Meet long-time Ann Arbor residents and major funders Debbie and Ted Green.
By Christina Mersereau
Debbie and Ted Green met in a German class while studying at the University of Michigan, she eventually earning an MA in German and he a BA in German and a BS and MS in Computer Science. Forty-two years later, their marriage going strong, Debbie still refers to Ted as her “go to” guy, the guy that can do anything, who knows something about everything.
We spent an hour chatting over lunch: authentic Mexican tamales and tacos on a blustery January day. The Greens’ warmth and energy lifted my spirits, imparting a good dose of kindness, hope, strength, and perseverance. Retired Ann Arbor residents, they radiate an aura of serenity and comfort with each other that indicates they are living a happy life. But the Greens are not strangers to heartache and pain. One would think having a seven-year-old daughter nearly die from cancer, who subsequently contracted Hepatitis C from one of twenty blood transfusions, would be enough to bust anyone’s spirits. Debbie said it was “the hardest thing we could ever go through.” It was also motivating and strengthened their marriage and their understanding of what is really important.
“We first got into fundraising to support the Hepatitis C cause—trying to increase knowledge and awareness while also reducing stigma and misunderstanding,” Debbie said. “It’s easy to fundraise for children with brain cancer. But Hep C? People have this notion that only ‘bad’ people get Hep C. It was a lot harder to fundraise for that then we imagined it would be.” She added, “people were there for us when we needed them, and we’re happy now to supply a helping hand to others.”
Debbie spent several years focusing on the cause, but when the Hep C project was over, she started looking for another group or non-profit to get behind. After several start-stops, trying different groups in and around Ann Arbor, she landed at the doors of Home of New Vision.
“Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and genuine. I felt right at home almost immediately, and knew I had found the right place,” said Debbie.
The much-publicized opioid epidemic is particularly meaningful to the Greens because of the many parallels with Hepatitis C.
“People with opioid or heroin addiction have problems similar to those with Hep C. There is the stigma, the attitude that it’s only ‘those people’ that have these issues, and not ‘us.’ And these are things that nobody chooses. Nobody chooses Hep C, just like nobody chooses to become a heroin addict,” said Ted. “We are very concerned about the opioid crisis, and felt this was the direction we wanted to take. We are not afraid of challenges.”
The couple approached Home of New Vision CEO Glynis Anderson to see how they could help. “We really were looking for something specific we could
support, something that would have lasting value and meaning for years to come,” Debbie said.
Glynis told the Greens about a project she was thinking about for Home of New Vision: to renovate the entire upstairs, currently used for deep file storage, and transform it into a useable workspace. The idea struck a chord.
“By building this new workspace, the Peer Team staff has a ‘home base’ they can call their own, a place to work, have meetings and meet with clients. It will be a launch pad for the peer outreach programs. There are a hundred uses for the space,” Debbie said.
With financial backing in place from both the Greens and the Buhr Foundation, the project was underway. Months of hard work later, it was finished and ready for the opening ceremony.
“Glynis told us we are banned from the building until the ceremony,” laughed Debbie. Currently, the Grand Opening is planned for the end of January. The Greens are excited.
“We’re so happy to have the opportunity to give back,” said Ted. “Everyone needs help sometime in their lives and at other times they can help others. We are fortunate to be at a stage where we can help others.”
So, what do go-getters like the Greens do in their spare time? It’s doubtful anyone would guess. But if you said race around a winding two-mile track going 135mph or more, you would be right! Ted has been into car racing for the past twenty or more years, and finally convinced Debbie to try it two years ago. She loved it.
“I have so much fun, and Ted is the best instructor. He’s patient and calm, and knows just when to tell me to slow down, speed up, and brake. He’s a great coach.”
As a surprise, Ted bought Debbie her own track-ready, performance BMW.
I asked if Debbie ever felt discriminated against by the predominantly male members of the racing community.
“Absolutely not. The men have been very open and welcoming to me as a woman—an older woman— driver. They’re friendly and helpful, and I have really not felt ill-treated at all,” she said. “There is great camaraderie among people who race their personal cars for fun. And it gives us more activities to share”, said Ted.
And what’s next for Home of New Vision and the Greens, now that the upstairs renovation project is finished?
“Glynis asked me if I wanted to be on the Board, and I told her I’m interested,” said Debbie.
Home of New Vision already has exceptional leadership, and if Debbie Green is involved on an executive level, I am certain she will bring her best self: expertise, determination, moxy, and decades of experience.
“We are all in this together and we hope others will also be inspired to help build a better future for everyone,” say the Greens.