Action Center Co-Founders: Semeo and Aria Doe
When you come to the Rockaways, you can’t help but be moved and the Action Center’s Co-Founders were no different. After witnessing firsthand the tragic plight of a neighborhood beset by poverty and gang violence and frustrated with the pace of change and the number of dying youth and children, the Action Center was Co-founded by Semeo and Aria Doe as an answer to some of the communities’ challenges.
Says Aria Doe, we always knew the day would come when we’d be able to, or would have no choice, but to commit ourselves fully to a life of service. Our parents had set the example for us early through their work with children, teens and their respective communities during both our young lives.
As we became adults, we both took up the mantel separately, traveling throughout the world to experience other cultures and communities first hand; at the time we met, we were by then no strangers in working in third world countries and third world communities and continued by starting our marriage fighting for Democracy for the sister African Nation of Liberia West Africa; often with our young kids tagging along”
However, while the kids were young, after having moved to one of the more stabilized neighborhoods in the Rockaways, the Doe’s settled into the corporate arena to meet the needs of a growing family.
“It all blew up one day 13years ago” says Aria Doe, “I was frustrated with the disparity in the schools on the Rockaway Peninsula and I came home determined to pull our kids out. My husband said we could either be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. Knowing he was right, we left our corporate jobs, cashed in our 401Ks and began the Action Center. We founded it on the premise that all parents want the same things for their children regardless of family make-up, orientation, hue, culture, or financial status. We have never looked back. “
While the Action Center was initially a self-financed organization, operated from the couple’s basement, the Action Center has grown to become a community resilience hub serving more than 66,000 families and 6,000 children; while providing dozens of local jobs in one of the nation’s most at-risk neighborhoods.
Semeo, with a bevy of administrative, strategic, and global partners continues lending his executive consulting expertise to the Action Center as well as emergent 3rd world communities both here and abroad. Aria has continued in the capacity of Action Center Executive Director for the last 13 years.
Echoing the early days when they started, they both had to join forces during the height of Sandy to stand on the front lines together with the community to meet suffering residents’ needs. During Superstorm Sandy the Action Center served 600 to 1000 families daily; providing nearly 1 million dollars of in-kind services, while treating over 200 residents in their clinic weekly at the height of the storm. For their efforts, they received the Mayors Helping Hands Award as well as national acclaim for the organization with coverage featured in the Huffington Post, the New York Times, The New York Daily News, ABC, CBS and NBC News, and Al Jazeera. The Action Center was also featured in Academy Award® nominee Josh Fox’s film Occupy Sandy and Greenpeace’s Postcard for Climate Change series.
The Doe’s are the proud parents of three children who are seasoned travelers, volunteers in their communities and global thinkers who speak Chinese, Swahili, Japanese and German between them.