Meeting Emma Johnston took me by surprise, because when I imagine a volunteer, I picture a quiet person passionate about a cause. Well, I got half of it right – our Syracuse Volunteer Citizen of the Year (VCOY) is certainly passionate, but not at all quiet! It’s because her volunteerism is rooted in something much larger: community activism. Her drive to make her community a better place meant giving a lot of personal time and effort throughout her life, and this volunteerism has changed many lives in Syracuse, NY.
As one the founders of PEACE, Inc., a community action agency for Onondaga County, Emma has brought many services to those who need them most. The mission of PEACE is simple: “Helping people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient.” According to Mrs. Johnston, she focuses on what affluent people have easy access to and seeks to bring that access to the Southside of Syracuse. This includes services such as food pantries, transportation assistance, job search services, parent support, and education, as well as activities for people of all ages who would normally not have access to organized programs.
The efforts of Emma and her fellow volunteers at PEACE have brought about significant change, and as a spokesperson for Direct Energy, it was wonderful to hear her say she was so appreciative of a company that pays attention to low-income communities like hers. She further praised Direct Energy for helping make a difference in people’s lives, so hopefully, our VCOY program will help many more in the Syracuse, NY area and encourage others to continue the tradition of community activism and volunteering that Emma has started.
Based in Houston, TX, Jessica Michan is a Manager of External Relations for Direct Energy.