BAY RIDGE — Bay Ridge-born and raised William McKenna knows very well what The Tablet’s Bright Christmas campaign can do. Even after moving first to New Jersey and then retiring to Saugerties, New York, the former president, chairman and CEO of Ridgewood Savings Bank has been a generous donor to Bright Christmas for over 40 years.
The father of six children, all baptized at Our Lady of Angels Church, Bay Ridge as he was, also attended St. Michael’s High School and ultimately graduated from St. John’s University.
McKenna, a proud Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, remains on the board as chairman emeritus of Ridgewood, the largest mutual savings bank in the United States, and he is also an emeritus of the Calvary Hospital Fund and Boys Hope Girls Hope, which helps provide holistic services to motivated children in need.
He remains actively serving on the board of HeartShare Human Services subsidiary St. Vincent’s Services in the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the Irish Education Development Foundation, which supports the Catholic Church in Ireland. Additionally, he was invited to join the board of The Tablet in the mid-1980s where he served for many years.
In addition, the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn honored McKenna as its Man of the Year in 2002. And one year later, he was the co-honoree, along with Bishop Thomas Daily, for his years of service to the DeSales Media Group.
“I was originally on the board of The Tablet until I retired, and then I was asked by Msgr. Michael Dempsey to serve on the NET-TV board, which ultimately combined with The Tablet under DeSales,” explained McKenna.
“It’s been a wonderful experience and I was fortunate to work alongside some wonderful people like [retired Public Information Director for the Diocese of Brooklyn] Frank DeRosa and The Tablet’s Editor Emeritus Ed Wilkinson.”
It was Wilkinson who originally inspired McKenna to help support the Bright Christmas campaign.
“Bright Christmas is pure 100% charity and I am confident that every penny raised goes to those in need throughout the diocese,” said McKenna. “And it’s distributed on a parish level so it’s going right to where it’s needed the most.”
Bright Christmas began under the leadership of Deacon Don Zirkel, former editor of The Tablet, in the 1960s, when there was a booming movement to help inner-city children. At that time the fund consisted of a few thousand dollars, distributed throughout the parishes in the diocese so children could partake in a Christmas celebration.
Pastors, parish administrators, and directors of diocesan groups seeking assistance this Christmas should contact The Tablet as soon as possible. The campaign grants funds only to those parish groups and outreach efforts within the Diocese of Brooklyn that request help to brighten this holy season, focused on the most important gifts of family and faith.
Even after moving to Saugerties, where his son is the mayor of Woodstock, McKenna continues to support Bright Christmas. Wilkinson calls McKenna a real gentleman.
“I always enjoyed being in his company,” said Wilkinson. “He’s a solid professional and made a great contribution to The Tablet by being on the board of directors during some turbulent times when we had a lot of changes going on. He was always a very steady influence and always well-respected because of his professionalism.”