Santa Fe Living Treasures ‚Äď Elder Stories
Ben and Carolyn
Ben and Carolyn Whitehill
He was a missionary physician in the Orient. She was a social worker. Thirty three years ago when they came to Santa Fe, Ben was the Medical Director of the Indian Health Services and Carolyn was a leader at Santa Maria El Mirador, a program for developmentally disabled adults. “In their retirement” Ben and Carolyn Whitehill have made tremendous contributions to our community through their volunteer work devoted to helping the poor and underserved.
Ben and Carolyn are inspirational visionary leaders. In 1987 the Whitehills were partners in creating a small project, “Bread for the Journey” whose mission was to help those who were trying to better their community, but lacked necessary funds. They interviewed, visited, counseled and followed up with each grantee and have inspired contributors. Carolyn personalized each thank you note to donors. Among those that received their first grant and support from Bread for the Journey include Kitchen Angels; Assistance Dogs of the West; Santa Fe Cares; Outside In; the Empty Bowls Project.
In 1997 Bill and Carolyn were among seven members in the Salazar School program, an all volunteer effort to elevate children's’ school performance. Carolyn loved interacting with the children, and Ben loved reading to the kids. They became huge promoters recruiting other volunteers. From its humble beginnings, the Salazar Partnership has become a 501-C3 and an affiliate of the National Communities in Schools, a program to eliminate ‘drop outs. During the school year 2014-2015 Carolyn was named the Elementary Volunteer of the Year by the Santa Fe Public Schools
Generous in every aspect of their lives, the Whitehills did many things within their Church community without ever calling attention to themselves. They visited hospitalized and homebound acquaintances, the grief stricken, new babies, those who had lost or gained jobs, and newcomers. These people were acknowledged, visited, fed, encouraged, given rides. Somehow, the Whitehills always “had time.”
The Whitehills hospitality is legendary. They have opened their home to any and all who arrived at their door, whether known or unknown, related or not, people would find refuge and sanctuary at the Whitehill home. No one who showed up at their home was ever turned away.
It would be impossible to overestimate the impact, the many ways, seen and unseen, known and unknown, that these two fiercely strong individuals, have had on the people, in our community and city. They are indeed the very heart of Santa Fe.
Story by Nancy Dahl
Photo © 2016 by Genevieve Russell