Founder, Joan Imhof Tribute Page

In Loving Memory of LIVC Founder, Joan Imhof

by Kevin Mattimore

There are people we meet in this world who we simply cannot forget. They touch our hearts, touch our souls and touch our lives in such meaningful ways, ways that leave a lasting impression on us. They are unique and special, and their passion for living and for trying to make the world a better place is so strong that it becomes contagious, lifting everyone around them.

Joan Imhof was one of those rare people. Joan, the founder of the Long Island Volunteer Center, passed away December 12 from complications of a pancreatic tumor. She was taken from us far too young, at the age of 67. We miss her terribly, but we take comfort in a life well lived and in knowing that Joan's spirit lives on in all of us.

The list of Joan's accomplishments is a long one. In addition to founding LIVC back in 1992, she was a village trustee in Bayville, worked at Newsday as a manager of the highly successful FutureCorps student service project, directed volunteer services for Nassau County, and co-founded the Red Cross Swim-A-Cross in Bayville. After suffering a brain aneurysm five years ago, Joan began raising funds for the Brain Aneurysm Center at North Shore University Hospital - LIJ in Manhasset with her "Hope Floats" swims in Oyster Bay.

In 2002, Joan was inducted into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame, an honor that was richly deserved. The Hall of Fame archive reads: "The Long Island Volunteer Center was established in 1992 by Joan Imhof, who was the previous director of volunteer services for Nassau County. After the Nassau and Suffolk County Offices for Volunteers were defunded, she continued receiving phone calls at her home from agencies seeking volunteers. Realizing the vital importance of the maintenance of the volunteer center, Joan applied for and received funding from the Points of Light Foundation, Mott and Kellogg Foundations, and Chase Manhattan Foundation which enabled her to create the Long Island Volunteer Center to serve both Nassau and Suffolk Counties."

Joan's willingness to help others serves as a great example to all of us. As Joan herself once said, "I feel most grateful when people who have benefited from the help of a volunteer walk out of the building with happy faces and thank us. I feel like we have shared a moment celebrating their lives. It is all about celebrating life."

As we celebrate Joan's remarkable life, let us do all we can to honor her legacy. Here, in their own words, are some reflections by just a few of the many people who were touched by Joan:

Excerpts from the eulogy of Brian J. Whiteman, Joan's brother

Two words that come to my mind that describe Joan are: selfless and exuberant. She was always willing to help others, and was unfailingly enthusiastic when doing so. Her spirit was contagious and always left you feeling lucky to have her support.

I wanted to share with you some words of others that capture Joan's spirit:
-- "God has put special people on this earth that truly stand out, and Joan was definitely one.''
-- "She was truly a role model for all of us women today.''
-- "We'll always have such fond memories of Joan. She always made us feel so welcome.''
-- "Joan was one of those few precious people in our lives who help us feel especially good about who we are and what we do.''

In the words of a great philosopher from Oyster Bay, "Only the Good Die Young.'' He couldn't have said it any better.

Rick Van Dyke, former President/CEO, Family Service League

Many years back, before I really knew Joan, I attended community meetings that Joan also attended. My initial observation was that she was quiet and not terribly involved. I soon learned that I was wrong. Joan was taking it all in, and later on she would make an astute remark with a thoughtful recommendation. She was a team player – always enthusiastic and professional in her demeanor.

The first real connection that Joan and I made was where we were serving together on the Junior League of Long Island's Community Advisory Board. This was a small group of community people who were providing suggestions to the Junior League about direction on social issues and the development of projects involving its membership. It was through these deliberations that Joan and I connected and found our common ground. We both were highly committed to the social good and the well being of the disenfranchised. We also learned that we were on the same page about the tremendous value of volunteers and how we might enhance opportunities for people to give back to their neighborhoods.

As a result, when I was President and CEO of the Family Service League, Joan and I fostered the establishment of the Long Island Volunteer Center. I supported every step of this effort and linked FSL's Volunteer Coordinator to this broader community endeavor.

When Joan took on her work with Newsday's FutureCorps, she developed it into a movement ¬– recognizing youth, inspiring the public, and helping Long Island's young people find new direction. She was spirited, incredibly perceptive, putting the pieces together. She understood the connectedness amongst us all, and her positive energy was a great inspiration. When Joan was asked to provide the keynote address at the Family Service League's annual volunteer luncheon a few years back, she gladly accepted and I had the opportunity to introduce her. During her remarks, I also learned that Joan was a very spiritual person and was moved by her inner spirit based on common principles such as our interconnectedness, the balance between task and process, the value of every human being, the democratic process, the intrinsic worth of giving of oneself to others, etc.

I surely miss the opportunity to see, call or have an e-mail conversation. Joan left a great message for all of us, and her legacy will live on. She was humble but personally courageous in what she created and left for us.

Paulina Bitetto

From the moment I met Joan she impacted my life. I worked for her in the 90's at around the time she started the LIVC. My job was to answer phones, organize meetings and initiate volunteer opportunities. It was only a part-time job as I was going to school at the time. Since I have a love for animals, at the time the volunteer opportunities for animals listed only a handful of shelters and when I asked if other organizations could be added to the list, she replied "Go for it."

I was very impressed with her professionalism and incredible speaking presence at corporate events. She was like a mini-tornado with the extraordinary amount of work she could get accomplished in one day. All in all, she was kind to everyone.

To this day I emulate her and do not even realize her influence. On the day of her passing, I was at a stress management class hosted by my employer. The class took place only a few feet from the old LIVC in Mineola. When the instructor asked for methods of keeping your sanity, I told her about a boss I once had who told me to always keep a gratitude list and an "I Love Paulina" file at work. This was one way to keep things in perspective and stay grounded even in difficult situations. To this day I pass this on to staff and interns who work in the department.

