As the nonprofit’s CEO, David Greenberg has helped make The League for People with Disabilities a welcoming place.
Touring the 43,000-square-foot facility of The League for People with Disabilities, which celebrates 90 years of service in 2017, there is much to take in.
There’s the boisterous, warm engagement of its nearly 200 clients and staff; the busy wellness gym and therapeutic pool outfitted for accessibility; the classroom equipped with special technology for students with autism; and the beautifully landscaped patio and yard for fresh-air socializing.
But what stands out as remarkable is that The League’s president and CEO, David Greenberg, genially greets each client he encounters by name. And everyone knows his name, too, offering him handshakes, hugs and even friendly teasing.
“That’s important,” Greenberg says. “These are all individuals, not just client No. 1 or client No. 2.”
For nine years, Greenberg, 61, has been at the helm of The League after decades in the health care field, first as a registered nurse and then as an administrator in the Washington, D.C., area.
Marsha Legg, The League’s vice president of workforce and youth development, calls Greenberg a man of great compassion.
“It’s not even just the clients,” she says, “it’s the parents, service coordinators, mobility drivers, it’s everyone he gets involved with. He just truly cares. There’s a line outside of his door every single morning, just to say, ‘Hi, what did you do last night, how’s your wife, how’s your daughter?’ And he reciprocates.”
In 1990, Greenberg scored his “dream job” as chief of clinical operations at the Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, and then a partnership between that institution and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital landed him in Baltimore. There, he became vice president for outpatient services from 1999 until 2007.
During a casual conversation, someone mentioned to Greenberg that The League CEO position was open and suggested he check it out.
“I wasn’t looking for a job,” Greenberg recalls. “That’s probably why I was so comfortable interviewing. But it was the best move I’ve made. It’s a different level of service but I get to craft the service delivery here, and it’s so rewarding.”
A Matter of Juggling
The League’s roots date back to the Guild for Crippled Children initiated by the Baltimore Section of the Council for Jewish Women in 1899. In 1927, it became a statewide agency and was renamed the Maryland League for Crippled Children.
In its current iteration as The League for People with Disabilities, the organization provides the much-loved Camp Greentop experience as well as other
assisted camping and travel excursions; adult medical day care; autism programs and services; career training and placement; day habilitation; a full wellness center; and aphasia programming and support through a partnership with the Snyder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement.
“[David] has the capacity to juggle a lot of balls at one time,” says Michael Hettleman, a board member since the 1990s when his own father-in-law, Irvin Goldboro, was board chair. “He’s led The League through a very significant period of growth,” which began in 2007 with a $6 million renovation of the current space, originally built in 1967.
“It’s been a very rewarding job,” Greenberg says. “We’re the oldest, but we’re not the biggest. We have very controlled growth, and I attribute that to our predecessors. We’ve grown very carefully.”
The League provides programs and services for about 30,000 people annually. Under a shared umbrella is League Industries, which provides training and employment for skilled individuals — with and without disabilities — at its printing and mailing facility in Towson.
League Industries also collaborates with diverse employers to obtain paid internships and employment for those with disabilities to work in jobs ranging from information technology to hospital positions to clerical work and more.
The sustained growth undoubtedly factored into Greenberg’s recognition in 2014 as The Daily Record’s “Most Admired CEO,” but he’s the first to point to his staff of approximately 165 employees as the main reason behind his success.
“We have amazing staff, but you have to provide them support,” Greenberg says. “We provide them with the tools they need. They take it from there.”
Says Legg: “He’s much more hands-on than most CEOs, and with that he creates this sense of family and teamwork. He’s very good at listening to whoever is expert at a topic and giving them the support and tools to bring that idea to fruition. He embraces the ideas, even if they seem a little out there.”
One of those ideas is Club 1111, (named for its address on E. Cold Spring Lane) a monthly event featuring music, dancing, games, a spa salon and free snacks. Most of all, it’s about meeting new friends and catching up with old ones in an environment not typically available to people with disabilities.
“We’re not able to be accepted in a lot of clubs, and here nobody points the finger at you,” says one patron. “We’re all equal in here so we all come here, and enjoy ourselves.”
Between 500 and 700 people attend Club 1111.
“For those of us who’ve worked a while with people with disabilities, it still amazes us seeing the joy that goes on,” Greenberg says. “These are people dressed to the nines and out to have a good time, and they do.”
For information about The League for People with Disabilities, call 410-323-0500 or visit www.leagueforpeople.org.
Melissa Gerr is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
From Left, Larry Polidore, Barbara Bevilaqua, Keyontay Belcher attend Club 1111, a nightclub event especially for people with disabilities, at The League for People with Disabilities.
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