Ever have one of those lazy afternoons with nothing much to do, and while you’re gazing out at the stunning beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley ask yourself — how did I get so lucky?

Probably not. Many of us take this spectacular life we live for granted. But if you really think about it, we are a special bunch, in part because we chose this place to live.

But it’s not just about the scenic grandeur and near-perfect weather. There is a lot more than those key ingredients in the recipe that makes the Santa Ynez Valley such a special place.

For one, there are the people who live here, who despite occasional squabbles and boisterous debates, are a giving, caring group. One example is the People Helping People organization headquartered here, which recently received a $50,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. PHP was one of several area agencies given grants to help with programs and services for low-income county residents.

The Valley is blessed with a variety of individuals and groups whose purpose in life is anything but gazing out at the scenery and patting themselves on the back for being smart enough to choose this Valley life.

There have been recent awards ceremonies of some significance, singling out people and institutions that almost habitually go above and beyond the call of everyday duties.

A good example — Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital recently received the Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for Patient Experience for all of last year.

The Guardian of Excellence Award is a nationally-recognized symbol of achieving outstanding high marks from patients.

Press Ganey has partnered for over three decades with more than 26,000 health-care organizations collecting data about patient experiences and their level of satisfaction with services provided, clinical quality and staff engagement.

This award puts Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital in the top 5 percent of health-care organizations for overall patient experience in an emergency department, and for sustaining that high level of care for four consecutive quarters in 2016.

The Press Ganey award emphasizes health care provided in a hospital’s emergency room, which is a place you really never want to visit, but it is a God-send when the unthinkable does happen.

The not-for-profit Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital on Viborg Road in Solvang was founded in 1964, and has been providing excellent care ever since.

Lest we offend more bureaucrats than we already have, a tip of the hat to fiscal managers at the city of Solvang, who are responsible for the city being awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

Solvang earned the award for its comprehensive annual financial reporting. As long-time observers of government operations, this award tells us Solvang is one of the more transparent bureaucracies on the Central Coast, in an era when government transparency is a major issue.

The managers at City Hall are accustomed to such praise, because this is the 24th time in the past 25 years Solvang has won the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.

These folks generally work behind the scenes, quietly going about their job of keeping budgets balanced, and making sure every taxpayer has an opportunity to know how their tax dollars are being used.

So, as you can clearly see, there is a lot more to this wonderful life in the Santa Ynez Valley that beautiful mountain vistas and spectacular weather — although it has been a little toasty lately.

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