Carmelita Green ’63 BA is reticent to talk about herself.
Ask about her life today and she will confidently talk about her husband, Dr. David P. Green, the nonprofit he started and her role in supporting the causes they both believe in.
Ask about her past and she’s matter-of-fact about growing up in Laredo, remaining a devout Catholic and attending the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), then Incarnate Word College, from 1959 until she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in math in 1963.
That innate modesty is just part of her charm.
Carmelita, now 73, says she chose UIW because it was a school that shared her values.
I liked the idea of going to a Catholic school,” she said. “And I was lucky they accepted me.”
She describes her experience as wonderful and wholesome. “So many people from Laredo all came,” she said. “I met so many people who became lifelong friends.”
Some of those friends are the very people she turns to now in her current work fundraising for the Helping Hands Fund. She is vice president of the board for the fund, which is the nonprofit her husband established in 2009. He serves as the board’s president.
The Helping Hands Fund grew out of David’s board service with San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries (SAMM). His inspiration was a young woman named Annie. Annie was getting help through the ministries, she was a single mother, homeless but motivated to become a lawyer. She shared with David and others on the SAMM board that times had gotten so desperate she watered down the milk in her baby’s bottle and flipped diapers inside out so as to reuse them.
But SAMM had no endowment for education. And, at the time, there was no financial support to help someone like Annie. No one covered milk, or diapers, or paid for gas to get to class, or paid for testing fees.
“All those little incidental fees derail people who have nothing,” David said. “These are mostly single people, single mothers with two or three kids who are looking to keep their families together and get back into the mainstream.”
“There’ve got to be more Annies out there,” David said he thought after hearing her story.
The Greens saw a need and knew they could help. They each contributed financially to establishing The Helping Hands Fund, so named because they literally are a helping hand for some people but also a playful poke at David’s profession as an orthopedic and hand surgeon in San Antonio. The nonprofit applied for and attained its 501c3 status in 2013. There is a three-person board and a team of community advisors but no paid staff and all work is done on a volunteer basis.
The fund’s purpose is to provide financial assistance to support the educational endeavors of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It covers either incidentals that might prohibit someone from meeting their goals or it’s a scholarship specific to education. All of the money raised by the fund is dispersed to people nominated by SAMM and Haven for Hope.
“The point of the whole thing was to get people off welfare and into the ranks of the working,” Carmelita said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Carmelita gives all the credit for the nonprofit to her husband, but in truth, she stands beside him in both the belief that they can make a difference for San Antonio’s homeless and in the practice of raising money and awareness for those endeavors.
“She’s really been a major fundraiser for us,” David said.
Over 200 individuals have been helped by the Helping Hands Fund to-date and more than $230,000 disbursed since 2011.
In addition to the Greens putting in their own money and asking friends to contribute to the fund, the couple also hosted their first large event last fall. “An Acoustic Evening with Kris Kristofferson” was a sold-out success with some 350 people in attendance for the intimate concert that began with cocktails and hors d’ouvres at the Whitley Theological Center.
David said Kristofferson is an old friend from his days at Pomona College in California and he gave the concert for free, which helped raise some $47,000 for the fund.
“It was just the perfect setting and intimate enough for everyone to feel like they were getting a personal performance,” David said.
The couple is still deciding what the next fundraiser will entail.
“My focus now is to make sure Helping Hands succeeds,” Carmelita said. “It’s something both of us really believe in.”
For more information and to view testimonials of those helped by Helping Hands, visit www.helpinghandsfund.com
By Tricia Schwennesen