Donna Greene Teaches OTM Girls Service and Compassion
By Margaret Frymire
Forty years ago, Donna Greene of Mountain Brook had just left her job as a flight attendant and found herself in a state of disillusionment, not knowing where to go next.
She had little idea that by 2013, she would have led more than 4,000 Over the Mountain girls in a service-based Bible study, teaching them to have compassionate hearts and service-oriented minds.
Donna’s Community Ministry for Girls started when Frank Barker, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, asked Donna to let the church pay her for the summer.
“For what?” Donna asked.
“Whatever you dream up. You have a remarkable gift with children,” Frank replied.
Frank’s daughter, Anita, 11 years old at the time, then begged Donna to start a girls’ club for Anita and her friends.
Now, four decades later, that “club” has developed into a ministry program bringing in more than 200 high school girls a week from the OTM area. Donna teaches ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade girls of all different denominations about the Bible and how to make their Christian faith active in the world.
“I want these girls to put feet on their Christianity. I want them to serve. I want it to go from their head to their heart,” Donna said.
To help the girls to apply their faith, Donna has encouraged the high school students in Community Ministry for Girls to get involved in service opportunities in Birmingham and around the country.
Donna said her ministry has ranged all over the OTM area but now mostly includes girls from Mountain Brook High School.
All the girls have the opportunity to invest in Hope Lodge in Birmingham, a home away from home for cancer patients who are receiving treatment far from where they live. Donna said when the lodge opened more than 10 years ago, her ninth-grade girls became some of the first volunteers. They stocked the library for the patients and collected VHS tapes for their movie collection.
Since then, Donna, a 15-year cancer survivor, has taken her girls to serve in the Hope Lodge in Birmingham and regularly takes her 10th-grade girls to Nashville to assist at the Hope Lodge there.
For the past two years, Donna and her 11th-grade girls have gone to San Diego to work with Harbor Mid-City Church.
Donna said that one of the girls she mentored from the fifth through the 12th grade, Bradford Greene Phelan, 36, lives in San Diego now. Bradford has passed Donna’s teachings on to young girls in San Diego, starting Bible studies with grade school girls.
Donna and Bradford remained in touch and last year, Donna’s girls and Bradford’s girls became pen pals. Then the idea of the two women partnering in service started to become a reality.
On Feb. 14, Donna and 20 girls from Mountain Brook High School set out for San Diego. That weekend, the group partnered with Harbor Mid-City to serve the people of San Diego.
On that Friday night, the girls worked with the church’s Hispanic ministry. They held a cookout, spent time with the children and participated in a Hispanic worship service.
That Saturday, Donna and the MBHS girls held a mini-retreat on Coronado Island for the girls mentored by Bradford.
Donna and the girls from MBHS also helped with Harbor Mid-City’s field day for refugees. Donna said there are 70 languages spoken just in Bradford’s zip code in San Diego.
The ministry opportunity to reach so many people was incredible, she said.
The church and Donna’s team were able to provide a kids’ dream feast of pizza, cake and ice cream for the field day. Donna said children “from every tribe and nation” attended the festivities. Her girls had the ability to impart a little love to these refugees for the day, she said.
The trip “is one of the best things we’ve done. My girls were so fired up about it. They are so excited about sharing their faith,” she said.
Donna plans to continue to take her junior girls to San Diego, reaching out to others through the large refugee population there.
“I want the girls to develop a deep, abiding relationship with the Lord, and I want them to have hearts of compassion,” Donna said.