Just do it!
Donna Johnson easily personifies the famed Nike swoosh and slogan, “Just do it”. A community advocate since before she and her family moved to Cody in1990, “Donna has lead a life of community service that’s not only been a benefit to her immediate family, but to everyone around her” offers Wally Johnson with the perspective “only a husband of 52 years can have”.
“Cody is such a wonderful place”, says Donna. “It’s the kind of place you can really get things done. If you see a need, no matter how big or small, and the community agrees, you can go for it.” She got her “volunteer feet wet” in Cody at the Cody Conservation District (CCD) organizing toadflax pulls -“What great fun!” She has worked on several 4th of July floats for the CCD, DAR, and Christ Episcopal Church -“Everything was donated by the community. Wow, what a town!”
As First Responder on the South Fork for six years and a volunteer on the 3rd floor of the hospital, two days a week, she reminisces, “I met so many wonderful people. I actually felt I would eventually meet everyone in Cody. I made lasting friendships”.
Eleven years ago Donna made the commitment to be one of Bright Futures first mentors. She’s worked with two cherished mentees since then and says, “Bright Future’s mentoring changed my life and how I see life. Everyone wins in this kind of program.” Adds Michelle Tidball, Executive Director of Bright Futures, “Donna is fabulous! She listens to people, jumps in, and does the work. She really makes a difference in peoples’ lives.”
A sentiment, Jill Carrow who works with Donna on the kitchen committee at Christ Episcopal Church shares, “She shows up. She doesn’t expect recognition. She volunteers because it comes from within. I really enjoy her energy. That’s Donna –an energizer. She’s a good friend.”
Whether she’s organizing her church’s kitchen and Sunday bridge games, tending to it’s Hollyhock garden, or running the recycling program that she created -which donates all of it’s proceeds to Bright Futures, she’s consciously as she says, “Making order out of chaos because that’s what trips her trigger.”
She believes we want to “develop the things that we’re good at”. And long before recycling became popular, she was picking up the trash around her Omaha neighborhood, making a name for herself as community advocate – so much so that when someone lost something they might call her to see if she’d found it!
Working with Holly Baker and the volunteers at the Park County Children’s Library she started once month Rummikub games for homeschooled kids. “It’s a kind of mental game for all ages. We make controlled chaos with such nice, polite kids –it’s wonderful,” she smiles.
“I think we’re here on earth to do the best we can to improve our environment and our community. We want to ask not what can Cody do for me, but what can I do for Cody”, offers Donna, aptly personalizing John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural call to service. It’s this sense of personal duty and call to action that she brings to all of her endeavors and generously gives as a legacy to her four children.
The Gifts that Keep on Giving
If you ask Jerry about her community service in Cody she’ll happilytell you, “We’re all a part of a whole – a tapestry of intertwining contributions, woven together by many people’s efforts to make a stronger community cloth.” And indeed, she has lived that uplifting philosophy from early on as a parent with Parent Teacher Kids at Eastside School in 1985, to her work with Christ Episcopal Church – the Mission Committee, Hope House, and Choirs. As well as Northwest Family Planning, Spirit Mountain Hospice, and Bright Futures – just to name a few.
Jerry grew up in Cody, left for college, and graduated with a degree as a School Librarian and a degree in Public Recreation. Her first job as a Librarian was organizing her father’s law library. Her mother believed, “Music is the window to the soul”. At six she began playing the piano, then drums in the High School band. For many years now, she’s been a dedicated member of the Adult Choir and Bell Choir at Christ Episcopal Church. And along with her husband Jim, with whom she helped rebuild the church’s 500 pipe organ – quite a feat, she shares a “life full of music”.
“Jerry is someone who’s good at knowing what’s going on – she has her ‘ear to the ground’. She understands what needs to be done and what it’s going to take. That’s a fine art”, says The Rev. Warren Murphy who appointed Jerry to the Christ Church’s Mission Committee many years ago. The committee’s mission – support a myriad of outreach projects that serve social, mental, physical and environmental needs and enrich lives locally, nationally, and internationally. Jerry’s mission history – contribute to strengthening our “community cloth”.
“There are so many things that can make our community healthier and peoples’ lives brighter”. Her passion for working with youth at Bright Futures is just such a thing. Michelle Tidball, Bright Future’s Executive Director, credits Jerry with being a doer, “She doesn’t just think and talk about improvement – Jerry does the stuff that makes it happen. She builds good boards that can function and work well together.”
Her seasoned board leadership, in concert with Bright Future’s accomplished staff, board, Mentors and youth helps create mentoring matches for youth from ages Kindergarten to 18 years. In addition, the Self Esteem Mentoring programs for youth, affords mentees an opportunity to grow personally and if they wish, become mentors, too. “Then it becomes another full circle tapestry – the mentees become mentors and are able give back”, says Jerry proudly.
As a Special Librarian she worked with the Buffalo Center of the West, the Park County Library, and with many other private and corporate collections. And not surprisingly, she brings that very same depth of experience to her community work, she calls it “sleuthing” – she deciphers and organizes needs, coordinates and manages resources, and then with a mindfulness to the community, acts.
Jerry says it with heart, “We become stronger when we’re more aware of community needs. Every one of us is a part of the whole. We’re all involved with one another.”
I like to see people happy, see a smile on their face.
About a week ago I was at the gas station getting ready to swipe my card, when a very friendly person asked me if I wanted to save a few cents on my fill-up. Hmm, is this guy “for real”, I thought? (And yes, read Gib Lehman here, but I didn’t know it, yet.) He had Cody license plates, so I asked him his name and then told him mine. He was “real” all right –thoughtfully kind, and the very same GIb Lehman, a Cody Medical Foundation Honoree who I’d never met and was on my way to interview the next morning. How apt! We were stunned and amused by the wonderful, crazy coincidence. With one simple gesture, he had successfully made me smile and sent us both home laughing.
If you know Gib, you know his acts of kindness and generosity aren’t unusual. Born in Minnesota, he married his wife Jean 60 years ago –they have four children. When Gib retired several years ago from his custom homebuilding business in Minnesota, they moved to Cody to be nearer to their son. He started a handyman business here and it was so successful, just through word of mouth, he never even named it.
Jan Eldredge, Executive Director at the Cody Council on Aging says, “Helping others is something he likes to do and he’s been doing it a long time. For the past thirteen years, ever since moving to Cody, he has given his time to the Cody Senior Center delivering meals to home-bound seniors for the Rolling Meals Program, sometimes days in a row – ready and willing, with kind words for everyone he meets”.
For Gib, “Rolling Meal on Wheels was at way to meet people. Now, it’s for them. It’s really needed. It snowballed though – doing for someone else does something for you, too.”
He recently received the “WYTRANS Volunteer of the year award for his service to the Senior Center. Bonnie Emmett, who works with Outreach at the Cody Senior Center says, “Gib is always here whenever you need him – five days a week and happy to do what’s needed. He’s a really generous man. He loves helping people and always has a smile on his face –that’s just who he is. The Cody Senior Center is very fortunate to have him.”
With a “strong belief in God’s Blessing” he fulfills an active leadership role at the 7th day Adventist Church. He also volunteers at the Cody Cupboard Emergency Food Panty where they provide temporary food assistance to those in need. It’s run entirely by volunteers with most of their food being donated by the community. Several times a week Gib collects boxes from local merchants to put the food in.
”I like people to know what at great place Cody is, Gib rejoices. And his dedication to the well being of people, strangers and friends alike, is a remarkable testament to his good works and belief in our community.