The Harwoods
Dacia Harwood and her family — husband Riley and sons Jack and Skylar — can frequently be found volunteering around the South Coast, but a favorite location is their beloved Rancho La Patera and Stow House in Goleta. (Goleta Chamber of Commerce photo)

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on the honorees at the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala, to be held Nov. 23 at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara.]

What makes a great volunteer? Dacia Harwood can answer that without skipping a beat: “A great volunteer is reliable, open-minded, enthusiastic about the cause, and brings along others to volunteer.”

All of which describes Harwood, in a nutshell, and it’s one reason — among many — why she will be honored by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce on Saturday with the Goleta’s Finest Volunteer of the Year Award

“I know what it takes to put on a big festival,” Harwood say. “So I’ll always be there for others, when I’m asked.”

And, oh, how they have asked! Her “I Volunteered There” scrapbook proves that she doesn’t just walk the walk, she talks the volunteer talk: Flamenco! Santa BarbaraOld Spanish DaysSanta Barbara Museum of Natural HistoryCalifornia Wine Festival … the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, including serving on the Goleta’s Finest committee … Bellosguardo Foundation … the Santa Barbara Zoo

Harwood knows what makes a great volunteer because she’s had to depend on them at her current position as deputy director of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and her previous role as events and festivals coordinator at the Goleta Valley Historical Society.

“I’ve worked with many volunteers,” she said. “I really appreciate them and their long-term service.”

While at the Goleta Valley Historical Society, Harwood created the popular Music at the Ranch, served on the original committee for the annual Dam Dinner, and reinvigorated Fourth of July and other events that Rancho La Patera & Stow House are known for.

“I’m always so thankful for my volunteers, so I always volunteer for others,” she explained.

It should go without saying that the family that volunteers together, well, volunteers together. Harwood grew up volunteering; as the oldest of six children, she and her family helped at church and at homeless shelters in Del Mar, even serving as a docent on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.

Now, Harwood and her husband, Riley, lead by example with their two boys, Jack, 15,and Skylar, 7.

“It’s a bonding experience for our family,” she said. “I’m teaching our sons to know that’s just what you do.”

Riley Harwood, now retired from the Santa Barbara Police Department, serves as a volunteer reserve police officer, helps with Reading for the Blind, Old Spanish Days and the Alzheimer’s Walk.

“When you volunteer, you always learn a lot of stuff,” Harwood said. “There is always something to take away.”

The Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, 8301 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.

— Kate Schwab represents the Goleta Chamber of Commerce.