SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

Former Secretary of Defense and Central Coast native Leon Panetta is being named "Humanitarian of the Year" by the American Red Cross -Santa Cruz County chapter.

Panetta, co-founder of the Panetta Institute, will be given the award at the annual Celebrate the Red Gala on Sept. 27 at the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Panetta is being recognized largely for  his determination to help the community  in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Panetta has been a champion of the Monterey Bay Region from his early years, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Loma Prieta earthquake and its aftermath.  He was instrumental in obtaining federal disaster funding to help communities begin the recovery process.

Additionally, Panetta wrote the legislation that designated the Monterey Bay as a marine sanctuary.

He also served as Chief of Staff for The White House from 1994 to 1996, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011, and Secretary of Defense in the Cabinet of President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013.