Michael and Marni Cooney are the first recipients of the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Outstanding Couple in Service award, in recognition of their combined philanthropic impact in the Santa Barbara community.
The Cooneys moved to Santa Barbara from different places in 1969, were married in 1988, and have stayed in the community together ever since. Both have a long history of volunteering and giving back to the youth of the community they call home.
Marni has always loved working with children, and started working as a special education aid. When that career path ended, she knew she wanted to continue to work with youth, and spent 17 years as a volunteer in schools in Carpinteria giving reading help to students.
“I adore working with children, it’s just an absolute passion,” she said. “You can really make a difference in their lives by the little that you give back.”
She also served on the Human Services Commission, which opened her eyes to the needs of the entire county.
“As much as one thinks that we live in an idyllic world, it’s not idyllic for everybody,” Marni said.
She has served as a board member for the Family Service Agency since 2002, and was president of the board from 2007 to 2010, and co-president from 2011 to 2013.
“I fell in love with the agency,” she said. “It truly serves the family from birth to death.”
Marni also has served as co-chair of the major gifts committee for the Peabody Stadium renovation at Santa Barbara High School, and helped raise $5 million dollars to renovate the 100-year-old track and field facility.
Michael Cooney’s initial commitment to the nonprofit world came through his work with schools. He joined the Montecito Union School District board 11 years ago.
“I really learned a lot about volunteerism through that experience,” he said.
This passion drove him to continue his connection with schools. After his eldest son asked him to volunteer as the assistant coach for Santa Barbara High School’s junior varsity baseball team, he continued to coach for 33 more years.
“This was a longtime commitment and volunteer effort that is a little different than working with traditional nonprofits in the community,” he said.
Michael joined the board of the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara in 1988, and continues to serve today.
He is also a longtime member of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, first being appointed in 2004.
“That gave me a great knowledge about the entire county,” he said. “There’s no better way to know your county than to oversee the projects that developers bring to the Planning Commission.”
Michael served two terms on the state’s Student Aid Commission, beginning in 2000. He has also served on the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing since 2011.
The Cooneys are both on the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County advisory board, and support one another’s commitment to community service.
“We have our separate interests, but we share our nonprofit work just as we share our children and our life,” said Mr. Cooney. “I’m very happy to be connected and partnered with someone who shares the same community commitment that I do.”
“We support each other’s commitments to particular organizations,” Marni said. “We are always a part of the other’s nonprofit event, moment, or day.”
The couple will be honored at the Santa Barbara Foundation’s virtual celebration planned for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Click here for tickets and more information.
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.