It felt like pre-COVID times with 340 (vaccinated) guests packed into the Ritz-Carlton Bacara ballroom eager to gather after more than two years to celebrate the 2021 Goleta’s Finest award winners.
Hosted by the newly merged Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, the 71-year-old ceremony, which honors remarkable individuals and organizations whose contributions enrich the Goleta community, was enthusiastically back Saturday night after a long pandemic pause.
“The chamber is thrilled to celebrate how special this community is, and how we have worked together during extraordinary times,” said Kirsten McLaughlin, board chair of the chamber, who served as emcee. “This evening we honor those who stand out in our hearts and minds as people and organizations who consistently give the extra effort, go the extra mile, and do more than their part to raise our community.”
“We have come back after disasters before, and dare I say we are getting good at it,” said Kristen Miller, president & CEO of the chamber.
“We have learned to look for the helpers, and tonight here they are. The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll in many ways, but tonight we honor those who worked through it, around it, in spite of it, and maybe even because of it, making Goleta a better community despite the toughest of times.”
“After all that has happened, changed, and passed over the past year and a half, we keep coming back. Back to the heart of this community, back to our history and traditions, back together to mark the moment, embrace the now and show our love for community, each other and the very special ones among us.”
The 2021 Goleta’s Finest Winners were introduced by sponsor supporters, and accepted their awards with brief remarks, as follows:
Woman of the Year – Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons
Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons has been front and center relaying critical information about COVID-19 to our community.
An infectious disease physician and faculty member with the internal medicine residency program at Cottage Hospital, Fitzgibbons transitioned to her administrative role in 2020, as a member of the COVID Incident Command Center.
She worked closely with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department to connect local hospitals with government agencies.
She has been a calm and steadfast presence for the business community throughout the pandemic, answering every call and every request to speak. The Goleta community would not have been the same without Dr. Fitzgibbons offering her comprehensive reports in a manner that was understandable and reassuring.
“I am truly honored and would like to dedicate this award to all of the women across our community for the true feats of strength and resilience that have not been so visible,” Fitzgibbons said. “To female business leaders who faced unprecedented challenges, to every female worker, many of whom had to simultaneously transition to a new home-based office while troubleshooting Zoom and remote learning for their children, to female essential workers who bravely put on masks, taught our children, sold us groceries, responded to 9-1-1 calls, kept our clinics open, and finally to every mother, every daughter, every partner, wife, sister, aunt, grandmother, granddaughter and every other woman who supported our families and our community through these historic times.”
She then invited all the women in the ballroom to stand and raise their glasses in a toast of gratitude.
Man of the Year – Mark Ingalls
As the head of Camino Real Marketplace, Mark Ingalls has been instrumental in the evolution of Goleta into a vibrant, professional community with an emphasis on community building and regional collaboration.
Ingalls was at the forefront of changes needed throughout the pandemic to keep businesses open and successful, adhering to constant changes and curve balls.
Supporting both the big box essential businesses that never closed, and nurturing family-owned restaurants such as Anna’s Bakery and Los Agaves back to life with enhanced outdoor dining and creative business solutions.
Ingalls is an advocate for education, and has spent years helping raise funds for education and community efforts including Girsh Park, Ice in Paradise, and for the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation.
Ingalls is a longtime community volunteer, serving on the boards of the Foundation for Girsh Park, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, the Friendship Paddle and more.
“I’m proud to work in the Goleta community,” Ingalls said. “I’m proud of the commitment of our businesses, I’m grateful for the advocacy of our chamber, and I’m thankful to work for an amazing company who has a business philosophy of excellence and hard work, but also a commitment to community and to our employees to do work that motivates them and which they are passionate about.”
Educator of the Year – William Woodard, Dos Pueblos High School
As principal at Dos Pueblos High School, William (Bill) Woodard has not only led the high school students he serves, but their families, his staff and teachers, and the Goleta community through the tumultuous effects of the pandemic.
From shutdowns and remote learning, to coming back to campus with masks and temperature checks, Woodard retained a positive attitude and open communication, providing an unwavering voice of support at the toughest times. Woodard commiserated with and innovated for the senior classes of 2020 and 2021, creating a unique drive-in movie style graduation for the class of 2020 and outdoor proms for both graduating classes.
“I feel like a producer accepting an award on behalf of the whole crew because it was my administrative team, faculty, and staff who all locked arms trying to figure out how to support our students,” Woodard said.
“The DP spirit has always been focused on what we can do, so we delivered iPads to students who didn’t have internet access, we created a graduation in our parking lot with celebrity shout-outs, and when we finally welcomed back the class of 2021 in March, 374 days after they had left, we went into overdrive trying to give them a full year of memories in two short months.”
Nonprofit Leader of the Year – Lori Lander Goodman
Lori Lander Goodman has served as executive director of Isla Vista Youth Projects (IVYP) for nearly four years, expanding the organization’s reach in the community.
IVYP provides families with basic needs, including food distribution and childcare, in addition to being a champion to help mitigate the effects of poverty, racism and trauma.
