News

Megan's Mission spreads warmth

Megan Johnson, 16, arranges multi-colored bracelets that she sells to raise money. Her nonprofit organization helps the homeless. - Margo Horner/The Mirror
Megan Johnson, 16, arranges multi-colored bracelets that she sells to raise money. Her nonprofit organization helps the homeless.
— image credit: Margo Horner/The Mirror

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 Megan’s 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, Megan’s 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 hasn’t 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 community’s spectacular holiday light show.

Johnson’s 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 children’s 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, Megan’s mother, said she isn’t 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 can’t 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.

“There’s 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 I’ve seen so far are just like us, they’re just not so fortunate as us,” Johnson said.

“In the world, there’s always someone in need and we shouldn’t 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: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 24 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates