Abraham Solar is well know in the Petaluma Hispanic community as the go-to resource for dealing with law enforcement, city government or just as a willing listener for concerns. In the past several months, his services have never been more in demand.

The director of Hispanic ministry for St. Vincent de Paul church, Solar is uniquely positioned to help the many Latino families who have been shaken by the aggressive immigration policies of the Trump administration. He has heard their fears and helped many obtain services from nonprofits and the Mexican consulate.

“The impact of the new way of governing has created fear in families who don’t know what is going to happen,” said Solar, 50. “The young people, the kids, they are fearful. They hear conversations of adults talking about ICE raids. That creates a level of fear.”

For his work in the community, Solar was honored with the Citizen of the Year award by the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce and the Argus-Courier. Solar said he was surprised and humbled by the honor. He will receive the award at the Community Awards of Excellence on April 20 at the Petaluma Sheraton Hotel.

Born in Mexico City, Solar came to the United States with his family in 1986, first landing in Novato. Five years later, wanting to expand his social circle, he decided to attend a youth group meeting at St. Vincent in Petaluma.

“Someone said that there was a Latino youth group in Petaluma, so I began to participate,” he said.

He became heavily involved in the youth and other ministries at the Catholic church, and eventually he was offered a full time job doing outreach to the Hispanic congregation. He said that he has enjoyed being a resource for families.

“The Catholic church is a very trustful resource for Latino families,” he said. “The church becomes a source of information and also the center of outreach that connects Latino families with services.”

In nominating Solar for the award, Marjorie Helm, a former Citizen of the Year, said that his mentoring of young people in the community has been invaluable.

“Working with young people has been at the heart of Abraham’s gift to the community,” she wrote. “He is responsible for encouraging, mentoring and training a generation of faith-based youth leaders within the Latino and Anglo communities. He has been the inspiration for young people continuing in school, completing college and continually asking themselves how they can contribute to the community.”

Besides his work with the church, Solar is involved in several other community organizations, including the recently founded Petaluma Community Relations Council, the Petaluma Day Labor Initiative and Police and Community Listening Circles. He founded the folkloric dance company, Petaluma Paquiyollotzin, and he organizes Petaluma’s El Dia de los Muertos festival each year.

Solar lives with his wife, Elia, and their three children. He said that Petaluma is a great place to raise a family because the residents look out for one another.

“The community is very generous when it comes to helping other in need,” he said. “We are very fortunate to be in a supportive community.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com)