As a dedicated volunteer for Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls, SD, Cherri Johnson has been involved in the ministry of clothing refugees for the past decade. Many refugees arrive in Sioux Falls with no money, friends or common language. Mrs. Johnson made it her mission to ensure that every refugee child has proper clothing for school.
Over the years, her efforts have grown into an even bigger project. Mrs. Johnson has taken it upon herself to be a "welcome wagon" to the newly arriving refugees. As she learns of new arrivals, be it a new family or recent birth, she visits their homes to see what is needed, goes back to her house to gather up the necessary clothing items and then heads back to the refugees' homes with the goods. Mrs. Johnson takes great care to personalize her service.
Mrs. Johnson solicits clothing from many sources, including her friends, family, church congregation and local Volunteer Center. She even places ads in the local newspaper, requesting good, used articles of clothing. She receives donations on her doorstep daily. She spends hours sorting, cleaning and delivering the clothing. Sometimes, those that donate clothing to the cause, donate their time as well, by assisting wherever they are needed.
During the holiday season, Mrs. Johnson distributes truckloads of toys that she has collected throughout the year to refugee children. If toys are in need of repair or cleaning, Mrs. Johnson refurbishes them to ensure that each child receives a toy to be proud of.
Ten years of refugees know and love Mrs. Johnson. Many affectionately call her "Grandma". They have been known to abruptly stop on the side of the road and run over to "Grandma" asking how she has been since they were first welcomed by her years ago.
In addition to volunteering at Lutheran Social Services, Mrs. Johnson also serves at her church by recycling greeting cards and reselling them to raise money for its youth group.