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Benefactor is Red Cross' Million-Dollar Man

Miami Herald, The (FL)
1999-06-23
Section: Local
Edition: Final
Page: 2B

Steven J. Green, a Miami philanthropist who is U.S. ambassador to Singapore, is giving the American Red Cross $1 million for its disaster relief fund and to teach 180,000 local children how to swim.

A formal presentation was planned in Goral Cables on Tuesday night, when the Red Cross installed its board of directors and recognized its volunteers. The money is being donated to the Greater Miami and Keys chapter of Red Cross through the Green Family Foundation. Other recent beneficiaries include Florida International University, the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum and United Way. The foundation is run by Kimberly Green, daughter of the ambassador and his wife Dorothea.

``She was taken aback, as we were, by the fact that the largest cause of death for young people here in Miami-Dade is drowning,'' Steven Green said. ``So we decided to work on the WHALE program to educate children on water safety.''

The program is actually called Longfellow's WHALE Tales. Wilbert E. Longfellow was a Red Cross volunteer who stressed water safety in the early 1900s; the acronym stands for Water Habits Are Learned Early. WHALE Tales teaches kindergartners through fifth-graders about how to be safe around water.

The national program just started its first year through the Miami-Dade Public Schools at the Miami Seaquarium. Green's gift will help pay for three years of instruction.

While talking with Red Cross leaders, Green said, the subject of disaster relief arose - but not for the major events, like hurricanes, in which the Red Cross is a major relief agency.

``I became aware that there are little minidisasters every day, like fires, and Red Cross is there to provide service to people who are homeless, have had all their belongings destroyed and are in very bad emotional condition as a result. So I suggested a disaster relief program to take care of these daily situations as well as major disasters like hurricanes.''

According to Red Cross, the local chapter spends about a half-million dollars a year on such cases.

In the local chapter's 82-year history, the Green gift is the second for $1 million by an individual. The last was given in 1991 by Jean-Ellen Shehan.

``They're not very common,'' said Stephen Bullock, national president of the Red Cross. ``During the big disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes we get a fairly large number of large gifts, but this is not an everyday occurrence.''

Green said he hopes the donation will encourage not only individuals but companies, too, to support the work of the Red Cross.

Green, 53, a Philadelphia-born graduate of Miami Beach High School, is an industrialist whose last post in private industry was as chairman and chief executive of Astrum International. It owns luggage-makers Samsonite and American Tourister and Culligan, a water technology company. He keeps a condominium and some business interests on Fisher Island.

President Clinton appointed Green ambassador to Singapore in 1997. Home now on a brief holiday, he brought along a guest - Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore.

In Singapore, Green said, he is working on a program called Friendship Works, to involve American citizens and corporations in community service.

``When you live abroad, you realize how volunteerism is truly American,'' he said. ``In other countries, people will be helpful to people they know, but in this country people rally around in support of causes they feel they want to be involved in. Believe it or not, a lot of Americans around the world, including Singapore, volunteer their time and services and often money to be of assistance to the host community.''
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IN THE SWIM: Steven J. Green wants kids to be safer in water.