Former first lady played key role in start up of CT-based Americares

Humanitarian organization Americares is remembering former First Lady Barbara Bush after she passed away on Tuesday....

Posted: Apr 19, 2018 12:27 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2018 12:28 PM

Humanitarian organization Americares is remembering former First Lady Barbara Bush after she passed away on Tuesday.

Americares says Barbara Bush not only played a key role in getting the Connecticut-based relief organization off the ground, but also supported it over the years.

"Barbara Bush was a dear friend of AmeriCares for over four decades," said Michael Nyenhuis, CEO of Americares.

He also says she was one of the biggest ambassadors of the organization.

"They played such an important role in the early days of AmeriCares, building our profile, connecting us to people, representing us. Barbara herself went with us on 8 missions to countries like Ethiopia and Croatia and they did a terrific job of putting AmeriCares on the map," Nyenhuis said.

He said he visited the Bush couple in Maine last summer to present them with a humanitarian spirit award for their years of support.

"I had a chance to sit in their living room and rehash their experiences with AmeriCares, including hearing from Barbara about what it meant to go on those 8 missions with us. She flew in a cargo plane, got on the ground distribute medical aide, just hearing from her, I think it opened her eyes to the reality of people suffering around the world," Nyenhuis said.

Nowadays, AmeriCares delivers more than $500 million in medicine and medical supplies to more than 90 countries and all 50 states each year.

Long before the organization was founded by close friends of the couple, the former first lady's Connecticut connection ran deep.

It's reported Barbara and George first met at a dance at Greenwich's Round Hill Club in 1941 when the two teenagers were on Christmas vacation.

They started a long-distance relationship, eventually getting married, just over the Connecticut border in Rye, N.Y. in 1945.

The future first couple later lived at 37 Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven while George attended Yale.

That was their home when Barbara gave birth to fellow future president George W Bush.

"We know how hard this is going to be, our own staff, board and people connected with the organization are grieving today to, just because what they meant to us, so we can only imagine what it's like for President Bush after 73 years of marriage, so our best wishes go out to him and the rest of the family," Nyenhuis said.

On Wednesday, the flag outside Americares headquarters was at half-staff. As a tribute, Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered all flags across the state to lower through the weekend until the former first lady is laid to rest.

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