Sherri Richards, Published September 21 2013
Women of Influence: Red Cross CEO Judy Green is an influence on giving
FARGO – Despite her CEO title, Judy Green doesn’t consider herself a woman of influence. She thinks rather of the women in her life who serve as mentors, some older and wider, some younger and insightful.
“Those are women who I aspire to be,” she says, “even just a kernel of what they are.”
Women like friend Beth Renner, who says Green’s reluctance to boast about her accomplishments is one of her best qualities.
“I’m flattered she would describe me as a mentor because I’d do the same for her,” says Renner, national director of philanthropic services for Wells Fargo.
The two got to know each other when Green was executive director of the YWCA in Fargo. Renner served on its board.
Green began her leadership at the YWCA at a time of transition, Renner says.
“Judy has the ability to see through complex issues, and what are the common themes, and how you pull people together to work toward that common cause,” Renner says. “That’s a characteristic that often time leaders struggle with.
“She has the ability to communicate a message that will inspire people to want to engage and support that mission,” Renner adds.
This is the influence Green, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., has had in the Fargo-Moorhead community, leading nonprofits for most of the last decade. She is now regional CEO of the American Red Cross.
Green is a servant leader, able to articulate the impact an organization’s mission has on individuals, communities, regions and the nation. She effectively communicates needs and rallies volunteers and resources, people who know her say.
In short, she turns compassion into action.
When the Red Cross consolidated its North and South Dakota regions earlier this year, it was a chaotic and confusing time, says Dave Rogness, emergency manager for Cass County.
Green stepped into the CEO role in the middle of that, and confidently expressed her understanding of the situation and vision to volunteers, staff and donors, he says.
“She was able to grab hold of that and makes sense of that and get to what was important,” says Rogness, who serves on the Red Cross board and was on the YWCA board when Green was director.
“People are excited to be part of whatever she’s a part of,” he says. “She’s always been that positive community leader.”
Green says she found her passion in nonprofits, creating mission-focused organizations that change lives and add to fabric of a community.
A battle with breast cancer in 2012 helped her refocus on this purpose.
Focus on core, back to roots
Green grew up in Langdon, N.D., the middle of three sisters. She moved to the area to attend what is now Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she earned an associate’s degree in accounting in 1984.
She landed her first real job at what is now US Bank, where she met her husband, Scott.
After their two children, Ben, now 24, and Allison, 21, were born, Green took a job working as a church administrator for Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo.
Three years later, she became financial manager for Crane Johnson Lumber, then a $20 million organization, she says.
It was a dynamic and challenging job, Green says, but it wasn’t until she took the position with the YWCA, where she had long actively volunteered, that she found a purpose-filled professional journey.
“It was the first place where my passion and profession came together,” she says. “It was such purpose-filled work and gave me such energy.”
Green served as YWCA executive director from 2004 to 2008. She says she took great pride in the mission, the staff and the women and children served.
From 2008 to 2010, she was president of the United Way of Cass-Clay. The organization provided her a greater perspective of community needs and resources, she says.
She then moved into an executive role with Sanford Health. The job meant Green spent Monday through Thursday in Sioux Falls, S.D., away from her family here.
One Friday in March 2012, she’d scheduled her mammogram along with all the other errands that needed to be done before a family vacation.
The mammogram showed the need for a biopsy.
Green had an aggressive form of stage 1 breast cancer.
Judy says Scott, who has always been her most avid professional booster, became her supporter personally and emotionally.
Her children inspired her, too. Ben shaved his head the day she shaved hers. Allison made her a CD of inspirational songs and sent daily quotes.
Her older sister, Joni Lorenz, was diagnosed with cancer two months after Green. She joked they were pregnant together two decades previously, and didn’t expect to go through this journey together, too.
Scott says the breast cancer battle allowed their children to observe their mother’s strength and positive attitude in the face of adversity.
“I was able to witness a side of Judy that only something like that can bring out, and just reinforce the fact that I’m very blessed to be married to this woman,” he says.
Judy says the cancer diagnosis reminded her she needed to focus on her health as well as her friends and family, whom she describes as her core.
While she appreciated working at Sanford, an organization of depth and breadth, she realized the need to slow down and reflect.
“That’s what brought me back to the nonprofit world,” she says.
The words of Erma Bombeck perch atop Green’s desk at the Red Cross.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me,’” the framed words read.
“I’m really just trying to live by that quote,” Green says.
She says working in a mission-oriented environment gives her a sense of “feeling complete.”
Her position with the Red Cross once again provides for more direct client interaction, like the YWCA.
“It just fills my cup to be back into leading an organization that has a critical mission,” she says, noting that both the YWCA and Red Cross intervene in times of crisis.
The consolidated Dakotas Region of the Red Cross covers all of North Dakota, South Dakota and 10 counties in northwest Minnesota, about 160,000 square miles. It has an annual budget of $2.2 million and a staff of 22, which makes Red Cross volunteers and donors so vital, Green says.
Green cites goals of creating efficiency, consistency and the best delivery service model across a whole new footprint. She wants to unify staff and volunteers in this broader regional focus.
“I always aspire to leave an organization better than I came into it, but I can never do that alone,” she says.
Scott Green carefully chooses the word “selfless” to describe his wife. It’s that characteristic that makes her a good fit for non-profit organizations, he says.
“She continually wants to take an active role with people or in situations where she knows she can make a difference,” he says. “Judy’s heart lies in helping others in any way she can.”
He often jokes that even though he oversees seven Bank of the West branches, he goes by the name Mr. Judy Green.
“And I take that with a great deal of pride,” he says. “She’s a very special lady.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556