was one of our key volunteers for our summer learning program’s Safety Around Water at Herkner Pool. Last year Steve branched out and began volunteering as a coach’s assistant for our winter youth basketball league and summer Basketball Skills classes.

Because he has seen the impact that the Y can make in a child’s life, Steve has also been a volunteer team captain for our annual campaign during the last two years. AJ has been one of our top individual fundraisers for his team. While nervous about the responsibilities the first year, he stepped up his game this year and his team was able to surpass their fundraising goal (the most over goal of all our teams – yes he’s very competitive – even in fundraising).

Steve was also one of our first members to try out Pickleball when it was introduced at Sequoia YMCA almost 3 years ago. He has helped grow the volunteer-led activity from a twice-weekly sport with 4 people showing up to play, to a five-day a week activity with a waiting list to get on the courts. He has actively coached both the adults and youth wanting to learn the rules.

In addition to their volunteerism at the Y, AJ and Steve are also part of the local feral cat program where they raised neighborhood homeless kittens and helped get them spayed/neutered and adopted. They have done outreach to educate the public about hydration at local art/wine fairs. 

AJ has mentored women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse and volunteers with Second Harvest Food Bank. Steve’s love of mentoring children can be seen outside the Y where he tutored ESL second graders at John Gill Elementary and Hawes. In addition, he also volunteers for the San Mateo County Historical Society at the Woodside Store and the County Historical Museum downtown as a docent assistant.

Family volunteerism has proven to be a bonding experience that has allowed Steve and AJ to share their passion for giving back with each other. Spending time giving to the community brings them closer together. They are Sequoia YMCA’s Unsung Heroes.