BELOIT - As the lyrics from the "Oklahoma" musical go, Betty Johnston is a gal "who can't say no," and the Beloit community is better for it.
Since her retirement from M & I Trust, she has busied herself impacting lives at the Beloit Health System, her church, Our Savior's Lutheran, and the former Angel Museum. For these efforts she is being recognized as the Beloit Daily News June Volunteer of the Month.
Born in Chicago, and raised in Downer's Grove, Johnston attended Patricia Stevens Career College after high school. It was her husband's job that brought Johnston and their two children to Beloit, where she worked for 27 years beginning at Heritage Bank as an administrative assistant. Inspired by her mother's volunteer activities for the hospital, Family Services and the Red Cross, she said: "I like giving back to the community, because I am blessed."
One of her favorite volunteer engagements involves serving as an escort at the Beloit Health System Memorial Hospital, which she began 17 years ago.
Through the years she has expanded her involvement to serve in the VIP Grille, and served as co-president of the Volunteers (VIP) with Diana Alheid.
"You couldn't find a better person to work with. I never found someone so quick to jump in to help," said Alheid, a fellow volunteer.
"She just doesn't know how to say no," Jan Burdick adds.
Volunteer Coordinator for Beloit Health System, Sarah Olson, concurs.
"She's (Johnston) a gem. Since starting with the health system, I have had many interactions with Betty and she has always been so warm and welcoming, very kind. Right away, she stopped in, introduced herself and welcomed me, offering to help me if I had any questions. She has a very contagious smile and she instantly made me feel comfortable. Not only is she a loyal and dedicated longtime escort volunteer with the health system, but she also steps up whenever asked and often helps in other service areas, many times with little or no advance notice," Olson said.
With a youthful energy and a self-declared "people person," Johnston frequently steps in to fill in at the VIP Grille, where she truly enjoys interacting with the customers.
Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Olson continued, "She is so giving of her time and talents, we are blessed to have her. I am incredibly thankful for all her support as I adjust to my new role. She cares and it shows in everything she does. I have sincerely appreciated her checking on me and genuinely asking me how things are going since I started, and reminding me that if I have questions I can just ask. I've watched her interactions with our patients, other volunteers and staff, she is always kind and always has a warm smile to offer."
In addition to all her assistance within the hospital, Betty also calls Bingo at Riverside Terrace once a month, where she finds "the residents are a lot of fun."
Another focus of Johnston's volunteer efforts is her church, where she has served as church board secretary. As a member of the Evangelism Committee, she spent many years supervising coffee hour in-between services, which she enjoyed because it provided an opportunity to talk with church members. She also cooks and serves food once a month for the church's Free Friday Lunch, again providing a social opportunity for the attendees.
Calling shut-ins, visiting and serving communion as a member of the Caring Committee brings Johnston great joy.
"This is what Christians do. Knowing that my visit makes someone feel good is special to me. I enjoy getting to know them and hear about their stories," Johnston said.
Currently Johnston is serving as Our Savior's president of Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (WELCA). Immediate past-president, Marcia Lee notes that Johnston is "very kind, very likable, does very well with anything she tackles, and always seeing that things are just so."
At the Angel Museum, Johnston once again demonstrated her ability to step in to serve as secretary on the board of directors. Former Angel Museum collection owner, Joyce Berg, thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Betty when they worked together in the Gift Shop, which Johnston co-chaired.
"I enjoyed her friendliness," Berg said. "Volunteers like Betty are such treasures because they are so dependable."