Ten Questions: Lydia McNeil leads Las Patronas


Lydia McNeil is the current president of Las Patronas, an all-volunteer grant making organization that supports nonprofits across San Diego County through the proceeds of the annual Jewel Ball at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. McNeil and her husband, John, live in La Jolla with their three daughters, Fiona, Anna and Mary.

What brought you to La Jolla?

My family moved here when I was little, so I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. I am grateful every day, however, that they chose such a wonderful place to live!

What keeps you in La Jolla?

Along with the perfect weather and incredible scenery, the best thing about La Jolla is its sense of community. It’s like living in a small town where everybody knows their neighbors, but with great restaurants, culture and shopping. I like running into friends in the village - the most mundane errand can turn into a social event. And I enjoy how passionate our citizens can be about every issue that affects La Jolla, from the seals to the cross to the parking. Regardless of which position you support, it’s refreshing that people care enough to speak up.

If you could improve one thing in La Jolla, what would it be?

I’m always sad when one of our independent businesses closes, so I would encourage people to support all the unique shops, galleries and restaurants La Jolla has to offer. I don’t want to see La Jolla fall victim to the homogenization that’s affected so many other towns in America. Without our differences, I believe our sense of community will vanish.

Describe a day in the life of a Las Patronas president.

Two cups of coffee followed by a round of meetings, e-mails, phone calls, etc. Much like anybody else’s workday, except that my “coworkers” are a group of incredibly talented women who are passionate about a common cause. So much positive energy goes into everything we do in Las Patronas - it’s an amazing feeling.

What is something most people don’t know about Las Patronas?

They might not know that we have no paid staff or that we visit every organization that receives a grant in person.

Name eight people who inspire you.

During my active tenure in Las Patronas, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many more than eight! The people working in our nonprofit community are incredibly inspirational. Many of them are working for very little pay with little or no recognition of the valuable service they perform in the community. They live each day for the betterment of others and their deep commitment to that mission is very humbling.

What are you currently listening to?

“Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake.

What do you do for fun?

I knit. I knit a lot, actually. And when I’m not knitting, I blog about knitting. I also like to cook, go to the beach, watch movies and read. And, of course, I love spending time with my family and terrific friends.

Describe the most monumental turning point in your life.

I’d have to say it was the day I met my husband, who turned out to be my best friend and biggest fan. How wonderful is that?

What is your motto?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”