Megan's Mission spreads warmth
June 13, 2008 · Updated 9:27 AM
By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror
On a rainy Puget Sound night, thousands of homeless people bundle up on the streets to sleep in the chilly outdoors.
And many of them are a bit warmer because of 16-year-old Megan Johnson of Federal Way.
Six years ago, Johnson started Megans Missions, a nonprofit organization with a goal of helping the homeless. Johnson was 10 years old at the time.
The project originated as part of a community service assignment at vacation Bible school, Johnson said. As part of the class, students watched a video about the homeless in San Francisco.
Just the way their facial expressions looked, the way they were living, it made me feel very sad for them, Johnson said. I just had to help them.
She began brainstorming ways to help the homeless locally. She finally decided to hand-make fleece blankets and distribute them on the streets and to homeless shelters.
They definitely needed something to keep warm since Seattle is really cold and miserable, Johnson said.
In the past six years, Megans Missions has expanded at an incredible rate. She distributes more than 500 blankets to the homeless each year. Each blanket is adorned with a tag that says Remember someone cares. She also distributes scarves, gloves, hats, socks and other winter supplies. Sometimes she brings ham sandwiches.
Each month, Johnson makes $100 cash donations to several charitable organizations. Her efforts help support First Place, Childhaven, FUSION, the Union Gospel Mission and the Federal Way Multi-Service Center.
Working with the Multi-Service Center, Johnson raised enough money to get two Federal Way families off the streets and into apartments. Although she hasnt met the families, she was told that they are both mothers who ended up homeless after becoming victims of domestic violence.
Johnson raises money to fund her projects in a variety of ways including selling bracelets and hosting a hot cider stand in her neighborhood during the holidays. Last year, her cider stand raised $4,000. During the weeks before and after Christmas, the Marine Hills neighborhood is packed with hundreds of cars lined up to view the communitys spectacular holiday light show.
Johnsons largest donation for a single cup of cider so far has been $300. She refuses to reveal her recipe.
Later this year, Megan hopes to publish a childrens book she wrote and illustrated titled Clowns Make a Difference. All of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to her causes.
Jill Johnson, Megans mother, said she isnt sure what she did to raise such a compassionate child. She suspects it might be partly a result of ruthless teasing Megan suffered in her early school years because of a facial deformity. She was later home-schooled because of the teasing and she now attends the Highline Choice Academy. She hopes to one day become a nurse.
Even Johnson herself cant say for sure how she grew to be so compassionate.
It just came out spontaneously. It just came like Eureka, she said. I learned that something little that you give can have so much meaning... We take so much for granted.
Johnson can tell dozens of stories about what keeps her motivated the gleam in the eyes of a homeless woman with a new blanket, the toothless grin from a homeless man putting on new socks.
Theres always a really touching story that brings tears to my eyes, she said.
Of all the gifts Johnson gives the homeless and all the money she raises, perhaps the greatest gift of all is free. She gives them respect.
Most Ive seen so far are just like us, theyre just not so fortunate as us, Johnson said.
In the world, theres always someone in need and we shouldnt just ignore them and treat them like dirt or like they have a contagious disease, she said. Just treat them like you want to be treated.
Contact Margo Horner: email@example.com or (253) 925-5565.