By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — For her 80th birthday on May 6, Kathy Johnson raised $400 on her Facebook page for the Waynesboro YMCA.
She also raised about $400 last year on her birthday for the YMCA.
This volunteer act marked nearly 70 years of community work in Johnson’s life, and she has no plans to stop volunteering any time soon.
“I was always a volunteer wherever I lived,” Johnson, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, said.
At age 12 or 13, Johnson said United Way did not exist where she lived, but she helped out with whatever fundraisers needed her to go door-to-door and raise money for causes.
She began volunteering to teach Sunday school and she joined the Girls Scouts.
Johnson said she joined whatever service organizations she could and volunteered at her local library.
“And I just never quit,” she said of volunteering. “I just liked helping people. I liked making a difference.”
She chose the Waynesboro YMCA to raise money for her birthday this year and last year, because she lost her balance two years ago, and activities at the YMCA have helped her improve.
“They do a lot in this community,” Johnson said of the YMCA. “They help the children in this community. They help seniors. The YMCA is just a nice place to go.”
Johnson said she also enjoys helping the Boys & Girls Club, the Shenandoah Valley Arts Center, the Waynesboro Public Library, The Wayne Theatre, Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry and Vector whenever possible.
“There’s a lot of wonderful organizations in our area, and we’re very fortunate to have them,” she said.
Johnson once managed volunteers in a hospital, and said she always placed them where they wanted to help. Her advice to anyone wanting to volunteer is to pick something you like.
“Volunteer for the right reason,” Johnson said. “Don’t volunteer to become something or to get a prize or to get recognized.”
Volunteer because you want to help.
“There’s always things you can do in your community.”
In 2005, Johnson and her late husband moved to Afton, but she did not get a sense of community in Afton. Five years ago, after her husband died, Johnson moved to the River City.
“I love this area over here. People are very nice. People are very down to Earth,” Johnson said of the Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County community.
Johnson is a former Chamber Ambassador for the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a former writer of The Crozet Gazette. She studied journalism at Arlington State College.
Johnson owns Murder is a Game, a murder mystery performance she writes and performs in locally.
“I’d like to think so,” Johnson said of making a difference in the community “in some small way.”
Johnson also enjoys helping downtown Waynesboro merchants and supporting downtown businesses.
“I think downtowns are where our small business people are,” she said.
Johnson suggests anyone who would like to volunteer contact the United Way of Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro for a list of local organizations in need of volunteers, or ask at church or local nonprofits.
“Almost all nonprofits need volunteers to help with different things,” Johnson, a mother of twin daughters and one son who all live in Texas, said. Johnson has one granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.
Johnson said that without volunteers, “you can’t imagine how depleted our lives would be, because a lot of organizations depend on their volunteers.”
“Being a volunteer is a great opportunity. Everybody, I think, should volunteer.”