Myra Johnson kids that her husband Steve is a frustrated farmer. When he found out Billings Forge Community Works (BFCW) was putting in raised beds for the Garden, “he was here with his rototiller, and that’s what really got us in.”
“I helped build the raised beds,” Steve Johnson said. “We had a request for a small rototiller that could be used in the raised beds and we provided that.”
Steve said his favorite thing was to see the children’s reactions when they first eat something they have grown. “The smile on their faces, it was fantastic.”
The Glastonbury couple is among the many donors who support Billings Forge Community Works.
“We spent an entire summer deciding what our priorities were in philanthropy and food insecurity ended up at the top,” Myra said. “Because if someone has nothing to eat, it doesn’t matter what else they have.” Steve added, “Kids can’t function well at school if they’re hungry.”
The Johnsons talked about BFCW at The Kitchen at Billings Forge in Hartford’s Frog Hollow section. Steve worked in the public health field. His last position was biological health and safety manager at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. “I was a mom,” Myra said. “And she was good at it, too,” her husband said.
Native Californians from the Los Angeles area and high school sweethearts, the Johnsons have three children and celebrate 50 years of marriage this year.
“Where BFCW started on the idea of what to do about homelessness, ours was what to do about hunger,” Myra said. “We could just easily jump in.”
Steve said that he was really “pleased with the entirety of it. How the Billings Forge complex has housing, the Firebox restaurant, the Kitchen, the Farmers’ Market at Billing Forge and job training and youth programs. It creates a nice community.”
Myra calls it “a community of caring.”
Asked if the Johnsons have brought friends to the Billings Forge complex, Myra said, “Absolutely, much against some of their better judgment.” Steve said friends would say, “ We’re going where?’ Yeah, we’re going down to Frog Hollow. So many people have negative feelings about it, people out in the suburbs. That should change, that would be good.”
If it was not for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Johnsons might not have found BFCW. “It’s great because once they know what you’re interested in; they lead you to things that they think will fill those needs.” Through a Hartford Foundation meeting on food insecurity, the Johnsons met Cary Wheaton, executive director of BFCW.
Steve said Cary “is a very good promoter. She’s always happy and positive. She has great ideas.”