Maria Magda O’Keefe
-Founder of Hispanic Multi-Purpose Service Center
Maria Magda O’Keefe was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico Where she received her primary and secondary education, She studied at Central High School and trained professionally as a Nurse at the Hospital de Damas in Ponce after earning a diploma as a Registered Nurse. She moved to New Jersey, attended the Cosmetology at the Master Headdresses Academy in Passaic and opened her business. Also, she studied Health Education at Columbia University in New York. She is certified as a Social Worker from The State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs. Also, the National Association of Forensic Counselors certified her to be a Domestic Violence Counselor.
During these years, Maria Magda O’Keefe got a firsthand look at the harsh reality of the residents: widespread poverty, criminality, and how the Hispanic community lacked of social services and support to overcome these and other problems in Paterson.
Maria became an active and involved leader who advocated for improving the quality of life of the minorities, the poor and powerless in Paterson. In 1976, along with a group of Puerto Rican activists and community leaders who shared her concerns, O’Keefe founded Hispanic Multi-Purpose Service Center in Paterson New Jersey to provide outstanding free social, educational and recreational services to the community.
Hoping to make a difference, Maria Magda O’Keefe run for public office not knowing she’ll become a trailblazer for Latino elected officials in her political career. She served as Deputy Mayor alongside the Mayor of Paterson Lawrence F. Kramer with particular responsibility for solving problems in the social and human services areas. Her vision and leadership made it easier for all Hispanic Americans to seek and win elected office. In 1984 she became the first Hispanic elected official to occupy the position of Councilwoman in the City of Paterson. By 1989, she was the first Hispanic Woman to be elected as the President of the Paterson City Council. Maria Magda has served her community in a variety of positions. She was the Commissioner of the Board of Social Services and the Board of Health in Paterson. She was also a member of the Board of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson. She has served as a liaison between the Paterson City Hall and the community at-large. She was a member of Women in Government, the Paterson Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia University Health Panel and the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors. In addition, she has served as Chairperson of the Paterson Great Falls Committee, and in 1976, she was the President of the Puerto Rican Parade.
Magda continually touches the lives of the people around her. She has received a myriad of awards including recognition from the United States Department of Defense, the Irish Culture Society, the New Jersey State Assembly and the Italian Society. Also, the Puerto Rican Congress with a Cemi Award for community service honored her. In 2006 the City of Paterson honored Maria Magda for National Women’s Month for her tireless efforts and dedication to the City of Paterson.