Joseph E. O’Hara
Serving as the Executive Director of PEACE, Inc. from 2001 to 2021, Joseph “Joe” E. O’Hara left a profound legacy of program expansion, service innovation, and community responsiveness. More recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, PEACE, Inc. responded to the needs of its community in real time and in novel ways, including Home Delivered Meals, Housing and Rental Eviction Supports, and Vaccination Outreach. Joe was especially proud of the agency’s stewardship of its many federal, state, and philanthropic funds. PEACE, Inc. received no audit findings or significant deficiencies for the last fifteen audited financial statements of his term. It also qualified as a low-risk auditee for the last thirteen years of his term.
Throughout his career, Joe passionately combated poverty and sought to help individuals and families escape it. These values defined his work prior to PEACE, Inc. at Onondaga County’s Social Services and Probation Departments, the New York State Fair as its Director, and Catholic Charities of Central New York. Joe also served as a Common Councilor for the City of Syracuse and participated in countless coalitions, including the Education and Human Development Committee of the City of Syracuse, the Providence College Board of Governors, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
A modest man, Joe was nonetheless recognized for his leadership, receiving awards from the Waterford Crystal Award from the St. Patrick Day Parade Committee, the Outstanding New Yorker Award from the New York State Jaycees, and the Providence College Alumni Association Faithful Friar Award. Proclamations were given by State Senator John W. Mannion, Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, and Village of East Syracuse Mayor Robert T. Tackman upon his retirement. PEACE, Inc. also planted a tree honoring Joe at its Merrick Head Start site. Like the African proverb, “When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind,” the tree symbolizes Joe’s commitment to growing programs with strong foundations.