2014-05-09 / Columnists

Who’s Who

Dr. Kelli Donohue Tirado, President & Founder of Rockaway WISH
By Katie McFadden

Dr. Kelli Donohue Tirado, President & Founder of Rockaway WISH Dr. Kelli Donohue Tirado, President & Founder of Rockaway WISH Tell us about yourself

I am a lifelong resident of Rockaway - born and raised. My parents, Michael and Patricia Donohue, were also raised in Rockaway and still live in the apartment in Dayton Towers West that I grew up in. From a young age, my parents taught me to be caring and thoughtful and they modeled this behavior by always “doing good deeds” and helping others. I am the oldest child with a younger sister, Meghan Anderson (board member of Rockaway WISH and a nurse), and two younger brothers, Michael Donohue (computer consultant) and Danny Donohue (Lt. in the FDNY). I now live in the same building in Dayton that I grew up in with my husband, Richard Tirado (computer programmer from the Bronx). I attended the Astre Program at PS 183 and the Scholar Research Institute at JHS 180, but I went to high school in Brooklyn (Midwood High School). I got my B.A. in Psychology and Computer Applications from the University of Notre Dame. I received an M.A. in Educational Psychology and a Ph.D. in School Psychology from New York University. I currently work in the NYC Department of Education as a School Psychologist in Brooklyn and as a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Were you involved with community affairs before starting Rockaway WISH? Are you involved in any other community groups currently?

I wasn’t involved in community affairs, but I supported other Rockaway groups and often participated in events that helped the Rockaway community. I also coached and was a league commissioner in the St. Francis Summer Classics. Currently I am not actively involved in other community groups, but I support many other local organizations personally and as the President of Rockaway WISH.

Why did you want to start Rockaway WISH? What does Rockaway WISH (Rockaway Women Inspired to Support and Help) do?

In August 2006, a friend and Rockaway resident, LCpl Michael Glover, USMC was killed in action in Iraq. This was an incredible loss for Rockaway, but as the people of Rockaway came together to support his family and honor him, I was inspired. I saw how the RIBS and the Graybeards were helping and I wanted to be able to do that same. I realized that we needed a women’s organization that could also do things to support the people of Rockaway, but maybe we could focus on women and children. So I got a bunch of friends together and asked them to invite other friends and we had our first meeting in a living room, with a bunch of women sitting around discussing the ways in which we can support and help our community.

Our first project, when we started in 2006, was small. We sent small gifts to local women affected by the war in Iraq to let them know that we were thinking about them and that they had our support. The women were so appreciative and it helped us realize that even small things can make a huge impact. We have continued on that tradition and eight years later we are still delivering Mother’s Day flowers to women in the neighborhood who had a child deployed or are just going through a difficult time. We also started Treats with Santa that year, which is a Christmas gathering for children and families where everyone comes together to have some fun, make some crafts, and have their picture taken with Santa. That is another annual event that has been enjoyed and appreciated by the Rockaway community. Over the years, we have held many other events (e.g. coat drive, baby drive, school supply drive, WISH Rocks concert to celebrate some deserving kids, etc.). We have sponsored struggling families during the holidays, and have provided monetary assistance to a number of people and families while they were experiencing some difficult times.

After Sandy we realized that we needed to step up and do whatever we could to help our community. Since we were already a known and respected organization we were able to raise funds, garner donations of goods and set up a donation center for the neighborhood. The board members as well as some other members of WISH really stepped up to help our neighborhood during our most trying time. By the first anniversary of Sandy we had donated more than $100,000 to families in need and we had more and more Rockaway women who wanted to become a part of WISH. We are currently a 501c(3) organization and we’re still working on ways to support and help the people of Rockaway.

We are a volunteer run organization with board members who devote a great deal of their personal time and energy to support the Rockaway community. I am so grateful for these women and all of the active members who have helped to make WISH the amazing organization it is today. I am proud and honored to have started this very special group and now I cannot imagine Rockaway without WISH.

What is your role as President of the group?

My duties as President of WISH include overseeing day-to-day operations of the organization, helping to organize events and fundraising, exploring ways in which we can improve our organization and help more people, and communicating with outside charities and organizations who wish to help the Rockaways.

How long do you see yourself being a part of Rockaway WISH?

WISH has become so much a part of me that I know that I will do what I can to keep Rockaway WISH going and I will always be a part of it.

What do you think is the most important issue facing Rockaway?

I believe that Rockaway needs more support from our city. I feel that we are often a forgotten part of the city and this needs to be remedied in order for the Rockaways to continue to thrive. Nineteen months after Sandy there are still many Rockaway residents who cannot live in their homes, the Build It Back program has been a bureaucratic disaster, and the boardwalk rebuild is only in the beginning stages. If not for the small community based organizations in Rockaway, we would not have come as far as we have since Sandy.

What is the best part of living in the area?

The COMMUNITY. I love that although we live in New York City, by living in Rockaway we really live in a small neighborhood. A place where you not only know your neighbor, but you went to school with their brother, played basketball with their sister and have a lifetime of memories that are rehashed at every beach party. Our neighbors aren’t just people we say hi to every morning until they move away; they are our friends and family who will be there with us to share the biggest moments in our lives. These bonds helped us get through 9/11, the American Airlines crash, and Hurricane Sandy, and they will help us to get through whatever hardships we will face in the future. Rockaway is a truly special place and I couldn’t live anywhere else.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in getting involved in Rockaway?

My advice would be to take the leap and just do it. There are so many great groups and organizations in Rockaway that could use more people who are committed to making a difference and doing something for others. I know that it can be daunting to start something new or to join a new group, but the reward of doing something special to help others will overpower any fears or anxieties that may be holding you back.

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