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Rancho Santa Fe Country Friends president ready to change roles

By Diane Y. Welch/Contributor

Jeanne Lucia is stepping down from her role as president of The Country Friends but will not be ending her work with the Rancho Santa Fe charity, she said. “I’m looking forward to being an Indian rather than a chief,” she quipped. She has volunteered two terms as president—she also served in 2006—and has played active roles in other capacities. One of Lucia’s strengths is her close attention to detail, organizational skills, and always being prepared, assets that served her well as she chaired the popular annual fundraising outdoor fashion show for The Country Friends, and her role as “Chair of Agencies,” she said.

The Country Friends was formed in 1954 to fulfill a need to “help others to help themselves.” The organization owns and operates a consignment shop, located on on El Tordo in the Rancho Santa Fe village, to raise funds to accomplish that mission. Lucia joined The Country Friends’ board of directors in 2002 as hospitality chair. Jean Newman, the consignment shop manager, invited her to join. “We were in the same bridge group and had known each other for a number of years,” Lucia recalled. “Since I joined she has been my mentor, guide and my best friend.”

In 2004, Lucia organized the Day At The Races event, held at the Del Mar Racetrack, then chaired the Art of Fashion fundraiser the following year. “The whole event had been revamped and that’s when we brought in South Coast Plaza as partner,” she recalled. The pleasant surprise of the fashion event was the retail partnership, said Lucia. “You tend to think of a shopping area as distant and untouchable, but we were able to forge a relationship that still stands five years later. They are more like friends, and we are so grateful that they keep renewing the partnership each year.”

In the spirit of this association, representatives of South Coast Plaza, in Costa Mesa, partner with The Country Friends year-round, attending sponsor events and being involved with some of the beneficiaries. For Lucia working on the fashion show was like realizing a dream. “I had always loved fashion, but I missed out on a fashion career because I chose another path,” she explained.

That path was raising a family. Lucia grew up in Poway, as did her husband, Ray. They met when she was 16 and married when she was 19. They settled in Rancho Bernardo to raise their family. “I had four children by the age of 23 years old,” she said.

Ray Lucia taught at Poway High School, then started his own insurance company, and developed his own financial strategies business. Today he has authored several books, is a public speaker, and broadcasts a radio show—the Ray Lucia Show.

A guiding principal for Lucia is that “family comes first.” She co-owns and is business manager of a performing arts school—Danceology—with her daughter, Niki. The business opened as a dance studio seven years ago.

“Formerly a Chargers cheerleader and then having worked for the Dallas Cowboys, Niki was at a crossroads in her life,” said Lucia. “4S Ranch was just being developed. In its first strip center there was space so we took a leap of faith and started the business.” Despite the lagging economy, the school survived and now the business has expanded and thrived. This summer marked the first year anniversary of moving Danceology into a 12,000 sq. ft. facility in 4S Ranch. There are six dance studios, but it’s not just dance, said Lucia. “We also have voice, music, drama, and yoga, it’s a performing arts campus.” The school will host a holiday showcase by the younger students — ages 2 through kindergarten — on Dec. 18. Three summer recitals are staged in June. Lucia’s volunteer work will continue, she said, but in the spirit of her family she will be in the background.

“We have been in San Diego since 1960 but we work behind the scenes, the notoriety does not interest us at all,” she said. “I have always enjoyed volunteering, it has been at the heart of what I do, and The Country Friends has been a huge part of this. These are wonderful women who have no other agenda than to work together for others.”

Marci Cavanaugh will take over Jeanne Lucia’s role as president of The Country Friends in 2011. To find out more about The Country Friends and the agencies it supports, visit

www.thecountryfriends.org

To find out more about Danceology Performing Arts School, visit
www.danceology.biz


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