Council Member Mike Talleda
Mike Talleda is a first-generation Cuban who immigrated to the United States in 1962, at the age of nine, with his parents and four siblings. Shortly after arriving in the States, Mike and his family moved to Torrance, California. Mike graduated from North High School, attended El Camino College, and became interested in real estate at the age of 23. At 27 years of age, Mike started his own Hawthorne-Lawndale company, and when the market was booming in the 80s, his company employed 40 full-time agents and offered escrow and mortgage services.
When the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001, Mike was deeply affected. He thought it was unbelievable that anyone could do something so horrible to a country that had been good to so many people. His experience as a Cuban refugee made him want to give back to the nation that had provided him and his family with not only a haven, but also with opportunities he never would have in his home country of communist Cuba.
He immediately decided that he needed to be involved somehow in helping his adopted country. So, he organized a group of friends for a fundraiser, with the objective of locating a family that had been devastated by the attacks to donate the proceeds to them. In 2002, he worked with a group of Special Forces (United Warrior Survivor Foundation), assisting the surviving spouses of Special Operators KIA in Afghanistan at the beginning of the war. By early 2004, Mike was ready to have his group become a 501(c) non-profit, so in June he created the 9-11 HelpAmerica Foundation to assist post 9/11 surviving spouses of our fallen and combat wounded veterans. In time, this became Wounded Heroes of America (www.woundedheroesofamerica.org).
Over the last 14 years,Wounded Heroes of America (WHOA) has assisted more than 170 combat wounded veterans, most of whom have had young families. Help comes in the way of financial aid, emotional assistance, and the fostering of a fellowship among the vets, which is unique among foundations in Southern California.
Throughout all of this, Mike has never lost track of his civic responsibilities to the city he has been a part of for so many years. He has been appointed by previous mayors to serve on the Oversight Board to the successor agency of the dissolved redeveloping agency.
Over the last six years, Mike has served on the Hawthorne Planning Commission, including being a Chairperson, and recently been appointed to the City Council.
He has received much recognition from local and state officials for his work with wounded veterans, and he has been recognized by the Los Angeles Veteran Center for his support of veterans.
Furthermore, he was the recipient of the 2011 Daily Breeze-People of Distinction Award: Unsung Hero category, as well as the 2013 Citizen of the Year award by the South Bay Association of Realtors.
Mike believes that after receiving various recognitions and accolades throughout the seventeen years he has done this work, the most endearing and special has been the letter from Cheryl McDonnell, the widow of Michael McDonnell—who was killed on September 11—and WHOA’s first beneficiary.
On December 12, 2001, Cheryl wrote:
“Dear Mike - There are no words to let you know how much I appreciate what you have done for my family and for me. This has been a very difficult time. Sometimes it feels as if the whole world is crumbling around us. After what you and your group have done, it has made me realize that all humanity is not lost. There are still good people, regardless of all the tragedy we are faced with every day.”
Cheryl’s letter confirmed for Mike that one person really can make a difference and if that is possible, what else is?