Patti Lackie doesn’t know how to sit down, relax and watch the world go by so long as another person is in need.

“Helping others was ingrained into us. My mother was a helper. My grandparents were helpers. If somebody needs a cup of coffee, you make them a cup of coffee. It doesn’t make a difference what they need; you step up and help,” Lackie said.

For her dedication to the community, the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation and Santa Ynez Valley News have named Lackie the Santa Ynez Valley Volunteer of the Year, Seniors. 

Lackie, who has worked in social services at Atterdag Village for 40 years, was raised by her single mother in Pasadena. They frequently visited the Santa Ynez Valley to visit Lackie’s grandparents, early settlers Emil and Dagney Andersen.

“Everyone in town knew my grandparents, so everyone knew who my sister and I were. There were so few people here then that you really couldn’t get away with anything. If you did something, our grandparents knew about it before we got home,” Lackie recalled.

Her earliest memory of volunteering was reading to a senior when she was only six years old.

“She was infirm. She couldn’t hold the book to read anymore, but reading was something very special to her, so I’d sit and read to her while my sister dusted or fed her cats or whatever else needed to be done and my mom made them meals for the week. It was just a part of life,” Lackie said.

Just as her mother, Helen Sewall, had taken care of her parents in their senior years, Lackie moved to Santa Ynez Valley 42 years ago to take care of her own mother.

“Our family represents generation after generation of caring for others who care for others, and it’s worth it. There’s always something to do, someone to help,” Lackie said.

She instilled that volunteer spirit in her own daughters, Kimberly Lackie and Penny Toll, who now serve as troop leaders for Girl Scouts in Lompoc.

“There really are volunteer opportunities out there for any interest. You can volunteer at the humane society of you’re into animals. The Lutheran home, the hospital, all the schools need volunteers, and there’s 4-H. You could go to Santa Barbara and help at the rescue mission, or wherever your calling comes from. It’s limitless. It just depends on what you feel most comfortable with,” Lackie said.

Her helpful spirit and positive attitude have not gone unnoticed.

“Patti goes well beyond any job description where her work is concerned. She truly is a good-hearted, kind, thoughtful and generous person — especially with her time — for those who really need it,” wrote Lackie’s neighbor, Joanne Clark.

For residents of Atterdag Village, Lackie has been known to go far beyond her assigned duties. Her volunteerism has regularly included hand-washing special laundry for residents; mending residents’ clothing; bringing small items to meet residents’ cravings; personal shopping; attending as many funeral services as possible; sitting with residents’ family members in their times of need.

“I’m never stretched too thin. If I can’t do something, I just say I can’t do it right now, but that isn’t very often,” Lackie said.

And she faces it all with joy and laughter.

“The first thing I do every morning is read the obits to see if I’m dead, then read about the pet of the week, then the rest of the paper,” said Lackie, an avid animal lover. “Once in a while, if it’s a really rainy day, I’ll take an afternoon off and watch a movie with the girls, but there’s always something to do. Volunteering is a wonderful personal experience that comes from the heart.”

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