Green’s Helping Hand Reaches for CSCP

Ben Green believes the worst words that anyone can hear are “You’ve got cancer.” A doctor once relayed that sobering diagnosis to Green before leaving him alone in the sterile room to process the life-altering news. It was a frightening, lonely experience, one that Green will never forget. Although he eventually beat the affliction, Green’s father did not. Nor did his brother. Some of Green’s best friends lost their battles as well.
Cancer has haunted Green’s life from different angles, but the Pasadena resident never lets it dampen his unwavering spirit of hope and service to those in need. This is the mindset that Green plans to carry into his new role as executive director of Cancer Support Community’s Pasadena chapter.
“The theme of my whole career has been helping others,” said Green, who recently stepped down from his post as CEO of the Red Cross San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter. “This is an opportunity to help others by providing the resources, by fundraising and by speaking on behalf of the folks who have been diagnosed with cancer. … It’s a great organization with a strong mission and it’s got a rich tradition of service.”
Cancer Support Community is an international nonprofit that offers free support groups, educational workshops, nutrition and exercise programs, and stress-reduction classes for cancer patients and their caretakers. The Pasadena chapter is one of 24 based in the United States.
“I can already see the amount of love that’s displayed on a daily basis to the people coming in and receiving service,” Green said during his second day on the job. “They’re very appreciative of having a facility and a place to go. It’s a wonderful resource within the community.”
Green was born in Missouri and became a Red Cross volunteer swim instructor while attending Mehlville High School in St. Louis. He would continue teaching swim programs for the next 20 years as a first aid and water safety instructor trainer. Along the way, Green graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in parks and recreation administration. Actor John Goodman was his fraternity brother, the first of many celebrities with whom Green has rubbed elbows.
While working in Chicago as a board member with the Red Cross Mid-America Chapter, Green attended the national Red Cross convention in Los Angeles and fell in love with Southern California. Four years later, he took a job in Palm Springs as recreation director of the Mizell Senior Center. The mayor of Palm Springs during Green’s tenure in the desert was former entertainer Sonny Bono. The pair developed a friendship while serving on the city’s film festival board.
“He taught us ‘Know what success is, and once you reach that level, get up on the tables and dance.’ You’ve got to celebrate success and it’s something that a lot of organizations I don’t think do to the extent they need to. If you say you’re going to do something, figure out what’s the benchmark and if you hit a home run, celebrate.”
Green became executive director of the Pasadena Senior Center in 2002 and then returned to the local Red Cross chapter in 2007. Under his leadership, Green oversaw all Red Cross services within the jurisdiction, including first aid at the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game. But most of his Red Cross resources were across town, and the drive back and forth through traffic started to wear on Green. That’s when Cancer Support Community Pasadena’s Board President Tom Daly referred Green to the open executive director position. Daly and Green knew each other from their time together on the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce board.
“Ben had a lot of great ideas when we went through the interview process about how this local chapter could work with the national organization,” Daly said. “I think there’s a lot of carry-over from what he learned in working with the Red Cross, so I’m really looking forward to his being able to help us.”
Leading the search committee was Louise Wannier, board treasurer for Cancer Support Community Pasadena. Wannier was impressed with the way Green’s strategic acumen aligned with the mission of the organization, which is that no one should have to deal with cancer alone.
“He very clearly stood out as fulfilling the profile of what we were looking for,” Wannier said. “You have to be able to be efficient as a business leader. He has very strong leadership skills. You also have to be able to have the empathy and understanding for what people are going through in the community that the organization serves. I think that he has a full breadth of experience that we need in this role.”
Besides ensuring that Cancer Support Community is financially stable, Green hopes to expand social media outreach and set up more satellite locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley. The nonprofit recently moved into new office space on the southwest corner of Del Mar Boulevard and Raymond Avenue.
“Everyone’s touched by cancer and it’s hard for somebody to come from Glendora all the way here,” said Green. “So [we’d like to add] some programs in that area in conjunction with churches or schools or community centers or hospitals.”
“I admire people who still have that hope and that aspiration to do better. There is no question that the services we provide here help them. There has been research that shows that by being socially engaging as opposed to being isolating is so important.”

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