Generosity in Action

Giving Back to the Place You Love

Gayle Ortiz’s whole life reads like a love letter to Capitola. It started when her parents would pile the kids in the car and drive over from San Jose. Capitola was always the destination either for the day, or when her family could afford it, a week in a rented cottage. She remembers playing so hard on the beach on long summer days that she’d fall asleep with sand still all over her. And the smell. For Gayle it’s a unique Capitola smell—the combination of ocean, seaweed, and frying potatoes. Today, when she’s at her home in Capitola or walking into Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria which she’s owned with her husband Joe and partner Louisa Beers since 1978, she still catches a whiff, and it brings her right back. “Capitola is my home. It’s just my home. I tell people the only other place I’d live is Mayberry.” (Mayberry was the idyllic setting of the Andy Griffith Show.)

(Header photo: Gayle Ortiz on the beach in Capitola circa 1955.)

Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria is a Capitola institution. Gayle and her husband Joe in the early days of the shop circa 1978.

The Bakery & Beyond

Gayle dove into giving back to the place she loves while still baking daily. She admits she didn’t have a lot of time, but she served on the board for the Capitola Historical Museum and then went onto the Planning Commission. Eventually, she served on the Capitola Library board while on the Capitola City Council where she also did a term as mayor. That’s when she got hooked on libraries.

Growing up, Gayle wasn’t a big library goer, but she did start frequenting her local library as a teenager though it wasn’t to hit the books. Instead, she got lost in the stacks…with her boyfriend. Gayle confesses, “If I said I was going to the library, my mother thought it was because I was studying!”

Gayle’s vision of libraries quickly expanded well beyond clandestine trysts. She saw people’s love of their local library and was a quick convert. “I got it—the good that libraries do and how essential they are to our nation. I mean, I was hooked. Hook, line, and sinker!”

Gayle Ortiz, Susan True & Toni Campbell celebrate the opening of the Capitola Public Library in 2021.

A Library Dream Come True

Gayle was so hooked on libraries that in October of 2017 she joined forces with Toni Campbell, president of the Friends of the Capitola Library, to start the Capitola Library Capital Campaign Fund at the Community Foundation to support the upcoming renovation. The massive undertaking, the largest capital project the City of Capitola had ever undertaken, was made possible thanks to funding from the 2016 Measure S—the $67 million bond addressing the most urgent needs of our county’s aging library system.

Gayle and Toni knew that with soaring construction costs and the community’s vision for building a space that Capitola would treasure for generations, they would need to raise money on top of what Measure S funding could provide. She says, “We took the project into our hands because there were no other hands!” They felt that the Community Foundation was the perfect partner for the campaign. “Housing the fund at the Foundation gave us the credibility we needed because it’s such a trusted institution and it made it easy for donors to give with confidence.”

By May of 2020, Gayle and Toni closed the fund after hundreds of community members donated nearly $570,000 for the project. Just over a year later, the new 11,700-foot library opened with an expanded children’s wing and dedicated teen area, a large community meeting space, and new study and reading rooms.

In a letter to the Foundation Toni and Gayle wrote, “Your willingness to find new ways to make this type of partnership work are part of the reason the Foundation is so beloved and successful in this community. We both feel that our partnership with the Foundation has been truly instrumental in its success.”

Gayle at her home along the banks of Soquel creek in Capitola.

Year-End Giving in July

Gayle still goes into the bakery daily, but she’s no longer involved with the day-to-day operations. And she does go to the Capitola Library to pick up books or meet with the librarian about different community projects. But most likely, you’ll find her at home on the banks of Soquel Creek where she’s generally in her sewing studio working on her one-of-a-kind designs and handcrafted garments.

Gayle is still deeply involved with the community, including giving back charitably through her retirement account's required annual withdrawal (also known as a Required Minimum Distribution). “We’re fortunate to not need the money from our IRA’s, so it seems fitting to take the earnings from our life’s work and give it back to the community. And it’s perfect that 100% of the money can go to charity because the contribution is tax-free.”

Like most everyone else, Gayle used to do her charitable giving towards the end of the year. She says, “It was such a crunch for me, my financial advisor, and the financial institutions we worked with. Giving began to feel really stressful.”

Gayle’s financial advisor suggested that she schedule the giving for the middle of the year. “It’s changed everything. Doing it in the middle of summer is the best! It gives me the time to be thoughtful about my decisions.”

One of the organizations that Gayle gives to annually through her Required Minimum Distribution is the Community Foundation itself—specifically the Friends of the Foundation Fund which helps support the work to help nonprofits effectively achieve their missions and support community members in their personal giving. Gayle says, “There is no one else in Santa Cruz County that does what the Foundation does, which is caring for our community today while ensuring we can care for it in the future. And the trust the Foundation has built over 40 years makes me feel very confident with how they run their business.”

A Sweet Spot in the Community's Heart

We’re so grateful Gayle Ortiz lost her heart to Capitola so many years ago. Her dedication to the community she loves shows just how much impact one person can have.

At the Capitola Library opening, Susan True, CEO of the Community Foundation said to Gayle that she wasn’t sure what the community would be like without her. Without missing a beat, Gayle replied, “Thinner!”

While that may be true, Gayle Ortiz has made our lives infinitely sweeter, and her impact will last for generations to come.

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