TULSA, Okla. — There are hundreds of organizations serving our local communities and making a positive impact. Inside every organization, there is a group of dedicated people.
Employees and volunteers at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma are dedicated to their job and the people of Green Country. Not knowing where your next meal is coming from is an unsettling feeling, but it's a feeling that thousands of Oklahomans face every day.
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma works to make sure hungry people get fed.
"If you're helping one person, you're doing good. But I see that everybody's got that same mentality here in this place. Everybody reaches one, we're gonna reach a lot more people than just one person," said Jerry Johnson Jr.
Johnson Jr. has been with the Food Bank for 12 years and he's devoted to making sure those in need get their food. He said the Food Bank's mission and the difference he's making in our community is what keeps him showing up for work.
"I pick things up. I set things down. I drive A to B and I'll make sure everybody gets what they need," he said.
But Johnson Jr. does much more than that. After working several different mundane jobs throughout his life, he was in search of something different. A job that made an impact.
"I was just tired of being at these other dead-end type jobs," said Johnson Jr. "And this place offered hope. Everybody's always about the money or that it wasn't about that, for me, it was for to fulfill what I'm doing to help somebody else."
He started working as standby personnel, hoping to get his foot in the door at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Once he landed a full-time job, things only went up from there.
"This place is getting the chance to advance, you know, I went from working in the cooler to being able to operate a vehicle," he said.
It isn't operating a vehicle or climbing the professional ladder that keeps Johnson Jr. showing up for work early every morning.
"You get to see the little kids smile, and then the elders, you know, I think about them, because sometimes they can't get out for their own self and get stuff and the food bank provides that to them," Johnson Jr. said. "I wanted to be a part of that."
But when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of uncertainty for those wondering where their next meal would come from.
"People put trust in the food bank, and so I want to be honorable to their trust," he said.
So Johnson Jr. continued with his commitment to the people of Eastern Oklahoma, one truckload at a time.
"I'm very thankful that I got to be a part of that time to get through this time of being on the front line," he said.
"We have the utmost respect for everybody who stayed on campus during the pandemic and put themselves in harm's way. Everybody here at the food bank knows the implications of what we do here every day," said Greg Raskin. "It means that people are going to get fed in Oklahoma who might not otherwise have access to food. And so their dedication to their job to the people that they live with has just been inspiring."
Johnson Jr's wife and children supported his decision to continue to work throughout the pandemic, but there was one thing that brought him peace every day. It is divine trust that kept Johnson Jr. optimistic through the hard times. Something greater than human gratification and more important to Johnson than any paycheck ever earned.
"The word I want to use is faith. That's the word I want to use. My faith overcomes anything that like that, that would come against me," said Johnson. "I want to give what I can, you know, and if it's, you know, this, this health, I'll give it because I want to make sure that my the kids, and the elders and all the ones in between, get what they need to make it through to the next day."
Selfless, humble, and dedicated could be words used to describe Johnson.
"That's the core of the kind of person I am I'd rather be trying to help somebody and take care of my neighbor in that way," he said.
His commitment to the food bank for the past 12 years has proven to be worth it time and time again.
"To see the smiles, to see the people happy to see the people fulfilled for that day, you know, that's, that's the main purpose here," he said.
To those who wonder if they can make a difference in their own community, Johnson said, "You can always help. You can always be of use, you can always make a difference."
Johnson is what makes the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Positively Oklahoma.
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