Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson

“It’s all a matter of priorities,” Helen Johnson relates to me, the way we think of social needs.

A friend in Sweden drove that point home to her a few years ago when they were discussing care for people young and old, and the difference in our two countries’ approaches.  Helen quickly translates that into the issue before us at PORCH: how to feed the many children, even in this fairly wealthy area, who are food-insecure. Which means, simply, that they don’t know where another meal will come from.  “25%!” she says. “It’s shameful.”

Helen has been a PORCH volunteer since she was a mentor with CHCCS’ Blue Ribbon program.  The girl she befriended had a single mom with four kids, and Helen quickly learned from them what it meant to have to depend on food from others.  “Of all the area resources, PORCH was the best,” Helen remembers the mom telling her. “Otherwise, she waited in line for hours for very little.” That nudged Helen into finding out more about PORCH and lending them her years of dedicated service from the Roosevelt Drive neighborhood.  Though she volunteers in other places, politically and socially, PORCH is one of the highlights of her time, because at the end of the day, she can see exactly the good that comes of it.  

She also thinks that Christine, Debbie and Susan are extraordinary women who should be recognized much more widely for the outstanding job they have done and continue to do.

But, she adds, “We should be taking care of all the basic needs of all of us as a country…food, shelter, health care.  Organizations like PORCH should be more crisis-based.”  As it is, she thinks, we who are working so hard to fill empty cupboards “are just letting the country off the hook.”

Helen is passionate about this, and argues that the solution to the problem lies in changing attitudes from the ground up.  If people, she maintains, began to think in terms of caring for the whole society instead of just their own lives, widening that tunnel vision both locally and nationally, a lot of 
things would change for the better.  Even for people who think they have it all.

Along those same lines, PORCH, she thinks, has a lot of potential.  “The power of PORCH is offering the experience of finding people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet…other volunteers, recipients, organizers, coming together in a single purpose.  PORCH builds community. And building community is the key to building people up, here and in the large nation and world.”  

Helen remembers a woman at a sort telling her, “PORCH is my church.”  She explained that it gave her spiritual uplift, a sense of communion, and purpose.  “We are all hungry for community,” Helen says.

Story submitted to PORCH by Rachel Victoria Mills

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