2017 DEALER OF THE YEAR
A tragedy helped bring out the charitable spirit in Terry Gilmore.
It was 1992 when the small, rural and little-known Southern California town of Temecula was suddenly front page news. A little after 7:30 a.m., the U.S. Border Patrol, in pursuit of a stolen Suburban carrying 13 suspected illegal immigrants, exited at Rancho California, and headed toward Margarita in pursuit of the stolen vehicle.
School was just about to start and students were milling about campus at Temecula Valley High School. Parents were dropping off their children, when the Suburban smashed into an Acura, splitting the car in half, killing the man driving the Acura, his son and his son's friend. And it forever altered how Gilmore viewed the world.
Not only was the accident a catalyst for change in the United States -- the mayor of Temecula successfully convinced Washington, D.C. to change its policies on pursuing suspects -- it profoundly change Gilmore.
"That was the first time I ever thought about doing something [for others]. It was hard to believe that we could actually make a difference," said Gilmore, president and owner of Paradise Chevrolet Cadillac in Temecula.
Immediately after the local tragedy, an employee approached Gilmore about taking action. The employee, Denny Mighell, who now runs Temecula Valley People Helping People, asking his boss to help rally support for the family and friends of the victims of this horrible tragedy, Gilmore said.
"It was a difficult day for everybody," said Mighell, and he wanted to motivate the community to help aide those impacted by the tragedy.
But Gilmore wasn't sure what kind of help he could extend. He had moved to the area only a year before to start up Paradise Chevrolet with then-partner Robert Gregory. He had no money, was working hard to make the dealership successful in a small but growing city and didn't know many people in the community. On top of that, he had never been the volunteering type.
"And when I say never volunteered, I mean, never, zero," he said. "It had always been about me, chasing the buck, 'Is Terry happy?'" he said.
But then, at 45-years-old, Gilmore decided to get involved and suddenly found himself in the driver's sear, speeding toward the world of community activism. Quickly he discovered that it's not the dollars that count.
"There's nothing more valuable than your time, so I decided to give mine," he said.
The results of his donated time were a complete surprise to the longtime car dealer. "When you ask Gilmore for help for a cause he believes in, he will spring into action and get the job done," Mighell said.
The owner of the local Costco, which has just opened up in town, donated food for all the victim's friends and relatives and the local limousine company shuttled relative and friends of the victims from the airport and around town. The Embassy Suites donated hotel rooms.
What Gilmore saw was a community coming together. "I think what makes Temecula, Murrieta and Wildomar and all these places so great is that people are giving of themselves," he said. And that was just the beginning of what has become a lifetime of community service for the once self-described, selfish businessman. "Terry's a leader," said Mighell. "He's got a golden heart."