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Local News

Meet Bill and Sylvia Redding, Goleta’s Man and Woman of the Year

Couple are among 'Goleta's Finest' for their service to the community

If you’ve ever heard the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus, visited Safety Town, or volunteered with the local Lions or Soroptomist clubs, you may already have witnessed the work of Sylvia and Bill Redding, although you may not have known it because the longtime Goleta couple prefer to keep their do-goodery low key.

People have finally caught on, however, and on Thursday night the Reddings will receive a big public thank you and recognition for all their efforts over the years when they’re named the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Man and Woman of the Year at the “Goleta’s Finest” gala at Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave.

“This is a bit of a surprise,” said Sylvia Redding, who has worked for the chamber for years. Her husband said Wednesday that the couple didn’t even have their acceptance speeches together yet.

The chamber will honor the pair for a lifetime of good works, done mostly through service groups and volunteer activities. People will best recognize Bill Redding through his work with the Santa Barbara Host Lions Club, although he has also been on the board of the Cachuma Church Camp and the Santa Barbara Boys’ Club (now the Boys & Girls Club). He was a co-president for the Stardusters Dance Club, treasurer of the Hope School PTA, chairman of the Boy Scouts Eagle Board of Review, secretary of the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus, a founding member of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans’ Museum & Library and El Presidente of Old Spanish Days Fiesta for 1986.

That’s not all. He also has been president of the Santa Barbara/Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee, president of the Santa Barbara County Young Republicans, chairman of the Santa Barbara GOP Central Committee, chairman of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce Congressional Action Committee, and a Second District appointee to the Santa Barbara County Finance Corp.

Sylvia Redding is no slouch, either. Most of her activities centered on the Santa Barbara chapter of the Soroptimist International Club, but she also has worked with the Santa Barbara Host Lions’ Club. She was board president of Friendship Manor, president and founding board member of the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus and co-president of the Stardusters Dance Club.

She also served as volunteer choir director and organist for Goleta Federated Church, and served in several capacities at Trinity Lutheran Church. She’s also a familiar face at the California Lemon Festival in Goleta.

“People like golf, bowling and bridge,” Bill Redding said. “We like volunteering.”

More often than not, the couple can be found volunteering alongside each other. Sylvia Redding credits her community mindedness to growing up in a big family; for her husband, a former Marine sergeant, it’s more out of a desire to make things work.

“First, you hear about something that sounds helpful to other people,” Bill Redding said of their “rules” for getting involved in the community. Then, he said, you see how you can make it even better.

The couple met in a little town outside Syracuse, N.Y., at a basketball game. Bill Redding was there to watch his brother play, and he says his future wife was the prettiest girl in the room. In August 1959, they were married, and by the end of 1961, they were in the Goleta Valley with two young daughters in tow, courtesy of General Electric and the proliferation of the defense industry in Goleta.

“It was amazing,” Sylvia Redding said of her first Christmas out of the snow. “The doors were open, and we were wearing shorts.”

It’s a good thing the Reddings shared a passion for the community, because it wasn’t long before they made themselves an indispensable part of it, often rising to the position of president in their service clubs and spending countless hours in various capacities with other organizations.

“You find something you like to do,” said Bill Redding, adding that those are the things volunteers are likely to stick to and do well with.

As diverse as their interests are, children seem to play a role in the things they like to do. Sylvia Redding beams with happiness when she talks about her work on Safety Town, a child-size interactive learning experience for young children to learn personal safety. Her husband is excited about a plan to head to Franklin Elementary School for a special Flag Day ceremony with the students, many of whom are Hispanic or Latino with foreign-born parents, or who themselves are foreign-born.

“I’d like to give them an idea of what it’s like to be American,” he said, adding that he worries for the disenfranchisement that many minority children may feel. “It’s like they don’t have a stake in the country.”

“I’d like to try to reach the parents as well,” his wife said.

If they’ve been successful in their community involvement, they’ll be the first to insist that not all the credit belongs to them.

“This is such a generous community,” said Sylvia Redding, adding that it seemed a natural choice to step up with the generosity.

“You pay it forward,” Bill Redding said. “You’ll get so much more satisfaction than the person you gave to.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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