Lydia Villarreal Honored as 2019 Distinguished Trustee

Lydia Villarreal Honored as 2019 Distinguished Trustee

Judge Lydia Villarreal’s vast impact on Monterey County was celebrated Wednesday, October 30, 2019 when she was honored with the   2019 Distinguished Trustee Award by the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC).

Celebration of Philanthropy

Each year the CFMC presents the Distinguished Trustee Award to an individual or couple who has demonstrated philanthropic leadership in our region. The award, now in its 30th year, was presented to Judge Villarreal at the foundation’s annual Celebration of Philanthropy. The Celebration of Philanthropy thanks those who support and partner with the CFMC to invest in healthy, safe, vibrant communities. The event took place at Corral de Tierra Country Club in Salinas and was attended by more than 250 friends and supporters.

Judge Villarreal has been a champion for farmworkers’ rights and an outstanding supporter of nonprofits advancing literacy, healthcare, public education and youth development.

As a judge she has a reputation for fairness, toughness, compassion, excellence and integrity. She was elected by her peers to serve as the presiding Judge of Monterey County. As a gift in her honor, she was presented by the CFMC with a portrait “Lady Justice” by Salinas artist Jose Ortiz of Hijos del Sol.

The Community Foundation for Monterey County is proud to honor Judge Villarreal. She exemplifies community leadership and giving saying, ‘It’s important that we wake up and do the right thing. Treat people with respect and do your best for everybody every day,’” – Birt Johnson, Jr.,  CFMC Board Chair.

Judge Villarreal spoke about philanthropy being a means to lift up future generations, in education through science by teaching critical thinking and socially, by being aware of the struggles of others and acting.

“Fifty six percent of people right here in Monterey County are struggling. Sixty percent of those are Latino….They are making decisions whether to pay the rent or get medical care,” said Villarreal. “The beauty of philanthropy is that it gives us an opportunity to do something about it.”

As award recipient, Villarreal designated a $10,000 grant from the CFMC to three nonprofit organizations. She chose The Center for Community Advocacy,  K.I.N.D, Kids in Need of Defense, which helps unaccompanied minors with their requests for asylum and the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

Philanthropy is an expression of our hearts, our compassion, the best part of ourselves.” – Lydia Villarreal

Advocating for Farmworkers

Judge Villarreal graduated with Honors in Psychology from U.C. Santa Cruz in 1976 and then worked as a paralegal for the United Farmworkers Union. She received her J.D. in 1980 from Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and began work for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) in Salinas.

Over the next seven years, she became head of the migrant farmworker project. Villarreal next moved to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office in the Consumer/ Environmental Protection Unit. She has served on the Monterey County Superior Court since being appointed in 2001.

She co-founded the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA) in 1989, where she is the current board chair. CCA provides help with housing, health and education to low-income families and farmworkers. CCA has developed housing committees, educating people about their rights and responsibilities as tenants, and improved housing conditions for farmworkers. They also provide culturally-sensitive health information to farmworkers. Monterey County is the only county with a farmworker advisory committee to work with the Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner.

While law can be a tool to help and defend people, we need networking and to bring different people together to solve our problems. These problems are not just farmworker problems, but community problems,” said Lydia Villarreal

Lending Expertise to Nonprofit Boards

Judge Villarreal dedicates time to improve the lives of others including serving on boards for nonprofits including the Community Foundation for Monterey County, CSU Monterey Bay, President’s Council, Natividad Medical Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save the Redwoods, National Steinbeck Center, Elkhorn Slough Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation, where she is the first Latina and first female chair.

Judge Villarreal’s awards include: Lady Justice, Lifetime Achievement Award, Monterey County Women Lawyers’ Association; Opus Christi Award, Monterey Diocese, Catholic Charities; Outstanding Farmworker Housing Advocate, Center for Community Advocacy; CSU, Monterey Bay Fellow Award; Outstanding Community Contribution Monterey County Latino Network; Woman for Justice Award, California Latina Political Action Committee; National Hispana Leadership Institute Alumnus; and the Ralph Atkinson Civil Liberties Award For the Defense of Migrant Farmworkers, A.C.L.U.

Community Foundation for Monterey County Distinguished Trustee Award Recipients

  • Judge Lydia M. Villarreal (2019)
  • Leon and Sylvia Panetta (2018)
  • Susan and David Gill (2017)
  • William H. Tyler (2016)
  • Nancy Ausonio (2015)
  • Bob Nunes (2014)
  • Warren Wayland (2013)
  • David and Laurie Benjamin (2012)
  • Mike and Mary Orradre (2011)
  • Bob and Sue Antle (2010)
  • Julie Packard (2009)
  • Sherrie McCullough (2008)
  • Maggie Downer (2007)
  • Clint and Dina Eastwood (2006)
  • Ed and Terry Haber (2005)
  • Michael McMahan, Neal McMahan, and Marsha McMahan Zelus (2004)
  • Davis Factor, Jr. (2003)
  • Joanne Taylor-Johnson (2002)
  • Hilton and Roberta Bialek (2001)
  • William and Nancy Doolittle (2000)
  • Jim and Jeri Gattis (1999)
  • Patricia Tynan Chapman (1998)
  • Margaret Owings (1997)
  • Basil Mills (1996)
  • David Packard (1995)
  • Harriet Thurmond and Sarah Hermann (1994)
  • Francis Cislini (1993)
  • Marshall Steel, Jr. (1992)
  • Virginia Stanton and Gordon Paul Smith (1991)
  • Ruth Fenton (1990)
  • John McCone (1989)

About the Community Foundation for Monterey County

The mission of the Community Foundation for Monterey County is to inspire philanthropy and be a catalyst for strengthening communities throughout Monterey County. Thanks to generous individuals and families who have created charitable funds in their lifetimes or through their estates, the CFMC granted $18.7 million in 2018 to more than 400 nonprofits in Monterey County and beyond. The CFMC has granted more than $200 million since 1981. For more information, please call (831) 375-9712, visit, or stay connected at