Allan Jones is downright comedic when asked about his history in the Santa Ynez Valley, his family, himself, his workplace. But when it comes to volunteering, he’s dead serious.
“My parents were always involved in the community. They volunteered us for things in 4-H. We were red coats at Theaterfest growing up. It’s just a part of our life. You just do these things. You do it because you love people, you want to help other and help the community. You may not get paid for them, but they’re rewarding, they expose you to more things,” Jones said.
On March 24, Jones will be celebrated as Santa Ynez Valley Man of the Year during the 22nd Annual Awards Gala presented by Santa Ynez Valley Foundation and Santa Ynez Valley News. Festivities at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott begin with a reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person, and may be reserved at www.syvalleyfoundation.org.
Jones, president and principal broker at Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate Company since 1992, was 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.
“I think a lot of it was really an accumulation of service over the years, not just a single thing I did last year,” Jones said.
The adventures of an aggie-kid-turned-Realtor have taken this son of a pig farmer from the bright lights of Solvang Festival Theater to presidential service in Solvang Rotary Club. He has served as a goat project leader with Lucky Clover 4-H Club, past president and longtime member of both the Solvang Theaterfest and Elverhøj Museum boards, and director at Rancho Marcelino Water and Service Company.
“That old adage is true: If you want something done, ask a busy man or woman. You just fit it in. It’s been fun to do, a break from work, in a way. In volunteering, you get to do other things that aren’t in your field; you get to meet great people in the community,” Jones said.
Jones has been a director for Santa Ynez Valley Foundation, Solvang Rotary Foundation, 4 Leaf Clover Foundation and Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau. He has wrangled with school bonds as a member of the SYVUHS Bond Community Oversight Committee, served as Solvang planning commissioner, performed the duties of auctioneer and master of ceremonies on more than a few occasions, is a member of Solvang Vikings and, most recently, took on a position as a board member for Oak Hills Cemetery.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” he quipped.
The fourth and final son of Sally Jones and the late George Jones was raised at the family’s famous Pork Palace just off Highway 101. As a 4-H member raised on the farm alongside pigs, dairy goats and cattle, he took part in a myriad community service projects from the mundane to one downright entertaining charity pig race around the track at Westerly Stud Farm.
He graduated Santa Ynez Valley High School in 1983 when he was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Best Personality.”
No pressure there.
“I was always in the shadow of three older brothers. I was always The Youngest Jones. I thought this was a terrible place to live, just a bunch of rednecks, that my parents didn’t know a thing,” Jones said.
He fled to Illinois where he earned his bachelor of science with honors in agricultural science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1987.
“After four years in the Midwest, I realized this valley’s a pretty good place, a pretty nice place to live,” Jones said.
He returned home, talked options with his dad, chose real estate, and never looked back.
“Santa Ynez Valley is an easy sell for me because I love the Valley and I have a lot of pride in it. I love the people. I’ve had a great career in one of the best places to live in the world. People live here by choice. It’s the people that volunteer who make it great,” Jones said.
When his twin daughters got involved in 4-H, Jones donned that deep, dark green again. As a goat project leader, he worked with the fair to keep junior livestock auctions alive.
“There are lots of people who volunteer for all kinds of things. Some of the unsung heroes are the people who spend hours and hours helping at the senior center, docents at the museum, community-minded people who do this with no expectation of reward or return. They’ve probably done a lot more work than I have,” Jones said.
He credits the strength of his community, the country as a whole, to that volunteer spirit.
“That’s the great thing about Americans. Tocqueville said it. Americans aren’t forced to volunteer. They just enjoy it and want to spend their time giving back to their communities,” Jones said.
He hopes someday his daughters, now studying at Cal Poly and Cuesta College, will carry on their own lives of service.
Meanwhile, he’ll continue rolling along, serving wherever the community needs him, in lowly or lofty positions.
“People overlook the cemetery. There’s a lot of our history there. One of the most fascinating places you can go in any community is the cemetery, to see who lived there and piece history together. It’s an inevitable part of life. Maintaining that space is part of my duty as a citizen,” he said.
Jones, whose brother succumbed to cancer at the age of 19, understands the importance of having a place to visit family members, explore the community’s past, walk and reflect.
“I’ve never had a problem with serving on things that aren’t that glamorous. Oh, the water and road committee? The oversight committee for the high school bond? It’s what we do for our community. It’s what makes our community great,” he said.
The Santa Ynez Valley 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.