In the late 1980s, Dr. Roberto Canizares and late wife (also a physician),began caring for homeless persons who St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church sheltered for two-week stretches in the winter months as part of a coalition of faith communities. In the beginning, they cleaned, washed dishes, and the like. Later, when the Thurman Brisben Center opened year-round on its Essex Street, Dr. Canizares volunteered as a family doctor—assessing children and adults alike, making referrals, and prescribing treatments for simple maladies.
He was one the Brisben Center’s first board members, a distinction he still holds today as Director Emeritus. Dr. Canizares has had a front row seat to the organization’s evolution from a volunteer-run church ministry to a dynamic service provider staffed by professionals steeped in the knowledge of systemic homelessness and effective, data-driven interventions. The Brisben Center, and especially those it serves, have been fortunate to receive his care and support.
In a reflective moment Dr. Canizares explained his philanthropy like this: When you give, you receive. If you have money, just give. You don’t have to give a lot. I know that. That’s the reason I am not rich. Give something you think will help. I chose the Brisben Center by accident, got hooked on it. I know my money helps people who truly need it. The awards I’ve received I’ve given to the homeless. The more you give, the more you receive.