41. Gwen O’Shea | The Long Island Press Power List

41. Gwen O’Shea

Health and Welfare Council of Long Island President & CEO

Gwen O’Shea knows that for too many Long Island families today the American Dream seems to mean working hard to just barely get by—and that’s not right. She also understands the peculiar pressure that Long Island’s high cost of living puts on families here, which means that those earning under $38,000 a year are considered impoverished while those making $85,000 can struggle, too. And she’s outraged that on Long Island, one of the richest places in the country, 100,000 kids know hunger firsthand. Sustaining the safety net in this harsh era of government cutbacks—from all sides—is a full-time job for O’Shea. Just a few years ago conservatives tried to label ketchup a vegetable so they could trim the food-stamp program. Now she has to resist efforts by Republicans and Democrats in Nassau and Suffolk to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor. O’Shea is a champion for those most in need of one.