“Newfoundlanders care about three things – faith, family and friends,” says Genesa Greening, president and CEO of the BC Women’s Health Foundation.
Greening grew up in Labrador and St. John's, where both of her parents went to seminary and became ordained ministers. They both ultimately served as ministers with the Salvation Army.
In several respects, that’s where Greening’s career started.
“I actually remember ringing the bells at the kettles at Christmas. I don’t suppose I was even nine or 10 years old,” she recalled.
She also remembers walking door-to-door for the organization’s Red Shield Appeal campaign as a very young girl. It was part of a childhood filled with charitable giving such as church tithings, bake sales and small community fundraisers.
“I’ll admit that I thought philanthropy was that,” Greening said, adding with a laugh: “And there was no way I wanted anything to do with that.”
Despite any initial reservations, Greening’s first official job was with Salvation Army. She started at 19 and spent four years with the organization – time that included being part of the first major capital gifts campaign the non-profit ran in Canada.
“That exposed me to the bigger picture of what philanthropy can do, she said.
Greening has built her career in philanthropy and giving back, or what she calls the family business. And it’s a career that has taken her around the globe.
She spent more than a year in Oakland, California, as chief operating officer of Dream Corps Unlimited, which spearheads a number of racial justice initiatives.
She helped Bulembu International organize its fundraising. The Bulembu community in Swaziland provides care to more than 350 orphaned and vulnerable children, according to the organization.
Locally, Greening served more than five years as director of community strategies and resource development with Union Gospel Mission. Before joining BC Women’s Health Foundation, she led First United Community Ministry Services as the social service agency’s executive director.
“I adored that job – and it was gritty and it was front line,” said Greening, who oversaw a staff of more than 80 employees across four locations. The agency also offered round-the-clock crisis services, placing the organization at the forefront of efforts to tackle the issues of mental health, homelessness and addiction in Vancouver.
When her son was six or seven months old, a friend called Greening and told her to pay attention to a job opening, and consider pragmatically what might be best for Greening and her son in the long term.
“I was very, I’ll even suggest obstinate about it,” said Greening. She nonetheless decided to consider an opportunity to lead what was then BC Women’s Hospital Foundation.
“It turned out this organization was at kind of a crossroads,” she said. “It recognized that it had been doing good work but not enough of the right work.
“My heart and gut started telling me … this isn’t a pragmatic decision. This is an opportunity for you to make some substantial impact.”
In October 2016, Greening said, she inherited a board that had courage and determination, and within weeks, she identified the direction the foundation needed to take.
Under her leadership, the organization has undergone a significant rebrand and has crystallized its vision to ensure women have fair and unrestricted access to health care. The foundation raised $10 million in 2019 – a notable increase above the $2.3 million raised in 2016. It is increasingly serving as an advocate for women and women’s health.
And it continues to support the capital and equipment needs of BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, which – coincidentally – used to be the Grace Hospital run by the Salvation Army.
“I took a leap of faith,” said Greening. “This is clearly the right thing to be doing right now.” •
Business in Vancouver celebrates the 21st annual Influential Women in Business Awards, March 6 at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel. For more information, visit www.biv.com/iwib.