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Meet Heidi Johnson of Charity Matters in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heidi Johnson.

Heidi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My story really begins at 35 with a dreaded phone call in the middle of the night that changed everything. The caller was my younger sister telling me that my parents and their friends were in a horrible car accident in Puerto Vallarta. Four couples in a car on vacation when they were hit by a bus. Three were dead and one was my mom. The others were seriously injured, especially my dad and his friend. My dad was in a coma fighting for his life. It was November 9th, 2002.

Before that moment, my life had been pretty straightforward. I married my high school sweetheart, I had a great career in the software business and we had three very young sons. And at that moment, everything changed. My dad was in a coma for almost a month, waking up not knowing what had happened to his wife of 36 years or his best friends. In those moments by my dad’s bedside, all we had was faith. Yes, we had everything else…friends bringing dinners, community, support, all you could ask for but what really helped us was believing in something bigger. Believing that he would survive….and he did.

About a year later, a friend of mine, Father John Sigler reached out and asked a group of us for help. He was the only chaplain at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where over 150,000 children went through the hospital doors each year. Father John wanted to create a nonprofit to provide chaplains of all faiths 24 hours a day, seven days a week to the children and families of CHLA. While I had not sat by a child’s bedside, I had sat by my father’s and understood the need. So, that is what we did.

We got to work and created the nonprofit, Spiritual Care Guild. Today almost 17 years later, we have built a huge department of chaplains of all faiths, built an Inter-faith center, and become a national template of pediatric chaplaincy. In the process, we became an instrument to change a one-hundred-year-old institution. Service saved me and healed my grief. It gave purpose to my loss and healed me in unimaginable ways.

After running the Spiritual Care Guild for a few years, I wanted to find my people. Other nonprofit founders, people who had used their pain for purpose, people who had healed through service, and started organizations to serve humanity. I launched the Charity Matters platform in 2011. The goal was to introduce my heroes to the world and to share these amazing humans stories. I wanted to share the fascinating stories of innovators, entrepreneurs, and modern-day heroes who set out to solve the problems of humanity with their incredible journeys of service.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No, the road is never smooth but it is those challenges that make the journey rewarding. The challenges have come in many shapes and sizes over the years. Starting a nonprofit, starting a business that relies on the kindness and generosity of others is hard. Really hard but there is such purpose to this work. Changing people’s lives or even having a tiny hand in the process is worth all of the struggles.

In 2011, juggling three young sons, running a nonprofit, and blogging regularly was difficult. In 2013, I decided to get paid again for my work and became the Executive Director for the nonprofit, TACSC, a youth leadership organization. Rather than building a new nonprofit, I was doing a remodel on a thirty-year-old organization that inspires service in middle and high school students. The challenges were plentiful. Seven years later, I am proud to say I am still at the helm of TACSC and we are thriving.

Through it all, I have never stopped sharing the stories of my tribe, of my people, those who give their lives to serve others. Now we are in the process of launching the Charity Matters podcast. This work fuels me.

Please tell us about Charity Matters.
In almost a decade of Charity Matters, I have met THE most inspiring humans and I am determined to use my voice to try and amplify theirs. Our mission is to share the fascinating stories of innovators, entrepreneurs, and modern-day heroes who set out to solve the problems of humanity with their incredible journeys of service. Being an entrepreneur who starts a business that relies on donations is beyond challenging. Something happened to these people to inspire them to do this very difficult work and their stories inspire me to be a better human, to work harder, and to find gratitude in everything.

I am incredibly proud of the connections we have been able to make between people and causes. We have 30,000 nonprofits in LA alone, so it’s no small feat! Nothing makes me happier than knowing that someone read one of our stories and got involved as a result, either as a volunteer or a donor.

Almost a decade ago, when I began this journey no one was focusing on these superstars. People’s attention was elsewhere. It is beyond rewarding to begin to see people realize how extraordinary these people are and begin to focus on what is truly important, serving one another.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Nothing. I would not change a thing. Losing my Mom was the hardest thing ever but I know there was a bigger plan in that loss. So as much I would love to hug my mom, I wouldn’t change any of it. I feel incredibly grateful to be entrusted to share these stories. To walk this same walk daily, as someone who runs a nonprofit and understands the struggles, it is a privilege to tell and share these stories.

Every week I am reminded what it means to serve, to give, and to love humanity. While the hours are tough and there never seems to be enough time, my heart is full of gratitude for the work we are doing.

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