Mildred Johnson’s Great Grandfather was a freed slave in Brownsville, Tennessee. The first thing he did to start his life was buy a farm. He had told his children, that once a person has a home they need is to know how to feed themselves. He taught his family how to farm and lived off of their land. He then said that the second thing a person needs is an education, so he built a schoolhouse right on the farming property. His final piece of what a person needed was to be able to Thank God for all that they had, and he raised a church right next to the schoolhouse. Mildred Johnson has carried this legacy in her bones, shares her wisdom based on these three principles with our community. At 84 years old, it is phenomenal to believe that Mildred continues to volunteer in her community daily. Her generosity and service stretch from her birthplace in Brownsville, Tennessee all the way to her forever home in Muskegon Heights. There are not many in her community who have not been touched by Mildred’s kindness.
If you have met Mildred, you would not believe that she ever retired. Within months after retirement, Mildred had become a mentor for the Habitat for Humanity. She wanted to help people in her community have a stable home and living environment. Because of this, she spent numerous hours every week helping new homeowners manage their home, and helped select the nominees for a Habitat Build. She did this for 10 years, never missing a mentor meeting.
A home also requires you to have a safe and thriving community that surrounds you. Mildred has become a steward and advocate for her Muskegon Heights neighborhood. She is a part of the Muskegon Heights Zoning Board of Appeals. She has served as a lifelong member of the NAACP. She also volunteers with the Journey of Hope group. This is a group that draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.
Mildred also helped feed the community by working in several soup kitchens. She has spent most of her volunteer time working in God’s Kitchen where for a long time she helped serve a meal every day. Currently, she still helps serve meals to the hungry once a month. She spends time with students in the summer with the Coalition for Community Development working on gardens
Mildred and her late husband moved to Muskegon to be educators at Muskegon Public School. She spent over 30 years teaching our community and then retired in 1994. However, she never did truly leave the school system. Her passion for teaching continues to show for her 20+ years of work as a tutor and tester for Muskegon Heights & Muskegon Public schools. She has spent time volunteering with the Coalition for Community Development working in school libraries and spending one on one time with students. She also has been recognized by Muskegon Community College for her work with Black Students and bringing hands-on science curriculum to the RPCIMS at MCC. Lastly, Mildred volunteers at the James Jackson African American Museum.
Mildred attends New Bethel Baptist Evangelistic Ministries. There she is a role model to her entire congregation. She is a trustee for the church and a Sunday School teacher each week. She also is known to be the church decorator, a prayer warrior, and a member of the church choir. Not only does she teach Sunday School, but she is a mentor and director of the SNICKERS youth program. This youth program mentors preteens/teens in life skills, education, and faith. She also started a card ministry. Mildred sends birthday cards, major holiday cards, and just “thinking of you” cards to people in the community that does not have a family, are sick, that teach, and those who serve as first responders. On top of all of this, she serves in Hospital Ministries where she volunteers to visit people in hospitals to keep them company while their families are busy, or if they do not have a family of their own.
It is impossible to put a numerical value on 84 years of service. Women like Mildred spends her life devoted to helping others. In fact, on her resume at the very top of the paper is her life motto “If I can help someone, then living my life has not been in vain”. Each hour she is awake she has the mission to help people feed themselves, educate, and to Thank God. In 84 years, that is 735,840 hours of a lifetime spent devoted to others. She has been recognized with numerous awards in teaching and service to her community and church. She continues to spread her wisdom to everyone she knows and continues to show how a person with humility, elegance, and intelligence leads by example.