Katina Zaninovich and Ginger Salazar
Katina Zaninovich and Ginger Salazar were recognized as Persons of the Year for their community service and volunteerism.  (Dean Zatkowsky / Santa Barbara Foundation photo)

Ginger Salazar and Katina Zaninovich were honored for their volunteer contributions and service to the community at the 79th annual Santa Barbara Foundation Person of the Year Luncheon on Wednesday at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.

“Recipients are selected each year from a wide range of candidates who are nominated by community members,” said Steve Hicks, chair of the Santa Barbara Foundation board.

“Awards are bestowed to Santa Barbara area individuals, couples, or families whose volunteer service represents a meaningful commitment to the community through acts of generosity of spirit, kindness, or innovations that address real community needs, or enhance the quality of life in Santa Barbara.”

“I have been overwhelmed, embarrassed, really, because I have received far more than I have given,” said Zaninovich upon accepting her award.

Zaninovich noted that her volunteerism became a bit “turbocharged” in the wake of her divorce 14 years ago.

“Volunteering helped me to stop worrying about myself and look out for others who needed help,” she recalled. “Nonprofits attract mission-driven people, and their enthusiasm is infectious. There is humility in serving with fellow volunteers and board members who inspire me.”

Gerd Jordano, former Person of the Year and a friend of Zaninovich, presented her with the award.

“It was my great honor to nominate Katina for her volunteerism and service in healthcare in the Santa Barbara community,” said Jordano of the longtime nurse. “Katina embodies an energetic, can-do spirit and exudes compassion, kindness and humor.”

Zaninovich’s volunteer work mirrored her professional career as a registered nurse, working in patient’s homes. She served on many health-related boards and advisory committees including the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara, Cottage Hospital, Casa Dorinda, and the Alzheimer Association Central Coast Chapter.

She was also a founding member of the San Marcos High Royal Pride Foundation.

Zaninovich said she was fortunate to grow up in the Central Valley, surrounded by aunts, uncles and grandparents, steeped in her Croatian heritage.

“I think it’s just a learned experience that came from my childhood,” she said of her volunteerism. “I helped my mom clean the parish church and watched as she prepared meals for the sick. And my father always taught me to stand up for the things I believed in.”

Ginger Salazar also learned the importance of giving back from a young age, and she credits three men in her life for providing the inspiration.

In a video tribute, Salazar shared that her grandfather cooked for the Sante Fe Railroad and always prepared extra plates of food for those in need in the neighborhood. She said her father believed in the ability of the individual to impact change, and her husband, Brett Matthews, sees what things need to be done and makes that happen.

The same can be said of Salazar. When it was brought to her attention that her hometown of Lompoc lacked an adequate sports and fitness facility for students and families, she chaired a 4-year campaign that raised $1.7 million – the largest single private donation ever given in Lompoc school district history – and built a safe recreation space for the community.

“She is a powerhouse,” said Ashley Costa, executive director of the Lompoc Valley Community Health Organization, who introduced Salazar. “She is also a collaborator, chair, leader, mentor, and friend, in addition to being a mother, wife, daughter, volunteer, philanthropist, and the list goes on and on.”

And so do her accomplishments. Salazar serves on the boards of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Cottage Health and the Towbes Foundation. Previously, she has served on the boards of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“I am truly honored, and what I most feel is a deep sense of gratitude,” said Salazar. “Gratitude not for receiving this honor, but gratitude that I live in this extraordinary community of giving.”

Salazar said the true beauty of Santa Barbara was on full display in the hotel’s rotunda, filled with a community of volunteers, donors and those whose vocations are dedicated to serving others.

“This award transcends the honorees,” said Salazar. “It’s about elevating what each and every one here does – it’s about giving to make Santa Barbara stronger, better, and a more vibrant place for all.”

Nominations will open in January 2023 for the 80th Person of the Year, with the award ceremony slated for spring.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation, Montecito Bank & Trust, Noozhawk, Cox Communications, the Montecito Journal and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Ann Pieramici is a Noozhawk contributing writer. Contact her at news@noozhawk.com.

Ann Pieramici

Ann Pieramici, Noozhawk Contributing WriterNoozhawk Contributing Writer

Ann Pieramici is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be reached at news@noozhawk.com.