MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Julia Johnson started ministry work eight years ago out of her own home. She had one goal in mind, giving back.
"My husband has been in recovery for 11 years, but before that the addiction robbed us of life. We were breathing, but not living," she said. "There has been homelessness for both of us at some point. [Then] there were people that when I was ready to be better [who] were willing to give me that shot. I feel like we are giving back and doing to others what was done for us."
When COVID-19 hit, Johnson used her backyard to bring people together for worship. It was then she realized she needed additional space to impact even more.
Last February, her prayers were answered with the opening of One80 Ministries in Mechanicsburg.
"What God has done here is just incredible. I have to give a shout-out here for the last eight years my husband has worked 60-70 hours a week so I could continue my work here with the ministry," Johnson said.
Now, four times a month, the ministry offers what she calls their "big giveaways," where people can fill a bag with products ranging from socks, soaps and cleaning supplies to a homecooked meal.
"I don't want people to come in here and feel like 'ok, you're in need, I'm gonna give you this.' [I want them to think that] it's, 'Hey friend, what do you need? I have something you need, let's go sit down and have a chit-chat,'" she explained.
That conversation is the main focus of her missionary work.
"You can go into that fellowship table and actually have a meal with someone. That's where we realized that stories were being shared, lives were being changed and people were being encouraged," Johnson said.
When they first started the giveaways, the table was empty. Now, they've had to pull up chairs because the table gets so full.
The ministry helps about 150 people every month through its giveaways.
"It feels incredible to watch people who have been lonely, all of a sudden come in with a smile on their face. [To] know that they're loved and that they have value," she said.
That compassion earned her a nomination for a Jefferson Award, something she calls an added bonus.
"It's humbling to be recognized for something that is just your heart. We had one of our girls tell us [she] couldn't wait to get here today, because [she] knew that [I] would be happy to see [her]. To know that there's a place where she knows that she's wanted, it's absolutely beautiful. It's an honor to be in this space" she said.
Johnson also has a message for anyone out there struggling in silence. "It doesn't matter where you've come from, come to the table [and] we'll have a conversation and some good food. You are not defined by what you've done in the past, there is hope for the next day, you can start over," she said.
Johnson says One80 Ministries always needs financial assistance and volunteers, for those interested in donating, click here.
In a few months, FOX43 will choose one finalist to represent our area at the national Jefferson Awards ceremony later this year.