Arroyo Grande's Citizen of the Year is real estate agent who loves to volunteer

Lenny Jones
Lenny Jones Courtesy photo

A longtime real estate agent, community volunteer and dog aficionado will be honored Jan. 29 as the Arroyo Grande Citizen of the Year.

“Surprised, honored, humbled, shocked,” Lenny Jones said when asked for his reaction to the award. “I don’t like the limelight, but I’ll take it for a couple of weeks.”

His list of accomplishments includes past board chair of the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce; president of the Pismo Coast Association of Realtors (he has received a lifetime achievement award from that group); and past president of the Rotary Club of Arroyo Grande. He also has been involved in Arroyo Grande in Bloom and Arroyo Grande Tree Guild.

Jones grew up in the area and attended Arroyo Grande High School and Cuesta College. After graduating from San Jose State with a degree in marine geology, he started his real estate career in 1983 and opened his own office in 1996.

Jones is also a veteran; he and served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1973 in Berlin. About four years ago, Jones and friend Cheryl Tolan were talking about ways to welcome troops home; before they got off the phone, they decided to start Welcome Home Military Heroes.

“We ordered flags and banners and started welcoming home troops on leave, (those) home for good and when they get sent out,” he said.

The organization’s events have drawn from 20 to 200 people.

In addition, Jones, a self-described “big dog freak,” started SLO County Golden Retrievers in 2008, a club with about 300 Golden Retriever-loving members.

About 80 percent of donations to the club go to Woods Humane Society; the rest is given to Animal Shelter Adoption Partners, which aims to reduce euthanasia of adoptable animals at local animal shelters.

Jones was asked to join the Woods Humane Society board about four years ago; he’s currently serving as board president.

If that wasn’t enough, Jones also started the South County Turkey Trot in 2012, with proceeds going to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (the entry fee is a $1 donation). Any money he receives from sponsors or donors goes to that organization; he covers the cost of permits and promoting the event.

In 2012, 300 runners participated (and donated mostly food). Participation jumped to 1,000 in 2013, with $9,000 raised for the Food Bank. Last year, 2,000 people ran and $11,000 was collected.

“Most of us who do things like this don’t do it for the fame or recognition,” Jones said. “I have the time, and, of course, I love doing it.”

The Arroyo Grande & Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner starts at 5 p.m. Jan. 29 at the South County Regional Center, 800 W. Branch St. Tickets are $60. For more information, call the chamber at 489-1488.