APTOS – At the same time a few Search and Rescue volunteers plunged down an Aptos trestle during a swift-water rescue training session, members of the group said they were inspired by a donation of more than $5,000.
Thursday night, Sereno Group Real Estate donated about $5,100 to the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team as part of the an effort by the business to give back to volunteer groups and environmental causes.
The Search and Rescue team’s roughly 30 volunteers often help find missing people in wilderness searches. They are on call 24 hours and have been something of an unheralded group, said Sereno co-founder Chris Trapani.
The funding will help the team resurrect a swift-water rescue specialty group and pay for life jackets and other equipment.
"We were looking for truly volunteer groups where we know the dollars are going to the cause," Trapani said. "And we’re trying to do our part to educate people about these causes."
The real estate group’s Santa Cruz office pledged to donate 1 percent of its gross commission income to worthy groups – an idea that Trapani said was borrowed from Patagonia Inc. founder Yvon Chouinard. Trapani met Chouinard this year and hoped that other businesses in Santa Cruz would consider similar donations.
The first three months of Sereno’s program is expected to net about $6,000 for the team. Each quarter, Sereno plans to donate to different group.
In the fading light Thursday evening, Search and Rescue volunteers used ropes to simulate a swift-water rescue below the trestle near Soquel Drive and Aptos Village Park.
If the river was swollen with rain and someone needed to be saved, Search and Rescue coordinator Chris Melville said rescuers could use the rope system to plunge down about 120 feet and pluck the victim out of the water.
In some situations, it’s safer to lift a victim from the top of a bridge than try to rescue them from the riverbanks, Melville said.
"When someone’s in a swift-water rescue situation, you want to be safe and fast," he said.
In addition to wilderness searches, the group also works with K-9, motorcycle and horse units. Some members also specialize in tracking and medical skills.
The volunteers work with about six to 12 deputies and pay for their own training. They meet monthly.
Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Jeff Marsh said he appreciated the donation and the attention for Search and Rescue volunteers.
"Checks like this are huge," Marsh said. "It’s so nice when they get recognized