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This Denver park exists because a Coloradan asked Jimmy Carter for the funding

Helen Ginsburg got her meeting with President Jimmy Carter in 1978, despite overlooking the invitation and throwing it in the trash.

DENVER — Whether it was skiing in the mountains or building Habitat for Humanity homes, former President Jimmy Carter is forever linked to Colorado. He entered hospice care this weekend, 45 years after a Coloradan went to Washington, D.C. to ask him for money.

“If you give me a challenge, I will meet it with heart and soul. I won’t fail,” Denverite Helen Ginsburg said.

As head of the Babi Yar Park Foundation in 1978, Ginsburg needed more funding to develop the park near the corner of Parker Road and Havana Street. The park was to become a memorial for the 200,000 Jews, Ukrainians and others murdered by Nazis at the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv from 1941 to 1943.

“I said there’s only one thing we can do to get this money. I’ve got to go talk to President Carter,” Ginsburg said.

Credit: 9NEWS
Helen Ginsburg

Think of that today. Simply saying, "I’m going to write a letter to President Biden and get a meeting about federal funding."

Ginsburg succeeded, but almost missed the opportunity.

“I got the appointment and I almost threw the invitation away,” Ginsburg said.

Her son, Noel, caught what she overlooked.

“I’m tossing all this junk mail, and he says, ‘Mom!’, and he picked up an envelope and he said, ‘Why did you throw this here, it’s from The White House.’ I said, ‘Honey, it isn’t from the White House, that’s White House Decorating in the –.' He said, ‘Mom, this is from the White House,’” Ginsburg said.

She got her meeting with President Carter on June 15, 1978.

“I went through my story because he asked me to speak first. I had to get up there and speak to him personally and tell the whole story,” Ginsburg said. “I had a big envelope stuffed with information, and I said, ‘Mr. President, I may have forgotten something, but everything’s in here if you want to read it when you have time some time, and he took it and put it down. He said, 'You’ve told me enough, I was going to fund this for you.’”

Credit: White House
Helen Ginsburg meets with President Jimmy Carter on June 15, 1978.

She went to Washington, D.C., met with the president and left with $178,000.

“And that put the project over the top, and it endeared that man to me for the rest of my life,” Ginsburg said.

The money allowed Babi Yar Park to be completed.

“The park actually speaks out about caring for all people. No matter color, race, religion, you name it. ‘Care,’” Ginsburg said.

According to Ginsburg, the money released by Carter was overflow money originally set aside for Big Thompson flood recovery.

“Too much money was allocated for Colorado for its needs,” Ginsburg said.

When she learned that Carter was being moved to hospice care, it brought back memories of their meeting.

“This letter, which I treasure very much, is from Jimmy Carter,” Ginsburg said.

Credit: 9NEWS
Babi Yard Memorial Park

“I can remember his face as the younger man that he was and the goodness that I felt emanated so naturally from him. His caring. His understanding. His interest. His thoughtfulness. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment to have those feelings then and to have retained them because this meant so much to me,” Ginsburg said. “When I heard he was passing -- on his way -- it struck me hard.”

After getting him to say yes to the funding, she tried to get a second yes with a personal invitation to the dedication of Babi Yar Park on Oct. 2, 1983.

It is not often someone saves a rejection letter, but Ginsburg framed the letter Carter mailed sending his regrets.

“It was good to hear from you. I appreciated your kind letter inviting me to addres the dedication of the Babi Yar Memorial Park on Sunday, October 2, 1983.

Because of my professorship at Emory and the concerted work I am doing on the Presidential Library and a new Policy Center, I have had to restrict my other activities. I regret that I cannot accept your fine invitation.

With best wishes for a successful ceremony,


Jimmy Carter

P.S. I will have to be in Washington, but will be with you in spirit.”

“I am so thankful to him. He has no idea,” Ginsburg said.

Credit: 9NEWS
President Carter's letter to Helen Ginsburg

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