A grandfather of non profits recognized

As the old African proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child. This has been George Green's mantra - except for him, it takes the whole of Whitehorse.

As the old African proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child. This has been George Green’s mantra – except for him, it takes the whole of Whitehorse.

For over five decades, the 67-year old grandfather who works three jobs is still volunteering for a slew of non-profits in the city – some of which he created.

Green received a Caring Canadian Award from Governor General David Johnston last Wednesday. And rightfully so.

The award recognizes individuals who volunteer their time and efforts to better Canadian society.

He’s been volunteering since 1958, when he collected non-perishable items and fundraised for a church in Nova Scotia as a high school student.

He has never stopped volunteering since. The organizations he has created or has been a part of are devoted to helping people who have disabilities, the poor and youth.

A variety of reasons make him passionate about his causes. For one, he has been inspired by a “special someone” in his life who has a learning disability.

Also, it’s practically built into his DNA – he has a strong belief in eradicating poverty on a systemic level, which his grandmother instilled in him.

“How do you eliminate poverty? It’s a huge question. First of all you have to believe you can. Most people think you can’t. They always have that old biblical saying that the poor will be with us always.

“You have to have the attitude and belief that you can. You can if you think if you can, is what my grandmother always told me. And she lived to be 104, so I think she had something going good for her,” Green said.

For 12 years, he was the executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon (LDAY). There, he found “sponsors” who would pay for many children and adults who needed $2,200 for a psychological assessment, the first step in understanding a person’s mental capacity.

He fundraised to provide people with learning disabilities with computer programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, which types what a user dictates. He has pooled together around 150 volunteers who now consider themselves “friends” of the association, Green said. Each of them has contributed their time, money or expertise to helping those with learning disabilities.

Working at LDAY inspired him to start another non-profit, called the Whole Child Project Steering Committee, which co-ordinates after-school programs that allow low-income parents to work closely with teachers. He saw the need to create the committee after several parents from LDAY told him they felt disconnected with their children’s education.

“They felt too intimidated to go into the school, they would go into a parent-teacher meetings where all these people have been sitting around with degrees and high levels of education. They were not feeling very empowered at all,” Green said.

The evening programs he put together with the Yukon committee would teach both parents and children essential skills, without the mundaneness of school. For example, one night a week, they would all cook a nutritious meal together, Green said. Parents could also upgrade their skills by taking computer lessons with the group.

Green also co-founded the United Way chapter in the Yukon, which automatically withdraws a chosen amount of money from donors’ bank accounts to support local charities and organizations. He served as a board member for five years for the international non-profit and is still volunteering this October for its annual breakfast fundraiser.

But he takes co-founding the Food Bank Society of Whitehorse and the Anti-Poverty Coalition most personally. “It isn’t right that we have food banks. We have to create a society where we don’t need food banks,” he insisted.

“We’re such a wealthy community here, and yet people are hungry, starving, with no place to sleep or live. Some people have such a low standard of living. We have to find a way to organize society so we can distribute (funds) more fairly and justly,” Green said.

Although the food bank even offers local produce for the homeless to take home, he wants to go beyond helping the disenfranchised on a case-by-case basis. He’s been working with the government for the last three years on the Yukon Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which was initiated by the Department of Health and Social Services.

There was a plan developed by the department, Green said. But he questions how the strategy has been applied so far.

“It doesn’t seem to be working very quickly to implementation phase for whatever reason.

“I would like for us to make more progress on the poverty front. And it’s sometimes very frustrating when things move so slowly. But we have to keep trying, we can’t give up.”

To not give up is a lot to say for a man who is eligible to retire. But he still loves helping people, Green said.

He is still working. He’s filling in as a temporary replacement manager for the territory’s Workplace Diversity Employment Office. He teaches software program courses to adults over 50 years old who are continuing education at the Yukon College. And he’s a consultant for disability conference organizers.

Green also wears many personal hats. He’s raised three biological children and an unofficially adopted child with his wife. He’s also a grandfather to nine.

But he barely takes the credit for all the lives he’s touched. “It’s not just about me. It goes back to working together. Together we do it better. Simple as that,” he said.

His proudest accomplishment yet? “I just finished the Chilkoot Trail, my daughter and I just finished. It was a hoot, we had a wonderful time.”

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

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