By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
One is a businessman who was taught the importance of giving back to the community by his beloved late parents. The other is a coach, mentor and former educator who has influenced thousands of young lives during his 50 years as an Ocean City community leader.
On Wednesday night during a gala awards ceremony, David Allegretto and Greg Donahue were recognized by the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce for their myriad contributions to the community.
Allegretto, 55, who formerly served as the Chamber’s president for four years, was named the 2022 Citizen of the Year. Donahue, 75, was given the Outstanding Service to the Community Award.
Michele Gillian, the Chamber’s executive director, pointed out how Allegretto was able to establish crucial links between the Chamber, individual local businesses and the city that allowed Ocean City to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He has been an outstanding leader to all of us during COVID,” Gillian told the packed audience at the Flanders Hotel during the awards dinner.
While introducing Donahue for his award, Gillian noted that he has been involved with the community for a half-century and “has made a difference in all of the children’s lives he has touched.”
Speaking to the audience, Allegretto gave special thanks to the Chamber, his business partners and the community. He also singled out Michele Gillian and Mayor Jay Gillian, who are married, for all of the work they do on behalf of the community.
But he saved his fondest remarks for his family, including his wife, Kendra, and his three children, Jordan, Alaina and Andrew.
“I can’t imagine a life without you,” he told his family. “You make me a better person and I try to make you proud every day.”
Allegretto also spoke emotionally about his late parents, Andrew and Madeline Allegretto, who showed him that “volunteerism was all part of our family growing up.”
“I’m just lucky that my parents chose to make Ocean City my home,” he said.
Underscoring his parents’ commitment to public service, he told a story of how there were two phones in the Allegretto household. One phone was for the family’s use, while the other was reserved for calls for the Ocean City rescue squad. His parents were rescue squad dispatchers.
Allegretto is a third-generation resident of Ocean City. His grandfather, Michael Allegretto, immigrated to Ocean City from Italy.
His parents were both born in Ocean City and would raise their family in the community and stay their entire lives.
Allegretto attended the Ocean City public schools, participating in football and baseball. He graduated in 1985.
In 2014, he joined Fortress Financial, the Ocean City-based financial services company he runs with business partners Jeff Shirk, John Shirk and Jason Kiefer.
Allegretto has been treasurer, vice president and president of the Chamber of Commerce and is its immediate past president.
Bill McMahon, the Chamber’s current president, said that Allegretto was so humbled in receiving the Citizen of the Year award that he had to be brought to the ceremony “kicking and screaming.”
“He’s here for Ocean City, and he always will be,” McMahon said.
Mayor Gillian presented Allegretto with a ceremonial key to the city as a token of appreciation for his involvement in the community.
“This is one thing you can say about him: He is a gentleman, he is a statesman. He cares about Ocean City. He cares about his business. He most of all cares about his family and his faith,” the mayor said.
Allegretto also has been a coach to his children and others in youth sports. He was involved in the booster club for the field hockey team and swim team while his children were in high school.
He also served as the founding president of the Ocean City Education Foundation, where he helped raise funds to support the school system and provided extra opportunities for the students in the district.
In addition, he currently serves on the mission team of his church and helps in their family life center.
Meanwhile, Greg Donahue said it was a surprise to him to be selected for the Chamber’s Outstanding Service to the Community Award.
Looking back on his longtime service to Ocean City, he said he could have stopped his community involvement years ago, but enjoyed it too much to quit.
“I got as much out of it as the kids did – every day,” he told the audience.
He expressed his gratitude to a host of city and community leaders for their help over the years. He also thanked his family for their support. His wife, Cindy, 75, and his daughters, Erin and Kristen, joined him at the awards dinner.
“Most importantly, what makes it work for me is my family,” he said.
Donahue has been involved with the Ocean City Youth Athletic Association for over 50 years. He has served as a coach, umpire, vice president, president, refreshment stand director and for the past 32 years headed the Tee Ball Program.
He has also worked in conjunction with the OCYAA free baseball clinic offered by the Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas Foundation.
Donahue also volunteered as a coach and referee for the city’s Recreation Department’s soccer and basketball program and as a member of the city’s Recreation Committee for eight years.
In addition, he served as the CYO Director at St. Augustine School in Ocean City as well as girls’ basketball coach and helped institute a soccer and track program at St. Augustine School.
Donahue worked for the Ocean City school district for more than 38 years as a teacher, director of Special Services, assistant principal and principal and is a former member of the Board of Education, where he served two terms.
He is also a volunteer in St. Damien Parish in Ocean City, assisting with the scheduling of various ministries, as well as being an active member of several Sunday ministries.
In an interview, Donahue was asked to estimate how many children he thought he has influenced in the past 50 years through his roles as coach, mentor, educator and community leader.
“I would say, gosh, well over a thousand,” he said before pausing for a moment.
Then he added, “Well, it’s probably ten thousand.”
The following businesses also received awards at the dinner:
Outstanding New Business: Collective Vibes
Business Renovation/Improvement Award: Asbury Kitchen, Stainton’s Gallery By The Sea, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Yesterday’s Creekside Tavern, and the Ocean City Tabernacle Auditorium
Outstanding Landscaping/Signage Award: Scarborough Inn.
Business New Construction Award: Collective Vibes, Agave Mexican Kitchen, and Long & Foster – The Grisbaum Group.
Outstanding Civic, Community, Non-Profit Organization Award: Ocean City Historical Museum.
Outstanding Use of Technology Award: Bowfish Kids and Island Beach Gear
Special recognition awards: Diamond Barre Fitness for their 5th Anniversary, Reich Asset Management for their 10th Anniversary, The Sneaker Shop for their 20th Anniversary, Ocean City Financial Group for their 25th anniversary, Ta Dah for their 30th Anniversary, Henry’s Landmark Jewelers for their 50th Anniversary, Monihan Realty for their 75th Anniversary, and Sturdy Savings Bank for their 100th Anniversary.
Special Recognition Awards: Voltaco’s, Wards Pastry and The Islander.