Juanita Greene: Banker, Public Servant, Extraordinary Volunteer

Juanita Greene

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

Every spring the YWCA honors women in northwest Ohio who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities and open doors in their communities for other women to achieve their potential, too. The YWCA of Northwest Ohio has announced the latest class for the YMCA Milestones Awards: A Tribute to Women.

The Milestones Awards Luncheon was established in 1996 to recognize women of northwest Ohio for their outstanding contributions in the areas of Arts, Business, Education, Government, Sciences, Social Services and Volunteerism.

This year the YWCA is honoring the central role Juanita Greene plays as a volunteer in shaping the culture and black history in the city of Toledo.

Greene’s groundbreaking accomplishments will be celebrated this March in great company. This year’s inductees are: Jennifer Jarrett (arts), Marsha Manahan (business), Mary Werner (education), Perlean Griffin (government), Joan Duggan (sciences), Robin Charney (social services) and Juanita Greene (volunteerism).

While attending Scott High School during the civil rights era, Juanita Greene rose above inequality to excellence, becoming both a young leader and honor roll student.  “One of my counselors applauded my grades and recommended I apply for an internship program with Society, now KeyBank,” recalls Greene.

At 16, Juanita worked part time at KeyBank and upon graduation the bank hired her permanently. “I started in the bookkeeping department, became a teller, mortgage lender, commercial lender, and then eventually regional manager. I went through their entire educational banking curriculum. It has all been very rewarding,” says Greene fondly.

Despite long-standing challenges within Toledo’s underserved communities, Juanita Greene remains a progressive backbone within Toledo’s major social movements and historic firsts.

“When I was the manager of KeyBank Warren Sherman, the federal government came in with an urban renewal proposal and asked us to help map out a plan of action to ensure downtown Toledo and surrounding areas survived,” she explains. “We also developed the largest African-American church organization portfolios of any other competing local bank.”

Toledo City Council approved urban renewal plans that included the Old West End and the downtown area near the old Edison steam plant.  “This was an area where a lot of families needed help. There were very low rates of home and business ownership,” shares Greene. “Along with other leaders of the community we built up the area one relationship at a time.”

Ultimately, the most emotionally draining aspect of being ‘the new black/brown neighbor’ in a new community is having to jump through hoops to prove that you are a trustworthy human being, when others can just show up, say who they are and be taken at face value.

Greene conducted mediations when black or brown residents would move into predominantly white neighborhoods. “I believe dialogue sessions between new neighbors is a great tool. Neighbors often learn they want the same basic things: a well-maintained home and a peaceful environment,” shares Greene.

Starting as Toledo Trust, then Society Bank and then KeyBank, Juanita Greene worked diligently as a liaison to predominately black and brown areas of Toledo for 32 years. “I love educating our black community on why they deserve to have a mortgage,” says Greene. “We all deserve to have our own home and the same possible quality of life as everyone else.”

Following early retirement from KeyBank, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner contacted Greene for a position with Toledo’s Department of Neighborhoods.  Greene had a unique understanding of the areas that the banking industry could stand to be more aggressive with lending and she entered public service as Housing Commissioner of The Department of Neighborhoods.

Greene would be promoted to Economic Development Director just three months later before ultimately being named executive director of the Board of Community Relations. The Board of Community Relations assembled its first meeting in 1950, making it now 72 years old. It was originally created to increase and maintain balance and harmony within underserved communities.

Juanita Greene smiles when she hears a description of her as one of Toledo’s “most influential civic leaders.” Her reaction: “I’ve met so many people throughout my working years, I just hope that I’ve helped each person in some way.”

Now, as administrator at The First Church of God where Bishop Robert Culp serves as senior pastor, Juanita Greene has been a longtime advocate for eliminating racism while strengthening families through education, sharing, “I serve on the Board of Trustees for both the Black Brown Coalition and the Toledo Community Coalition. This pandemic has taken so many Black and Hispanic lives it’s important that we come together to advocate as a community, regardless of our differences.”

The mission of the Black/Brown Unity Coalition is to, “Empower our communities with self-determination through community organizing, education, community services, analysis and advocacy.”  In like manner, The Toledo Community Coalition was formed with the purpose of determining how the needs of the black community might be met while addressing the motivations of funders to invest in underserved areas.

Juanita Greene’s tenacity to manage the successful campaign to pass lead paint legislation (as a co-chairman of the Toledo Lead Poisoning Prevention Coalition) in homes where lead paint is poisoning the bodies and minds of helpless children, is a true gift to the city. Greene was inducted into Scott High School’s Hall of Fame in 2018, honored as having achieved notable milestones such as these through community service.

It is a pleasure to salute Juanita Greene and all the honorees for their contributions to society. The YWCA is to be thanked for increasing the community’s awareness and appreciation for the diverse achievements of the more than 150 female leaders in northwest Ohio for the past 27 years.

The 2022 YWCA Milestones: A Tribute To Women will be held virtually on March 24, 2022 at 11:30 a.m. Please consider purchasing a congratulatory ad or a zoom party to support all of the vital services the YWCA provides in support of vulnerable women and children of northwest Ohio. Visit YWCAnwo.og for more details.