As part of an annual event that shines a light on those who have gone above and beyond in service to the community, the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation and Santa Ynez Valley News have chosen a group of volunteers that stand out for their extensive contributions.

Judith Dale has been selected as the Santa Ynez Valley 2018 Woman of the Year, and Allan Jones has been named Man of the Year, in honor of their leadership and extensive efforts to give back.

They were chosen by a panel of board members of the Foundation, editors of the Valley News and former honorees, based on nominations made by Valley residents.

The panel also voted to award the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Brooks and Kate Firestone, who were nominated in 2017, but were unable to accept the award.

The couple have been involved in the community since the early 1970s. Between them they have an extraordinary list of organizations they have served including St. Mark's-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, the Santa Ynez Valley Vintners' Association, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, Direct Relief, Meals on Wheels and the Santa Barbara FoodBank, Solvang Festival Theater and Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.

Brooks Firestone also served in the state Assembly from 1994 to 1998 and as a Santa Barbara County supervisor from 2005 to 2008.

Four high school students will also be recognized as Youth in Service Award recipients. They are Alyssa Antoci, Samantha Garcia, Ella Hoose and Ariana Avila Torres. All are students at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

Additionally, John Copeland was named volunteer of the year in the area of community enhancement, Diana Richardson volunteer of the year for seniors, and Edna Nesky, as volunteer of the year for health and human services.

The winners will be honored March 24 during a gala awards banquet at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton.

"The man and woman of the year recognition is a great way for our community to pay tribute to our steady, quiet heroes whose caring hearts and hard work define 'community,'" said Foundation Director Anne Christensen. "The Valley is filled with the energy and power of people reaching out and taking care of neighbors, friends and strangers just because it is the right way to live as compassionate human beings. These honorees have literally touched thousands of lives through their volunteer work, and it is our honor to celebrate them."

Dale has served in many capacities, including as the Santa Barbara County 3rd District representative to the Library Advisory Board, on the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation board, and as a former mayor of Buellton. 

Jones has been a longtime member of the Solvang Rotary Club, a 4-H project leader, past president and longtime member of both the Solvang Theaterfest and Elverhoj Museum boards, an auctioneer and member of the Ballard Cemetery board, among other things. Most recently, he became a member of the Solvang Vikings.

The Valley Foundation has as its mission improving the lives of people in the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos, by investing in programs that feed the poor, promote health, nurture seniors, challenge youth and inspire the community to make a difference.

The Foundation and the Valley News created the Man and Woman of the Year Program in 1995 to recognize local residents for their volunteerism. The Youth in Service Award was added in 2012 to honor students in grades nine through 12 for outstanding service to others.

In addition to recognition plaques, each adult honoree receives a $1,000 grant from the Foundation to be donated in the honoree's name to a charity of his or her choice. The students each receive a $1,000 scholarship to be used for postsecondary education.

Profiles of each honoree will be published in the Valley News in the weeks leading up to the banquet.

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