Martin D. Johnson’s commitment to community service started on a routine drive home from work. Despite making the drive every day for many years, he’d never noticed the homeless camp under the overpass. But on this night, it caught his attention. The very next day he made his way back with sleeping bags, tents, a grill and clothing. And he kept going back for two years. When the leader of the camp passed away, Johnson spoke at his memorial service, helped spread his ashes and made sure his family got food.
Johnson, a Senior Engineering Advisor at Eli Lilly and Company, credits a man he never met for inspiring him to get involved in community service – George Muller, who created orphanages for nearly 10,000 orphans and established schools that taught more than 100,000 children during the 1800s. He says that a particular entry in Muller’s journal was especially inspiring, “It’s when all the kids assembled for breakfast and there is no food, and he prays not knowing where it will come from. Then there’s a knock and the baker said that “the spirit of God woke me up and said they need bread at the orphanage, so bake them some bread.” Then there was another knock, and it was the milkman who said, ‘My cart just broke down right outside your door, can you use this milk?’ I want to be involved in things like that,” said Johnson.
In addition to his contributions to United Way of Central Indiana programs like United Christmas Service, Johnson is dedicated to Indianapolis’ homeless community and has “adopted” 10 families in Central Indiana. He and his family have also supported several children through Compassion International.
Johnson offers this advice to others who want to become involved in community service, “Think about your talents, your passions and what you can give up because sacrificial giving is the most rewarding.” Once you know that, United Way can find a place to help you plug in. “I feel blessed and fulfilled when I volunteer – a deep-down peace and joy and freedom from things like anxiety, that money cannot buy,” he said.