Joan Imhof has perhaps impacted my life the most out of anyone I have met since that time. I think of all the volunteer assignments I went on because of Joan – the Red Cross Swim-a-cross, planting bird houses in Bethpage State Park, Make a Difference Day, helping sick animals at Volunteers for Wildlife and planting trees at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary. It has been a pleasure knowing this wonderful human being and I am honored to have worked with her!

Kevin Mann, Long Island Regional Service Learning Network

It is difficult to put my feelings about Joan into simple words. Most of my work with Joan was through Newsday's FutureCorps. In all meetings, discussions, letters and workshops, Joan always was a class act. Despite the hurdles and obstacles, she maintained a positive outlook and focused on the goal at hand. As coordinator of the Long Island Regional Service Learning Network, Joan and I co-hosted many events, workshops and meetings. Each event was professionally developed and carried out. Our network considered Joan a member. She was a classy woman who is gone but will not soon be forgotten. Those who met her gained from the experience. I was honored to consider her a colleague and a friend. If there is a heaven, Joan has a boat slip on still waters!

The Long Island Volunteer Enterprise (LIVE) Team

Joan Imhof was an inspiration to many and a true leader in volunteerism on Long Island. She was a founding member of the Nassau County Volunteer Center whose main goal was to raise awareness of the power of volunteerism. Joan was a dynamic individual who was born to be a volunteer leader. She was an energetic and positive role model who believed with all her heart that people should help their fellow man wherever and whenever possible. She had a goal, to help Nassau County become a role model for getting things done that needed to be done but lacked funding. Back in the early 1990s, Joan encouraged a few folks from corporations to join in an effort to brainstorm about how corporations could build volunteer teams to help not-for-profit agencies.

Working with Bob Purcell from IBM, Joan helped recruit a group of companies that would form Long Island Volunteer Enterprise (LIVE). Those initial companies included IBM, AT&T, Deloitte & Touche, LILCO, Grumman, Price Waterhouse, Estee Lauder, UPS and WALK Radio, along with the United Way of Long Island and numerous other volunteer agencies. Since that time, more than 400 companies and organizations have provided over 20,000 people days dedicated to helping those in need.

Joan was an active member of LIVE throughout the past 20 years, always raising the awareness of the power of volunteerism. LIVE continues to be an innovative, productive group that was nourished with the aid of many corporations and with the tremendous spirit and energy of many, but especially the spirit and love of Joan Imhof. … Joan, we will miss you.

Professor Patricia Lupino, Nassau Community College

I first met Joan in 2005 at a Newsday conference she hosted for Long Island educators interested in exploring Service Learning as a teaching modality. That first meeting was only a few years ago. Yet, I feel as if I have known Joan for many more years than that. I suppose that's the best tribute I can offer. She was a genuine, loving, kind person. She welcomed me into her life and her projects so readily and completely, that I feel that I have lost a long-term friend.

Joan loved Prom Boutique. That's what I will remember most about her. She glowed when she arrived at the Boutique each year, even the year that she was recovering from brain surgery. She often brought her grandchildren; and they, too, walked around the Boutique as if they were at an incredible, fun-filled fair. It was so apparent that she instilled a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for good works in everyone, including her precious grandchildren. When she was recovering from brain surgery, she told me that she wanted her daughter to know how much Prom Boutique meant to her – and that it was one of her favorite events, as it helped so many young women in need. For me, her legacy will always live on through that event. I remember that she came to Prom Boutique a few months after her surgery. She didn't want to miss it. She wasn't quite ready physically but she came nonetheless and offered her love and support. (I was so impressed with how she "fought back" after her surgery to regain her strength.)

One year, our students raised more than $1,800 for the Volunteer Center to use for Prom Boutique expenses. Joan was so touched and grateful to the students. She never assumed that anything was "owed" to her. She loved to celebrate the accomplishments of others. She left the building a "little nervous" about carrying so much cash. One of my colleagues offered to walk out to the parking lot with her. Both women were petite and I questioned the wisdom of letting them go off without an escort from Public Safety. Then I realized that nothing bad would happen to her – if someone tried to rob her, she would give him or her the money and offer her support. She was that kind of person.

For the past two years, Joan helped us to launch a service learning initiative at the College. At the time, she was recovering from a broken ankle. It didn't stop her. She made it a priority to get to the various taskforce meetings and to contribute to the initiative. She offered her personal talents, as well as that of her organization. She believed so passionately in the effort and committed her time and soul to seeing it through. That's what most impressed me about Joan through the years. She was so generous with her support; she didn't seek fame or fortune; she just wanted to help make a difference in the lives of others; she wanted to support others looking to support those in need.  

When I first learned of Joan's illness, I was shocked. Yet I was not surprised. I had a premonition that something wasn't quite right. A day or so before Diana O'Neill called to tell me that Joan was ill, I was thinking about her. She wanted to get together for dinner with our spouses. I vowed to call her and set a date. I knew it was important to her and I hadn't made it a priority. I was annoyed with myself for letting other things take precedent. When Diana called, I knew it was about Joan and that it was something bad. I'd like to think Joan was thinking about me that last Sunday – and sending me warm thoughts. That's what she would do – she was such a thoughtful soul.

It's beyond my comprehension as to why someone so good, so kind, so loving, and so important to all of us should be taken from us. It's still not "real" to me. Through the years, I've thought about her every time we've launched a service learning project. I will especially miss her this year when Prom Boutique comes around. I'll miss her smile, her support, her generosity of spirit, her guidance, and her love. She touched my life and is irreplaceable, yet she lives on in each of us.