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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Longtime Harbour House Resident Creates Resource, Makes Community Impact

Selfless giving is a big part of 56-year-old Donna Johnson’s personality type. The Annapolitan is accustomed to answering daily texts, Facebook messages, phone calls, and knocks at her door around the clock. People often come to the community leader in confidence to ask for a pair of scrubs, a toothbrush, groceries, a birthday present for someone, or even socks. However, other individuals who are familiar with her reputation of giving donate items to pass along to someone who needs a blessing.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Johnson said. “Everything I do is free from the heart. I love what I do.”

The Harbour House resident who lends a hand to everyone from neighbors to people in other neighborhoods has lived in the community since she was eight years old. She recently hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at the Eastport Community Center. Food was dished up free of charge for anyone who wanted a meal. Approximately eight cooks brought donated dishes of their choice. Eight-five meals were provided.

“The kids came on their own,” Johnson said. “They wanted to eat.”

Coats, scarves, hats, and gloves were also given away. Johnson’s volunteerism has included Easter events; movie nights; free Sunday dinners; cleaning houses in the community; and doing whatever she can do to support others who could use a hand up. Johnson—who has been accepting nonperishable, assorted items since 2019— stores them throughout the year for safekeeping.

“I get donations like household items, toiletries and clothing for women and children,” Johnson said.

Her giving movement started with storing collections in her home. An outdoor giving event called Donna’s Day of Hope grew by leaps and bounds. She gave away items that were stored in her living room. Last December, someone tagged her on the Eastport Community group page on Facebook and more people found out about Johnson’s undertaking.

Setting up a small table in the hallway of Johnson’s building sparked a method to quickly connect neighbors in need to food.

Donna Johnson, with the help of volunteers, provided food for individuals who needed a holiday meal on Thanksgiving in 2022.
Photo credit: Donna Johnson

“It’s a hallway table where you can get anything 24 hours a day. I set the table out, and I just started putting food out there,” Johnson said.

Providing canned goods, dry goods, and vegetables led to other people offering to add items. Johnson realized that a pantry was needed. She had no place to set up one, until she created an option during the pandemic.

“I literally gave everything away in my living room and set the food and clothes pantry up in my living room,” Johnson said.  

Eventually, Johnson convinced Harbour House’s leadership to provide a storage space in the basement of her building to house some of the items.

“I have a big storage room, but I’m not allowed to keep food there,” Johnson said.

But Donna Johnson also explained that her mother— Roberta Johnson— was previously a community giver. The stroke survivor now tells her daughter to “keep up the good work.”  

Donna’s nonprofit called Donna’s Day of Hope & Giving Healing the Community is now up and running. She is busy preparing to keep the Christmas spirit alive through it despite managing a physical disability.

“This year, I wanted to have a breakfast instead of dinner, and just give out gifts,” she said.

Donna mentioned that she has been saving new donations for people of all ages in the storage space, not just toys for kids. She wants everyone to feel included.

Valerie Bandoh, another Annapolitan, explained that she has been volunteering with Donna while lending a hand in ways ranging from cooking to helping with store trips. She believes in the value of community giving.

“Volunteering helps me as well, because I’m out on Workers’ comp,” Bandoh said. “It has given me the strength and the will to want to do more. It has taken my mind off the pain that I’m in so much. It helped me to remember what I used to do, because I did this a while as well in Newtowne.”

The community helper who referred to the Newtowne 20, a housing community in Annapolis, said that she had volunteered with the food bank for 15 years. She has also found useful items from    Donna collection.

“I think it’s beautiful what she’s doing because she’s following her mom’s footsteps,” Bandoh said, mentioning Roberta’s legacy.

While serving the community with Donna, Bandoh has noticed that more people need food.

“The one thing that I’m hearing people talk about is the food prices. I also heard through a few parents of teenage boys that they eat more than girls do because of sports and their metabolism. That’s where I see the food shortage is,” Bandoh said, “And the fresh vegetables help a lot of the elderly on fixed incomes.”

Donna continues to accept donations to fill in wherever she can.

“We just need to stick together. There is so much negativity that’s going on,” Donna said.

Email [email protected] or call 443-746-1886 about donating to Donna’s pantry or storage area.

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