Susan Gulbransen began her volunteer career by licking stamps and counting shoes for a local rummage sale. Now, years later, she has served on many boards, including the Santa Barbara Foundation, CALM (Child Abuse Listening and Mediation), the Montecito Educational Foundation and the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts.
The results of her volunteer work are thoroughly woven into the fabric of the Santa Barbara community. For all of this, she was named the 2004 Woman of the Year.
Gulbransen attributes her long list of volunteer credentials to her parents. Both medical professionals, but living on a modest income, they made use of available resources like the public library, and passed down to their children a keen awareness of the plight of others.
She has dedicated most of her volunteer efforts to helping people and has contributed her talents and considerable energy to many local organizations that focus on basic needs and education. She has also continued the work of her mother, who founded CALM, which is dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect.
When Gulbransen was invited to join the effort to raise millions of dollars to restore The Granada Theatre, she realized she would have to put aside her human services work. She agonized for a long time until a friend counseled that hearts and souls need nourishment as well as bodies. The friend reminded her that the arts help us experience the things that lend a quality of magic and mystery to our lives and link us with something greater than ourselves.
There were plenty of discouraging moments along the way. Naysayers abounded and The Granada fundraising seemed impossibly large. Another friend asked, “Do you have faith this is going to work? If the answer is yes, ignore the others and focus on the work.”
Gulbransen focused, sustained her passion and summoned her grit. The rewards were great. Opening night of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts at The Granada was “on par with meeting my husband and having my two daughters,” she said.
For those thinking about becoming volunteers, Gulbransen advises learning what your strengths are. There are hundreds of different ways volunteers can contribute — from helping make a rummage sale successful to preparing and serving meals to inspiring children. Volunteering can enhance your life, bring new friends and lead you down interesting paths you might otherwise have never taken.
Fortunately for Santa Barbara, Gulbransen continues to volunteer. Currently she is on the board of KDB, Santa Barbara’s only classical radio station. A talented writer, she is also working on projects for the Montecito Journal and the Santa Barbara Independent, and putting the finishing touches on a book.
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Join the Santa Barbara Foundation, Noozhawk and KDB in celebrating those who enrich our lives by donating their time and talent, making a significant and positive impact in the Santa Barbara community, at the 71st Annual Man and Woman of the Year Awards luncheon. The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito.
Click here to purchase tickets online, or call 805.963.1873.
— Suzanne Farwell represents the Santa Barbara Foundation.