Riverhead’s Dhonna Goodale, One Busy Woman

Dhonna Goodale has great talent, a huge heart, a large home, and an enormous spirit of generosity. Surrounded by expansive views of the Peconic Bay, the sharp tang of marine air mingles with the scent of incense and sautéed onions as Goodale presents a fabulous lunch of salmon and roasted asparagus she has cooked for this reporter.

A former Broadway performer and television actress with an international career, she is once again appearing on stage and in New York clubs while still devoted to the care of her husband, Jesse “Bobby” Goodale and two sons.

Surrounded by paintings, sculpture, family portraits and photos with celebrated friends in their Flanders home, Dhonna radiates excitement for all her projects, whether it is a unique interior stone façade of her own design or her numerous charitable endeavors.

Within her richly creative environment, though, the core of her being is dedicated to raising funds for and managing the Tara L. Steven Memorial Scholarship Fund. Founded in 2003, Tara Stevens was Dhonna’s sister, murdered at the age of 25 by her husband. The organization provides scholarships throughout the world and educational programs to raise awareness about domestic violence. It sponsors three “safe houses” where women can go to escape an abuser. One of the homes, located in New Jersey, has accredited teachers and a GED program to help women enter the workforce and make changes in their own lives.

The fund is part of the larger Goodale Productions, run by Dhonna and Bobby, a professor at Suffolk Community College who has taught at Columbia and Barnard, and whose family owns Riverhead Building Supply. He balances teaching with his duties on the board of Peconic Medical Center, where, in recognition of a recent $1,000,000 donation, the ER has been renamed in their honor.

Their good works are widespread. Every year Goodale Productions and All Island Jewelry & Loan donate musical instruments to local schools in Riverhead so that children who can’t otherwise rent them will have the opportunity to learn to play. “We provide money for children to live better lives,” Goodale says. “This is my passion.”

Born in Harlem, Goodale grew up shuffling between Riverhead and the city. “When I was a child I was told that I was useless, that I’d never amount to anything. I was very determined and worked really hard, and as a result, I went from welfare to philanthropy. Every child needs to know that no matter where you are, even in the face of adversity, if you work hard—really hard—you can do and be anything you want.”

And Goodale had a great role model. Mary Goodale was Dhonna’s music teacher. Bobby used to sit and read during her lessons. “I had the best mother-in-law in the world.” she says. “She taught my boys to read at a very early age and taught me so much. She passed away two years ago.”

Dhonna will be performing at Birdland on November 3, in a new musical written by Roz Nixon, The SS Nirvana. She plays Madame Royale, a combination of Mae West and Pearl Bailey and she loves the big band music it features. She is also preparing for a new television show that will air in December. “Four Houses” is a competition of over-the-top holiday decorators, and Goodale’s home is one of those being featured. While she’s loading up on tinsel and garland, she is also at work on two books.

Deeply creative in many ways, Goodale says she “thinks outside the box,” which enables her to come up with new and exciting ideas for their annual fundraiser, held on the grounds of their bayfront property each summer. Over 1,000 people attend. Roberta Flack, Goodale’s godmother, has headlined the event, as has Patti Labelle. This past year, the 10th anniversary of the event, featured Adrian Bailey. “We are already getting ready for next year’s party on August 24, 2013 and are currently looking for sponsors.”
“A lot people in this lifetime never get the chance to know why they are here or what their destiny is. I am blessed to know that,” says Goodale. And the rest of the world is blessed to be the recipient of her good deeds.

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