Steve Lyons and Carol Palladini were honored at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore on Tuesday afternoon as Santa Barbara’s Man & Woman of the Year just as the first man, Harold Chase, and woman, Pearl Chase, were given the awards 72 and 14 years ago, respectively.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Civic and community leaders gathered at the 72nd annual awards ceremony for a reception and luncheon at the Coral Casino in recognition of the pair’s long-standing commitment to community service and voluntary leadership.

“The recipients of this award have been really good at identifying — at first — small groups of thoughtful committed citizens, and then building out from there concentric networks of people through inspiration, hard work, more-than-a-little cajoling,” Gallo said. “And, perhaps most important of all, a transparent and compelling personal dedication to a cause, an opportunity, a problem or an organization.”

The event, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation and Noozhawk with support from Montecito Bank & Trust, held a rapt audience as the foundation announced the closely guarded secret of the 2013 honorees selected from a pool of more than 60 nominees.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled. When you put in a lot of years of work and then get this kind of a thank you, there’s nothing better,” Palladini said. “It was all worth it. The time put in, the worrying — there were a lot of up times also. And it’s always worth it to help other people.

“It’s kind, it’s kind of the community, and it’s kind of the people who voted for me. As everybody always says it’s truly that. I’m one of the people — there are so many people who deserve this, probably half the people in the room deserve it equally.”

Man Woman of Year

From left, 1994 Man of the Year Michael Towbes with wife and 2012 Woman of the Year Anne Smith Towbes, Santa Barbara Foundation CEO/President Ron Gallo and Rep. Lois Capps. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Lyons has worked with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) for the last 34 years, serving as an officer, board member, donor, investment advisor and fundraiser, also receiving in 2012 the Claire Miles Award with his wife, Cindy, for their long-standing dedication to the organization.

He has also contributed to the Anti-Defamation League, where he also received an award in 2013 for community service. Another nonprofit that has benefited from his time and knowledge is the Family Service Agency, where he served as a board member from 1998-2004.

These organizations, among others to which he has dedicated time, form a focus around children — his main inspiration for his service. 

“Anything to do with children,” Lyons said. “So CALM, child abuse. Family Service Agency helps kids. The rehabilitation hospital helps kids learn how to walk again if that’s a problem. ADL with bigotry and bullying. Anything to do with kids.”

Lyons also personally donated more than $1 million toward the Cottage Hospital’s Rehabilitation Institute, where he co-chaired campaign funding and dedicated a lobby to his daughter, Amanda, who was a patient 10 years ago at the institute.

Women working to make a larger impact in the community through charitable donations were the impetus for Palladini to form the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara in 2004 with a small group of friends. The organization, now in its 10th year, awarded grants totaling $4.7 million to 64 local nonprofit programs, and membership has grown to more than 600 women.

Palladini has also shared her talents and efforts with Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Tres Condados Girl Scout Council, where she won the Woman of the Distinction Award in 2009.

It is her work with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that provides some of her fondest memories of the value of the efforts helping others.

“To me personally, one of the most important things I’ve ever done is the CASA advocate for foster children,” Palladini told Noozhawk. “Kids who were in foster care that are having a rough time, to be able to go take them out and do something fun, to talk to them about what they’re worried about — it will always be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

Lyons and Palladini join a select group of Santa Barbara’s community volunteerism leaders who have been recognized as Man & Woman of the Year since the program was established in 1942. Previous honorees include last year’s 2012 winners, Bill Cirone and Anne Smith Towbes, in addition to Ken Saxon and Patricia MacFarlane in 2011, Larry Crandell, Bob Emmons, Palmer Jackson Jr., Penny Jenkins, Gerd Jordano, Eli Luria, Peter MacDougall, Joanne Rapp, Maryann Schall and Cliff Sponsel.

The spirit of the event was in evidence throughout the beautiful fall afternoon and served as a reminder of a special community that works to make change, overcome challenges and find solutions together.

“We have been so lucky here in Santa Barbara to have had such a deep pool of people who have these qualities, and that is why we have — together — built such a wonderful set of communities,” Gallo said.

He stressed, however, that ongoing efforts are important to maintain the level of support for local needs.

“The continual identification and nurturing of volunteerism and community leadership is something that needs to be a personal responsibility of each of us,” Gallo said. “Because the challenges before us, and how Santa Barbara will meet those challenges, will largely depend on this continual revitalization of citizen leadership.”

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.