Cricket Rubino created fundraisers to help school music programs and the Senior Center

Photo by Marty Check
Leadership Morgan Hill President Byron Kelley and Leadership Excellence Award winner Cricket Rubino at February 2020 revealing party.

By Kaylee Arca

People who know Cricket Rubino might consider her Morgan Hill’s Queen of Bingo. She will be honored for her years of selfless dedication in organizing weekly bingo games to raise money that helped save Morgan Hill Unified School District’s music and the Community Senior Center programs.

For her selfless volunteer work, Leadership Morgan Hill will present the 74-year-old woman with its prestigious 2020 Leadership Excellence Award at a Sept. 18 gala at Guglielmo Winery. Her husband, Mike, received the honor in 2005.

Rubino moved from Sacramento to Morgan Hill with her then boyfriend, Mike, in the late ‘60s. In the summer of 1970, the two started and directed the Emerald Regime Marching Band and Color Guard at Live Oak High School. Rubino instructed the color guard while Mike directed the band. What started as a music partnership eventually turned into a marriage.

The school district devastatingly cut funding to the music program in the mid-1980s.

“There had to be a way to keep the music program in the schools,” Rubino said. “The only way to do that was to come up with some sort of a fundraiser.”

That’s why the couple created the Emerald Regime Bingo. The weekly games were popular and raised enough money to continue the music program, eventually also including Ann Sobrato High School, Britton Middle School, and Martin Murphy Middle School’s music programs. Despite the year-long break in the games due to COVID-19, they recently restarted and continue to provide the funding necessary to keep students involved in learning music. The couple retired from the band in 1998 after 26 seasons of winning prestigious awards and receiving national recognition.

Rubino joined the Morgan Hill Leadership class of 1999.

“Leadership is this amazing program in town that people can go through to find out what is going on with education, public safety, economic development, all of those things and more,” she said. “Everything’s covered.”

Each class grows to understand the community during the nine-month program and completes one community project that enhances Morgan Hill.

“I was totally blown away, I loved it,” she said. “I got so much insight into what was happening in the community, I just couldn’t let it go.”

Rubino joined the LMH administration for 13 years where she helped every class member go through the program and develop their leadership skills to help enhance the quality of life in Morgan Hill.

“It’s really important to live and work in a community that you understand,” she said.

Rubino has served as president of the Senior Center Board of Directors as well as the president on the YMCA board. The Senior Center, located at the Centennial Recreation Center, is part of the YMCA. In 2008 reduced revenue to the city caused by the Great Recession threatened to end programs for seniors such as the daily lunches. Rubino used her connections to create Senior Center Bingo to prevent the loss of its popular programs.

“The seniors actually held a little protest at the Senior Center when the city had to cut the budget,” she said.

Rubino had the perfect idea to continue the programs that helped senior citizens enjoy their lives by spending time at the center socializing with friends. Bingo!

“I knew how to do it and I knew it would work,” she said, recalling her previous experience with fundraising for music programs.

The games held at the Morgan Hill Community Center have been a success, bringing people from throughout the region to play for a chance to win prizes. The Senior Center Bingo has raised $295,000 in the past five years.

Rubino continued to advocate for education and local senior citizens while serving as president of the LMH board from 2016 to 2018. She left to join the nonprofit’s team of recruiters with her friend and colleague, Cinda Meister.

“Cricket is such a natural leader, she has such a kind and giving style,” Meister said. “She sees a need, like the seniors, and takes care of it. She brings people along with her. People are happy to work with her and help her.”

Rubino was chosen for the LEAD award by recipients from previous years.

“Names are suggested and everyone votes, but she was a shoo-in,” Meister said. “It was her time because she had just left the board and it was time to recognize her many years of service.”

Meister and other Leadership volunteers are organizing the Broadway-themed celebration. Rubino is a Broadway fan and often tried to incorporate music from the stage into the Emerald Regime field shows she helped produce.

Rubino loves volunteering and plans to continue giving back to the community for many more years.

“I’ll just keep volunteering, keeping my seniors in mind all of the time,” she said. “Just keep moving and growing.”

Rubino encourages local men and women to go through the Leadership Morgan Hill program and hopes everyone will be inspired to give their time and talent helping make the community better.

“Enjoy it, live it while you’re doing it,” she said. “It’s so inspiring to be so connected with your community — and that’s what we need.”

Kaylee Arca, a 2017 graduate of Sobrato High School, recently graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies.

Freelance Author