We couldn’t let spring pass by without a few words about some of the Valley’s true heroes.

We’re not referring to law enforcement officers or military personnel — although we consider them to be heroes in their own right, richly deserving of all the praise we can give.

No, these are the folks whose uniforms consist of a suit and tie, an ensemble dress suitable for the office, or jeans and denim shirt to work outdoors.

It’s not what these normal folks do in their jobs that matters to us today as much as it is the fact that they volunteer to do the things necessary to make life better for just about everyone with whom they may come in contact.

Volunteering your time, energy and sometimes your money is for special people, those whose willingness to serve on others’ behalf surpasses the need for financial recompense. The “paycheck” for a volunteer at the end of service is knowing that what they gave was of great benefit to others.

First up are the volunteering Santa Ynez Valley residents involved in the annual Man and Woman of the Year Awards Banquet last month at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott.

A huge crowd turned out to honor Woman of the Year Judith Dale, and Man of the Year Allan Jones, and to bestow the Lifetime Achievement Award to Brooks and Kate Firestone.

Volunteer of the Year Awards were presented to Edna Nesky for her work in health and human services, Diana Steffensen Richardson for her efforts to assist seniors, and John Copeland for his contributions to community enhancement.

Dozens of local heroes were honored at the dinner, which we are proud to say the Valley News co-sponsors with the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation.

Kyle Abello, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening, summed it up nicely: “It starts with a willingness to help and turns into a lifelong passion.”

Also last month, local residents, elected leaders and city officials, representatives of nonprofit organizations and interested citizens filled the banquet hall at Root 246 for the Solvang Chamber of Commerce Community Awards Dinner.

The event’s theme was “Grow Your Community, Think Solvang First.” Linda Johansen, honorary chairwoman of the event, presented the Large Business of the Year Award to Alisal Guest Ranch, which has been in business nearly three-quarters of a century. She also presented the Linda Johansen Spirit of Community Volunteer of the Year Award to John Martino, who has served as chamber president for the past two years.

It was a great event, which is what we’ve come to expect from both the Man and Woman of the Year shindig, and the Chamber dinner.

Here’s one of our favorite Albert Einstein quotes: “Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.”

That pretty much sums up volunteerism, in large part because the good a volunteer does is not measured in dollars and cents.

Volunteering gives a person the satisfaction of playing a direct role in improving someone else's life, and in many cases helping people who may not be able to help themselves.

It can be as simple as joining a neighbor with a project he or she needs help in completing. It can be as complicated as taking on a volunteer project that turns out to be almost a second job.

There’s no paycheck, but there is a reward that can be much greater — the knowledge that you’ve given back to society, your community.

Our experience is that the more you give, the more you get back.


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