Joyful Collaboration: Peggy Johnson, Volunteer Spotlight

Dylan Novacek May 15, 2020

Written by Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist

“Sitting at the registration table at events, I see everyone’s smiling faces. You begin to know people over time. You add to your list of friends from all over the Twin Cities. It’s so…empowering. Empowering to know that there is a community of people who care.”

Volunteers are at the heart of Beacon’s collaborative. With feet on the ground, spreading our vision across communities, and taking on essential tasks, volunteers get the job done. Among them is Peggy Johnson of Union Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Louis Park. With over 12 years of volunteer experience, Peggy is dedicated to Beacon’s vision as she invests her time to see that those in her community have a stable home.

“There is no excuse for not being able to fix this problem,” Peggy said firmly. “Home is like an anchor. Without it, I’d imagine you’d feel so weightless. That must be an unsettling feeling. It would be hard to feel valued and stable without a home.”

Peggy’s Beacon journey began when she attended a forum on the issue of homelessness. Retired from years of being an elementary school music teacher, Peggy felt compelled to invest herself in a new cause.

“I would spend my retired years trying to solve world peace, but we need to make sure everyone has a home first,” she laughed. “It felt like such a solvable problem. Why wouldn’t you want to get involved?”

“I found this organization out of the blue. I saw the name and saw it was close to home. Somehow I knew it was the right place, so I took the leap.”

With her congregation not yet being involved with Beacon, Peggy opted to call the office and ask if they needed a helping hand. She’s been helping file in the office, preparing mailings, organizing volunteers for events, packing materials and working at special events ever since!

“For me, working with Beacon was like a flower blossoming,” she smiled. “Since my introduction to Beacon, I’ve gotten my congregation and friends involved too. I never thought I would be standing before my congregation on Sunday mornings, encouraging people to come volunteer with me. Beacon gave me this great opportunity to help my community in a meaningful way.”

As an ambassador and community builder, Peggy invites more advocates and volunteers into Beacon’s mission. It is through people like Peggy that more people can connect their own story with the vision and mission of Beacon.

Whether it’s working with nearly 50 volunteers to host tables at our annual luncheon, or engaging with residents and supporters at special events, Peggy has seen years of growth and change within Beacon.

“There is a lot more to file now,” laughing, she reflected on her years seeing Beacon grow from a staff of eight in a Minneapolis office, to a large collaborative of nearly 100 congregations.

“There really is strength in numbers, and I am so glad to be a part of that! When I started with Beacon, we were still called Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation. Over the last decade we’ve made countless new homes, stepped into policy work, and more…It’s so inspiring!”

What motivates Peggy to continue volunteering are her interactions with fellow volunteers and staff members. What has stuck with her the most are hearing stories and working with residents.

“Once I was calling a bingo game at a Beacon event with residents at one of our homes. I didn’t bring my glasses…A grave mistake,” she said, reliving the anxiety that accompanies all high stakes bingo games. “Residents were getting so impatient with me. By the end of the afternoon we were all just laughing!”

She continues to look back on standout moments.

“Sitting at a convening or the luncheon, we get to hear from those who experienced homelessness. These stories never leave your heart, they stay with you.” Peggy takes an emotional pause. “Some child is riding the bus because that is their only option for shelter. These personal stories are what motivates me to do anything I can to help.”

As a former elementary school music teacher, Peggy’s love of children inspires her volunteerism.

“There is nothing quite like looking at a child in one of our Beacon homes, knowing that their future is going to be secure. We need to support these families, to give them and their children a better tomorrow.”

Whether it’s the $10,000 per person per year to provide onsite services in Beacon homes, or the $1,000 per week per family cost to support those in our shelter, supporters like Peggy are key. Peggy matches her volunteerism with gifts to help sustain Beacon’s vision.

“I’ll being giving my stimulus check, and I am proud to be a donor. But more importantly, I am proud to give my time to this cause,” she shared. “There are people who work a decent job and still can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment. We need to fix this. Everything we need begins at home.”

For her and our many phenomenal supporters, there is satisfaction in doing hard work for work worth doing. There is power in faith communities and in caring individuals. Peggy stands as a shining example of that.

“It was a surprise miracle that I found Beacon,” she beamed. “My favorite part of this experience has been the friendships I’ve made with the other staff and volunteers. Celebrating, and laughing. There is joy in working for a common cause. There is joy in being a part of a collaborative.”

You can help spread our Beacon mission to your communities. Click here to learn how you can get involved as an ambassador, community builder, and Beacon leader!