COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maria DeInnocentiis has dedicated her life to the service of others. She is the chair of the Utopia State Civic Association, the treasurer of the Order Sons of Italy in America and the chair and treasurer of Community Board 8, among other posts.
“I work hard to support my community,” she said. “I try to keep up the quality of life for my neighbors, and make sure they have a place to file complaints when they need to.”
BACKGROUND: DeInnocentiis was born in Brooklyn and moved to Queens when she was a teenager. She attended St. John’s University, where she acquired her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and counseling.
DeInnocentiis’s volunteering efforts began at her church. When she had children later on, she knew she wanted them to have a good life. She thought that getting involved in the community would help her better understand its problems and issues.
“I see a need to give back, and people always ask me to help out,” she said. “I guess I just don’t know how to say no. It’s what I really enjoy doing, and I learned in my 30s that this is what I want to do with my life.”
FAVORITE MEMORY: “I remember when I was at a rally with my one-year-old daughter,” she said. “That’s when Mayor Ed Koch walked up to me and told me that it was people like me that made a difference. He was a great man, and those words still stick with me.”
BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: DeInnocentiis says that her biggest today is getting people away from mass media to focus on becoming involved.
“Finding young people willing to persevere is harder than it was 30 years ago,” she said. “Twitter and Facebook are great for getting a message out, but they can’t solve problems. People have to get out and make sure your voice is heard.”
INSPIRATION: “I have many people I look to for inspiration,” DeInnocentiis said. “But my true lifelong inspiration is Tami Hirsch, my best friend. She’s the president of the Utopia State Civic Association and she’s been my best friend and supporter for many years.”