Every year, the Santa Barbara Foundation recognizes two volunteers, a woman and a man, who have made significant and positive impacts on the community.
These volunteers are honored at an annual gala and, if the secret is kept, have no idea they have been selected to receive the honor of being named Man or Woman of the Year.
The two people being honored represent a great number of unsung volunteers who unselfishly give of their time and talents. Every day, no matter where you are in Santa Barbara you are likely to cross paths with a volunteer. The museum docent, the hospital greeter, and those who plant trees, clean up beaches or deliver meals to homebound seniors are volunteers who look outside themselves to the broader needs of the community.
Have you ever considered what our community would be like if these people stayed home? What would we have missed if former Men and Women of the Year had not relished civic activism, fought for Santa Barbara’s unique environment, or had the courage to provide for those less fortunate?
Imagine Pearl Chase (1956) not championing Santa Barbara’s renowned architectural guidelines. What if Richard Polsky (1952) had not founded the Downtown Tree Project? What would have happened to the Wilcox Property (the Douglas Family Preserve) had Jean Schuyler (1997) shrugged her shoulders?
Think of Santa Barbara without a Blood Bank. Deborah Pelissero (1966) might have considered it a project too big to tackle. How unattractive might the Juvenile Halls be without the fight for standards led by Ada Schick Wing (1973)? Imagine Santa Barbara City College’s history without the $3.5 million bond campaign led by Selmer Wake (1975)?
Would our harbor have fared so well had it not been for the Master Plan created by Judge John Rickard (1969)? Would the less fortunate be able to provide gifts and food for their families without the efforts of Barbara Tellefson (1988) who persuaded a group of nonprofits to form the Council of Christmas Cheer?
Imagine our lives without forward thinkers like Wally Drew (1986), who played a leading role in the establishment of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation or Alice Rypins (1985), who fought for having women and minorities appointed to City Commissions. The future of Lotusland may have been less bright without the efforts of Robert J. Emmons (2009) and the availability of hospice care might have suffered without the work of Jane Habermann (2009).
Some of these amazing volunteers were nationally recognized and others called by presidents to serve the country. Dr. Hilmar Koefod (1966), one of the founders of Sansum Clinic, was acknowledged as one of the country’s foremost cardiac specialists. Selmer Wake (1975) was invited by President Gerald Ford to represent California on a national Conference on Aging. Shirley Ann Hurley (1990) was honored with a Thousand Point of Light Award by President H.W. Bush.
As we prepare to honor this year’s Man and Woman of the Year, we appreciate the incredible legacy created by those who went before, and let us give thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who continue to have a positive impact on the community every day.
It you would like to join the Santa Barbara Foundation on Thursday to honor this year’s award recipients, please call 805.963.1873.
— Suzanne Farwell is a former director of communications for the Santa Barbara Foundation.