Annette Glanckopf has spent decades bringing together neighbors and neighborhoods throughout Palo Alto. As chairperson of the Midtown Residents Association, she was instrumental in restoring Scott Meadows in Greer Park, installing five public art projects in the neighborhood and reviving the Midtown Shopping District by pushing for ground-floor retail. Glanckopf co-founded Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), a networking organization that connects neighbors and neighborhoods. She also co-founded the Emergency Services Volunteer (EVS) organization and the nonprofit support group Pacific Stroke Awareness. She has served on more than 19 boards, including the Rotary Club of Palo Alto, The Woman's Club of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Players, Leadership Palo Alto, as well as on the city's Comprehensive Plan and the Future of Residential Housing task forces. She received a Community Champion Award from the 13th Senate District, and the city of Palo Alto recognized her in a 2017 proclamation.
The Weekly spoke to Glanckopf about her volunteer work and the impact it's had on her life and the community. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity:
PAW: You have a long legacy of volunteering in the community. When did you first start volunteering, and how did that experience snowball into decades of community service?
Glanckopf: It's hard to say exactly when I first volunteered, but it was in the mid-'90s. I was working at El Camino (Hospital) and one of my colleagues said, "Well, I'm running off to Leadership" (a volunteer training program in Sunnyvale). It sounded very interesting, so I contacted the (Palo Alto) Chamber and learned that Palo Alto had the same program. The focus of the leadership program is for volunteers to get to know more about their city and get involved in their community. One of my classmates was on the American Heart Association Board, and he recruited me to be a board member. ... and then somewhere along the way, I got involved in the Midtown Residents Association, which was just forming, and joined Palo Alto Rotary.
PAW: What inspired you to focus on "community building" in your neighborhood?
Glanckopf: In the 1990s, I was elected as chair of the Midtown Residents Association. There were only a handful of neighborhood associations at that time. Although I knew about organization and management, I didn't know much about my local community and how to build a residents association. A friend of mine, Yoriko Kishimoto — she was president of the University South Neighborhood Association — we started talking about shared neighborhood issues, how to get things done and how to organize people. We met monthly and before we knew it, 15 neighborhoods were meeting. These meetings evolved into Palo Alto Neighborhoods.
The Emergency Service Volunteer program ... was another organic kind of thing that happened. In the late '90s, the Midtown Residents Association had occasional meetings that featured personal preparedness. These meetings didn't get as much interest as those on traffic, development or crime.
Then 9/11 happened, Midtown residents wanted to know what to do. That was the catalyst to build a cadre of volunteers to support each other during a disaster. In 2002, Palo Alto Neighborhoods formed an emergency preparedness committee. ... In 2008, the city hired a director of Emergency Services and merged all similar volunteer groups into the Emergency Services Volunteers organization.
PAW: What achievement are you most proud of?
Glanckopf: The one thing that gives me joy almost on a daily basis is my Midtown bears. They are just a special delight to me. If you haven't been to Hoover Park, go and take a look at these gorgeous silver bears — a mama bear and three cubs. Every time I walk by them, I enjoy seeing little kids climbing on them and petting them.
PAW: What advice do you have for others looking to volunteer?
Glanckopf: Well, first of all, I would definitely encourage everyone to volunteer. Volunteering does a lot of things, besides introducing you to some wonderful people, it can give you an incredible sense of accomplishment. Figure out what your passion is ... and then just jump in and volunteer. It's a great venue, if you want to make your community better.
Read more stories on this year's Lifetimes of Achievement honorees: