By Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz.
For the past 50 years, Judy Stapelmann has been volunteering and advocating for numerous different organizations throughout the Santa Barbara area, including Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and many more.
Because of her contributions and involvement in the community over the years, Staplemann, who just celebrated her 80th birthday, has been selected as one of the recipients of the Santa Barbara Foundation’s 78th People of the Year award, along with John Daly.
The award, formerly known as Man and Woman of the Year, “honors Santa Barbara area individuals, couples, or families whose volunteer service represent a meaningful commitment to the community; address a real community need or enhance the quality of life in the Santa Barbara area; or has involved acts of generosity, kindness, or innovation,” according to the Santa Barbara Foundation’s website.
“Santa Barbara has so many good, hardworking nonprofits,” Stapelmann told Noozhawk, adding that this allows people to find areas that interest them. “That’s where you get a sense of satisfaction, when you work for something that’s meaningful to you.”
Staplemann said some of the main causes that are important to her include those that involve health and environmental issues.
Stapelmann first came to Santa Barbara in the 1960s to attend UCSB, where she received a degree in marine biology and now continues to be involved as a trustee of the UCSB Foundation.
She’s stayed in the area ever since, and began her community service in the 1970s as a volunteer counselor and escort at Planned Parenthood, where she even helped start the annual Planned Parenthood book sale that began in 1974.
“This year’s book sale was the best ever,” Stapelmann said.
She has also been involved with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, the Environmental Defense Center, the UCSB Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Wilding Museum.
“It’s personally satisfying,” Stapelmann said about her volunteer work. “I’m very honored and very proud to join an esteemed group of volunteers (who have been named Person of the Year).”
People of the Year honorees are nominated each year by community members.
Those who nominated Stapelmann for the 2021 award include Sherry Madsen, former vice president of development for Planned Parenthood California Central Coast; Owen Bailey, executive director of the Environmental Defense Center; and Kira Redmond, former executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.
“Judy is a dedicated steward of the environment in Santa Barbara County, as evidenced by her extensive contributions of time and financial support not only to Santa Barbara Channelkeeper but also to the Maritime Museum, the Environmental Defense Center, and the Wilding Museum, among others,” Redmond said in a press release announcing this year’s honorees.
“She is also committed to important social causes like women’s reproductive health, as evidenced by her strong commitment as a volunteer and major donor to Planned Parenthood. She gives selflessly of her time, money and experience to all of these organizations and has contributed so much to so many organizations who work hard to improve the quality of life for all Santa Barbarans.”
Stapelmann said she wants to make the world a better place, and that volunteering is a way that anyone can do that, especially given that there are organizations and specific niches to match everyone’s interests or what’s important to them.
“I don’t think people volunteer to be honored,” Stapelmann said. “People do this because they’re motivated.… One of the things [this award] does is show different ways to volunteer.”
She mentioned how Daly, the other Person of the Year being honored this year, volunteers in a lot of different ways from her, and that there are so many different organizations that can motivate people in Santa Barbara.
This year’s People of the Year ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 6, will be mostly virtual. Those who are interested in watching the livestreamed event can RSVP on Santa Barbara Foundation’s website.