During the pandemic, Goodman formed the Goleta Valley Partnership Network, bringing nonprofits and businesses together to support each other.
Under her leadership, IVYP helped distribute more than 62,000 fully cooked meals to disabled, elderly, low income and needy individuals and families.
IVYP launched the only diaper bank in Santa Barbara County, distributing more than 45,000 diapers and wipes, and hosted bilingual, virtual candidate forums for the Goleta Union School District election.
“I have devoted my time during the pandemic to building trusted relationships in our community so that we can do this hard work together,” said Goodman, who added inspiration from Robert Fulghum’s book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
“Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people…No matter how old you are when you go out into the world it is best to hold hands and stick together. This is my message — everything important we do, everything hard we do, everything brave we do, everything joyful we do, we are able to do it because we are in community.”
Nonprofit of the Year – Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s mission is to end hunger and transform the health of Santa Barbara County through good nutrition. Its services have been critical to helping provide relief to the most vulnerable in the community, particularly during the pandemic.
Over the last two years, the foodbank distributed twice as much food (from 10 million pounds to 20 million pounds) and served twice the number of people in our community as widespread job losses expanded with every wave of shutdowns and case surges.
In the first nine months of the pandemic, the foodbank handled nearly 60,000 home deliveries and organized more than 50 certified SAFE food distribution sites to serve all neighborhoods of the county.
“It takes a village to feed a county,” foodbank CEO Erik Talkin said as he introduced key members of his staff who “worked crazy hours, improvised, turned on a dime, and partnered with over 40 National Guards and over 300 local nonprofit organizations to keep Goleta and the whole county fed.”
Innovator of the Year – Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital
Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital worked diligently to lead the community through the pandemic. Working in accordance with state guidelines, the hospital acted quickly once vaccines were approved, to organize a drive-up clinic serving residents across the South Coast. Thanks to many volunteers, the clinic eventually provided nearly 100,000 vaccines to our community.
“A humble parking lot in Goleta was transformed into a life-saving clinic,” said Katy Bazylewicz, Vice President, Marketing and Population Health at Cottage Health. The drive-up covid vaccine clinic opened on January 15, 2021 and the first group to arrive – grandparents eager to hug their grandchildren for the first time in more than a year – was profound. “I like to think of this as a community coming together to take care of the community, and we felt very fortunate to be a part of it.”
Volunteer of the Year – Lisa Gosdschan
Lisa Gosdschan’s passion and energy go well beyond her day job with the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, where she treats the children she serves as her own.
Gosdschan has dedicated her life to service, regularly volunteering at Cottage Hospital, mentoring girls through The Fight Back Mentoring Program, Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara, the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, the American Heart Association, and most recently and throughout the pandemic at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
Gosdschan said that many of those she served during the pandemic had worked in food service, or personal care; many lived on the fringes even before COVID hit; many lived in their cars; and many had to make the hard decision to either pay rent or buy food.
“What I have learned through all of my volunteerism is that things are not always what they seem, and every kindness you give to others will come back to you tripled,” said Gosdschan. “Always keep in mind there are those in the community who are suffering.”
Student of the Year – Isabella Mireles, Dos Pueblos High School
Isabella Mireles was diagnosed at age 2 with leukemia, and is now cancer free and passionate about giving back to the community that gave her family hope when they most needed it.
She dedicates her time speaking about cancer, encouraging pediatric patients, and working closely with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, where she has organized a musical showcase for the past five years, raising over $25,000 for the organization.
“I truly believe my cancer diagnosis was a blessing, as absurd as that sounds,” Mireles said. “Because of it I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of the most selfless and kind people who have supported and inspired me.”
Special Recognition – Her Festival 2020, presented by Pacific Premier Bank
Mia and Cami Chou helped found the student-run organization Voices of the Community at Dos Pueblos High School. The group, comprised of Santa Barbara youth, is passionate about changing the community for the better by ensuring that the voices of underrepresented groups are heard.
The group’s inaugural endeavor was the Her Festival, celebrating women in the community and empowering the next generation of female leaders.
“We hope to continue to bring our mission into our college careers,” said Mia Chou, an engineering and business major at UC Berkeley. Cami is also studying engineering at UCLA and the pair want to continue to represent and empower women in their fields of study.
About the Goleta's Finest Awards
The 2021 Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala was presented by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.
Platinum Presenting Sponsors included: American Riviera Bank, Fauver, Large, Archbald & Spray, LLP, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Community West Bank, ExxonMobil, Montecito Bank & Trust, Pacific Premier Bank, Plains All American Pipeline, and The Towbes Group.
Gold Sponsors included: Cottage Health, Courtyard Marriott Goleta, Mariposa at Ellwood Shores, Marriott Residence Inn, and Southwest Airlines.
Silver Sponsors included: Atlantic Aviation, Brown & Brown Insurance, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Cox Communications, Deckers Brands, MarBorg Industries, Noozhawk, Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara Airport, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Barbara Zoo, Signature Flight Support, Teledyne FLIR, UCLA Health, UC Santa Barbara, and Village Properties.
Ann Pieramici is a Noozhawk contributing writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.