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For Patricia MacFarlane, Community Service Has Been a Lifelong Passion

Humble Woman of the Year has played instrumental roles for Museum of Natural History, Scholarship Foundation

Patty MacFarlane has always spent time showing her compassion for others. She grew up in Westchester, N.Y., outside New York City, in a family that placed a big emphasis on community service. Her mother took her to an “unending succession” of church functions and bake sales. As a Girl Scout, she made quilts for orphanages and participated in food drives and cleanup operations.

After graduating from college, MacFarlane was hired by a major investment bank. She moved to Santa Barbara with her husband in 1994 and continued working for the bank. This meant working at home for 16 hours a day and traveling to New York once a month. During this time, she felt as if she had no life and did not know anyone.  Eventually, she made friends with her next-door neighbor who introduced her to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and her life began to change. MacFarlane found she could use her high-level banking talents to help local nonprofit organizations become more successful and work with truly generous people.

When MacFarlane became a mother, she assumed she would need to cut back on volunteer activities. She attended an awards banquet at which well-known philanthropist Michael Towbes spoke eloquently about how success comes with responsibilities and that one should always give back. She thought to herself, “If this busy man can volunteer so much, then so can I.”

At the museum, MacFarlane served on and led virtually every major board committee, helped create and develop the museum’s annual fundraising gala, and led and participated in two capital campaigns. She was named board president in 2006.

In 2002, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara asked for help with opening and sorting letters at peak application periods — and MacFarlane volunteered. It was not long before she was invited to serve on board committees. She rose to board president in 2009, and, throughout, her life was touched by students’ abilities to overcome huge personal challenges.

“I was not that together until I was 30,” MacFarlane said.

Her planning helped the Scholarship Foundation mark its 50th anniversary and was instrumental in raising $9.3 million.

MacFarlane has also found the time to benefit the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, Project Healthy Neighbors and her church’s Sunday school. She stresses how much she appreciates that community service permeates everything in Santa Barbara. And, of course, she's passing along her values to her children.

Despite all her successes, MacFarlane has remained a modest and unassuming person. When she heard her name called at the Man & Woman of the Year awards last year, she was completely taken aback. Her first thought was, “Oh dear, now I have to earn it.”

                                                                  •        •        •

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.

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