Gary Imm, widely respected as one of the area's most humble humanitarians, was named 2013 Citizen of the Year by the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce and the Petaluma Argus-Courier as part of the annual Community Awards of Excellence program. A founding partner and retired CEO of Clover Stornetta Farms, Imm was caught completely off-guard by a surprise presentation on Feb. 15th.
"I am truly honored," said the former president of the Petaluma Chamber, founding member of Petaluma Youth Soccer League and past leader of the Boys & Girls Club of Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties. "I am but a representative of thousands. Petaluma is a very special community; we are blessed with active, motivated residents who devote their time and efforts selflessly for no reason other than to improve the common good."
A quiet, diplomatic leader, philanthropist and family man, Gary Imm has long been lauded by his fellow Petalumans as a rock of the community.
Executive Director of Petaluma People Services Center, Elece Hempel described Imm as a courteous, selfless man.
"Gary has been involved with the evolution of our community, a community we are all proud to call home," Hempel said, adding that his and his wife's philanthropy "has touched thousands of our residents, from those in search of housing, to those who are hungry, to those who need employment."
One facet of the community that Imm has been closely involved with is the Boys & Girls Club. As a youth, Imm was the first 'Boy of the Year' for the local Boys and Girls Club in 1958. He went on to serve as a board member.
"He has been a mentor to me, and I've learned a great deal from him that helps me further the goals of our organization in serving local youth," said David Solo, current CEO of the Boys & Girls Club. Solo described Imm as a "very giving" person who "quietly makes time to help others."
Imm's ties to the organization would prove to have a major impact on the community: "In the late '60s, before we started Clover, we had two young sons and remembering my good times at Petaluma's Boys and Girls Club I went in and asked if there was anything I could do to help," Imm recalled. "I didn't have to ask twice." Imm began coaching his sons in baseball, basketball and soccer, which he described as a challenge since he had never played soccer before.
"Within two years the program had grown and the club was looking for someone else to take over," he said. So Imm, four other coaches and two former soccer players created The Petaluma Youth Soccer League.
PYSL currently serves more than 2,500 children. Imm went on to spend six years as a coach and referee. "Those were some of my fondest memories. The parents and the players and the other coaches became some of our best friends," he said.