Longtime advocate for homeless dies, leaves behind legacy
by Brandi Bottalico
Organizing the American Heart Association's Walk for Heart. Founding the annual Holiday Drive to Help the Homeless. Creating a camp for homeless children at Camp Letts. Starting the Giving Back Backpacks program. Building a hospital in Uganda.
Linda Greenberg would set her mind to something and accomplish it.
"Her will was undeniable," said Steve Anstett, former executive director of Giving Back, Linda's Legacy.
Greenberg, 72, died Friday from complications resulting from a heart valve replacement surgery she had last week. The former Anne Arundel County resident founded Giving Back, Linda's Legacy, a nonprofit that provides gently used clothing, toys and personal items for the homeless through the backpacks program and the drive on Christmas Eve.
The organization that was eventually named in her honor was started when Greenberg's two sons were 5 and 6 years old and she began donating their clothes and collecting more from the Annapolis community, putting it in the trunk of her car and distributing it to the homeless each Christmas.
In 2003, the farmer's market in Annapolis became the formal collection site for such items and the organization has since grown exponentially. Last year, 24 truckloads of items were delivered to the needy, Anstett said.
Greenberg moved to Florida in 2008 to be closer to family and entrusted the organization to Anstett, who had gotten to know her well through his volunteering.
"She was an incredibly faithful woman," said Anstett, a Presbyterian elder. "She's had an enormous impact on my spiritual development. And I guess there's an irony there that a Jewish woman would have that much impact on a Christian man.
The Severna Park resident recalled times during the holiday drive they would walk off to the side together and get on their knees to pray in parking lots.
"She didn't shy away at all from really deep conversations. She had a really good understanding of her role in God's plan… We had a lot of really in-depth discussions about that."
Her son Marc Greenberg described her as a "hugger," who was determined to help others and always smiling.
"She didn't have a single enemy," he said. "She didn't have a single negative bone in her body. She preached to everyone 'You must give back,' whatever your economic means are."
Marc said that his mother's philanthropy wasn't limited to the homeless drive.
"It was beyond just feeding and finding clothes, it was taking it 10 steps further," he said. "She would find certain people she developed an immediate love for and she got them jobs and got them homes …100 percent of her life was volunteering."
Greenberg received several awards for her work with the homeless including the Annapolis Junior League's 1992 "Women Who Make a Difference" award for excellence in volunteerism, a certificate of appreciation from former County Executive Robert R. Neall in the early 1990s for her help after Hurricane Andrew devastated residents in south Florida, a special recognition from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington for her Homeless Shelter Camp program and a recognition from former Gov. William Donald Schaefer in the late '80s for her philanthropic endeavors.
Jeanette Middleton-Sudano, current executive director of the Giving Back, Linda's Legacy, remembers the first time she met Greenberg. It was right before Christmastime at the Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market in the 90s.
"She was so full of life and very passionate about getting everybody involved," she said. "I remember her telling me 'Come back tomorrow and bring two friends.' She's a very persuasive lady. You could just feel the passion she had for what she was doing and helping others. It was just infectious."
Middleton-Sudano said Greenberg was very energetic and a loving, faithful woman who cared for all people.
"The Lord put Linda in my path for a reason. I plan to honor her and (God) and do what we need to do and continue that legacy in helping others."
Marc said after Greenberg had moved to Delray, Florida, she started a project to build a hospital in Uganda known as the Myende Landing Koome Island Medical Clinic. He said she made six to eight trips to the country, which helped inspire her and helped spread her philanthropy abroad.
Greenberg is also survived by husband David Greenberg, sons Cory and Marc Greenberg, grandchildren Sabrina, Jayde and Gwenyth, and sister Ellen Reiner.
Chapel services and interment take place today in Boynton Beach, Florida, and memorial contributions, which are tax deductible, may be sent to Giving Back, Linda's Legacy, 626C Admiral Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401.