“The more I do for someone else, the better I feel”
For over thirty years, community actionist and La Jolla social-light Mary Johnson has been walking the walk, parceling her precious life-time to supporting the elevation of others. Mary began adding serious accomplishments to her yet-to-become extraordinary volunteer resume in Washington, D.C. in the mid 80’s after renouncing a successful corporate career to assume the position of a full-time non-profit organization volunteer
Twenty years ago, Mary, in the company of her daughter and husband, relocated to La Jolla after harboring a long-time ambition of returning to the West Coast, the place of her birth, where she immediately upon arrival connected with clubs, groups and associations who might appreciate her time and talents. It wasn’t until she signed on with the Salvation Army that she finally found her true calling and focus: kids.
Through the SA, Mary has volunteered with the following programs, among others: The Adult Rehabilitation Center advisory board (a sobriety program); the Haven program for pregnant teens; Transitional Living Center for homeless women with children; the Kroc Center advisory board; and a transitional program for women that have been trafficked.
Along the way Mary was awarded one of the SA’s greatest recognitions, that of a “Woman of Distinction.”
“It’s funny, I used to be president of the La Jolla Debutante Ball committee and I loved that too. But now I am doing hands-on work with kids that have lived lives that are unimaginable to me – to most people in La Jolla.
“Really, no matter what your background is – whether you’re wealthy and from La Jolla or poor from the inner city and in a gang – people are the same everywhere, and people take different paths to what they think will make them happy. I know people who seem to have everything and who really aren’t that happy. They’re always jockeying for status – saying I wrote this or I have a bigger house – because that’s their idea of being happy. But there’s always somebody out there who has more money than you or is better at something than you are I see people who want more, more, more, but that’s not the answer.”
Mary admits that she was once of that mind set which clotted during her hard-edged, competitive, money-chasing corporate ladder climbing, but no longer. “When I started volunteering, the anger and cynicism I’d developed fell away and now I live in a place of joy.”
Listen to her interview and meet Mary as she eloquently speaks of her life-changing journeys then to now.