Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Barbara Johnson. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Barbara, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to hear about how you went about setting up your own practice and if you have any advice for professionals who might be considering starting their own?
When I took over at Hope Supply Co. eight years ago I was given the charge by my board of directors to breathe new life into the 25 year old organization. It was at that time called Captain Hope’s Kids, and I knew the very first thing to do was to rebrand and start fresh. With the help of Javelin on a pro bono basis we rebranded to our current name and adorable teddy bear logo to better fit the description of what we do: Provide HOPE to those who need it…..in our case, in the form of basic need items. Above all, I my eyes have been opened to what a difference having access to life’s basics makes in one’s ability to thrive in life. Imagine not having toilet paper every time you used the restroom. Imagine being out of toothpaste, or not having deodorant or worse yet, not having the feminine supplies you need to be confident at school or work. And think about the thousands of mothers in north Texas and around the country who struggle to keep clean diapers on the bottoms of their babies. And the babies who don’t have clean diapers struggle with vicious diaper rashes and urinary tract infections. If basic needs are not met, it is difficult to look beyond the basics and get on with life.
Before joining the nonprofit, I had never thought about these things. Why? Because I never experienced the type of need our clients are facing. Not until you experience something first hand, can you truly understand it. I guess that means I still cannot truly understand what our clients are going through, but I have a much better understanding after spending the last eight years trying to alleviate their suffering through our vital mission. One of the most important things I have done is to approach the job with complete honesty. What can we do about the problem and what can we not do about the problem? Knowing the limits and boundaries of our mission, and what we can do to actually move the needle to solve the problem is key for any nonprofit leader. Thinking you can solve all of the world’s problems is noble but unwise. And it will set you up for failure.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I have the wonderful luck of having grown up in Asia through my father’s job which took us to different countries. This gave me a truly global perspective on life, and has allowed me to experience first-hand a variety of peoples, cultures and religions. I think that has helped me in my work in the nonprofit arena because I am less judgmental of those who need help, as I have seen extreme poverty around me all my life. I can approach my job leading Hope Supply Co. with complete honesty and transparency, and tackle the tasks as best i can without expecting to solve every problem or be the be-all-end-all for everyone. I believe in our mission, and sticking to doing what we do best. Mission creep can dilute the power and effectiveness of a nonprofits. Nonprofits must work collaboratively without mission overlap, in order to improve conditions for their clients. Hope Supply Co. is the largest children’s diaper bank in the country and we know how to effectively and efficiently do what we do. As tempting as it is to solve other problems we see out there, it is most prudent to continue with our narrow mission and do it well. We are “the diaper people” and our 85 nonprofit partner agencies rely on us to provide diapers and other basics to them for the children and families they serve.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Hope Supply Co. is an essential organization and we behaved accordingly during the two years of the covid pandemic’s height. Although scared and unsure of what this virus would do, we did not miss a day of service throughout even the most uncertain times. Our partner agencies needed more of what we had to offer in the form of diapers, wipes, PPE, hygiene items, and we could not shut down for fear of the virus. Instead, we pivoted by creating a staggered work schedule in our warehouse to enable social distancing, and we did without community volunteers for almost two years, doing the work ourselves. This was very challenging, as our volunteer force is very helpful to our mission. We now feel that we are finally coming out of a difficult period, but are proud that we were able to persevere through it in order to be there for our clients.
If you could go back in time, do you think you would have chosen a different profession or specialty?
I am very happy that I ended up working in the nonprofit space in my professional life. I am also glad that I stayed home spending quality time with my three (now grown) children before entering the full-time work world. This allowed me to bond with them and I am still reaping the benefits of a wonderful parent child relationship because of that. The nonprofit field is a wonderful option for young people just starting out, and for older people thinking of joining the workforce for the first or even second time. With such a variety of meaningful missions and job functions, it offers something for everyone. Every day when I start my work, I know I am affecting lives in a positive way. What could be better than that?
- Website: HopeSupplyCo.org
- Instagram: hopesupplyco.dfw
- Facebook: Hope Supply Co.