About No Greater Love
No Greater Love (NGL), founded in 1971 is a non-profit, patriotic, humanitarian organization that is dedicated to bring hope, peace and love to the world. Throughout this half century, No Greater Love has held hundreds of ceremonies for families of those who died in service to our country. In addition, NGL has had Annual Wreath Laying Ceremonies at the Tomb of Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery for those who died in all our wars, conflicts and incidents.
It all started with a promise…
No Greater Love started with a promise by Carmella LaSpada to a dying medic in Vietnam – a promise to do something good to honor all the fallen and their families and ensure that they will never be forgotten. To keep the promise, Carmella formed No Greater Love, a non-profit organization. NGL seeks to provide a sense of history to our citizens of what it means to be an American.
“Anybody can do the possible, it’s doing the impossible that counts. And all things are possible with God.” – Carmella LaSpada, Founder, No Greater Love
COMPASSION IS THIS WOMAN’S VOCATION
The following are excerpts from an article that appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper on December 14, 1991.
By Bruce Andriatch
WASHINGTON – You know George Bailey, right? Tall guy. Lives in Bedford Falls. Runs the building and loan. Had a really weird Christmas back in the ‘40s and they keep showing a movie about it on TV called “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Forget everything you’ve seen. George Bailey incarnated lives in Washington, D.C., and he is a she. Her name is Carmella LaSpada. And she doesn’t run a building and loan. Her business dispenses compassion under the name No Greater Love.
Like the movie character on whom her life seems eerily based, Carmella had a wonderful life all lined up for her, but fate stepped in the form of a black scarf. In 1967, while on a USO tour in Southeast Asia when she was a White House Special Projects Aide, she met a young, dying medic who would change her life and set her on a mission that has continued ever since. During the war, Đắk Tô became some of the hardest-fought and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. This medic desperately tried to save 35 of his wounded comrades, but tragically saw each of them die in his arms before he, himself, was brought down.
As Carmella sat by his bedside offering companionship, he pleaded with her, “Promise you will do something so that the men who died, and their families, will never be forgotten.” With tears in his eyes, he handed her a black scarf – a symbol of his unit – to seal this promise. That promise became No Greater Love, a patriotic, humanitarian non-profit organization which she founded in 1971 to always remember the protectors of our freedom. She kept her promise.
With the support of the AFL-CIO Unions – Firefighters, Iron Workers and Sheet Metal Workers, No Greater Love has honored our fallen, our troops, our veterans and their families for over 45 years. It was the first group in the country solely dedicated to families, particularly children, of those who gave their lives in service to their country in wars, conflicts, incidents or by acts of terrorism.
She would coordinate annual remembrances of tragedies reminding Americans to remember things that most would have forgotten including Challenger, Pan Am Flight 103, Beirut Terrorist Bombing, Gander Air Disaster, Hostages in Iran and those in Lebanon. Her enduring mission is to touch the memory, conscience, and heart of America by putting remembrance into action – to do good in their honor. There is no greater force than this woman with an idea that benefits someone else.
After these many years, she still jokes that this is just a temporary job, that she will be back on the career track in TV. But for all the sadness, there have been moments of joy for her. One of them came in No Greater Love’s Welcome Home Celebration for the hostages in Lebanon. She held 33 No Greater Love tributes over 6 years for them. At the Homecoming of Terry Anderson, the last hostage released, she said to him, “Are you the real Terry Anderson?’ And he said ‘No but we’ll keep it a secret.’ They both laughed and she hugged him. “I felt like Peter Pan,” she said. “I can fly! The joy was just indescribable.”
She worked for President Kennedy and was inspired when he said, “It’s a privilege to be an American and along with that privilege comes an obligation.” People ask me ‘Why do you do what you do?’ Because it needs to be done and it’s the right thing to do. I’m not on a soapbox. I’m not Miss Goody Two Shoes or Lady Bountiful. It’s just if you live your beliefs it gives your life some meaning. Love never forgets.”
In 1971, No Greater Love sent special Christmas gifts to the children of POWs and MIAs in Vietnam. She asked well-known athletes to send letters to these children. The feedback was awesome. She had some background in this area; in the nine previous years, she had worked on special projects for the White House and had spent time visiting the wounded in the military hospitals. Some of the patients told her that they wanted more than anything else were visits from athletes. She got a couple of legends – Johnny Unitas and Ted Williams – to visit the patients.
She contacted other well-known athletes to send letters to children of POWs and MIAs. The feedback was immediate and positive.
For her important work, AFL-CIO Unions – Firefights, Iron Workers, Sheet Metal Workers, and Painters donated space in their newly constructed United Unions Building in Washington D.C. to No Greater Love.
“Thank God for them,” Carmella said. Besides the unions, the only other group that had consistently helped was the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. Accomplishing so much with so little, she said: “I not only believe in miracles, I rely on them.” the other is her unofficial 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not give up.”
KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE YEARS
Following her graduation from Penn State University, Carmella headed for the nation’s capital where her dream was to work for President John F. Kennedy, and that’s exactly what she did.
Hired as a Special Projects Aide, she coordinated the first White House Seminar, a summer intern program for college students and one of the most successful youth projects to come out of the Kennedy Administration.
During that time, she was also selected as Miss Pennsylvania in the National Cherry Blossom Festival. As a White House Special Projects Aide, she took to heart President Kennedy’s indelible words …“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.
Carmella’s concern had not been confined to the young. In 1964, at Georgetown University, she organized a Thanksgiving Day Salute Dinner for Older Americans who lived alone or had no family nearby. This successful event hosted 500 elderly persons each year and took 300 dinners to shut-ins. More than 18,000 senior citizens participated in these dinners over the next 35 years. Many were veterans.
Carmella was highly regarded as a visionary, innovator, and a patriot with boundless energy, passion, and a sense of humor, whose unique mission continues to expand and make a difference. She served in the White House for nine years.
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Carmella realized the young, wounded troops in military hospitals were very lonely, so she lined up celebrities and athletes to visit them.
Carmella’s first day at the White House, May 1962
Some of Her Honors and Awards
- U. S. Special Operations Command Medal (only woman at that time to be awarded this honor)
- Ellis Island Medal of Honor
- U.S. Marine Corps League Dickey Chapelle Award
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce of Enterprise Award
- Penn State Outstanding Alumnus
- Unsung Heroine by the VFW Woman’s Auxiliary
- “Service Above Self” Award by the Delaware County Athletes Hall of Fame
- Washingtonian of the Year
- Rotary Club Humanitarian Award – At the time the first non-Rotarian in its 70-year history to receive the Rotary Clubs Paul Harris Fellow Award
“One of the busiest, the most unique, and important voices and important joy-makers in America” was the way VFW Auxiliary National President Grace Minix termed Carmella in presenting the Unsung Heroine Award. “She dared to dream and do – stepped forward, like a missionary. She enthused and enlisted others to perform this gigantic task of service.”