We were lucky enough to have Johnelle Wright work at the market when she was about 15, for 3 years. She left her mark on our hearts with her ever present smile. Maybe you recognize her, she has a pretty diverse resume- Susanville Super, Lassen Federal Credit Union, Lassen County and City of Susanville. Johnelle says “life is too short to just do something, I want to make an impact”. She is now the Director of Student Ministry for her church. One day she had a random thought to reach out to the community, Johnelle took a couple of pizzas to Memorial Park during lunch. NO strings attached, she just wanted our park to be what a park should be. A place that is safe, fun and filled with good vibes. Kids showed up. Some days Johnelle had as many as 80. Her church got behind the idea with a separate tithe and, after a little while, a budget.
Johnelle has pizza in the park every Tuesday with an average of 60-70 kids. One girl didn’t eat pizza for 6 weeks when she finally did Johnelle said “I gotta know, why didn’t you eat for 6 weeks” the girl told her she wasn’t sure it was safe. Another girl asked if she could bring some healthier food, Johnelle replied “of course!” Now she brings juice for some that don’t want soda, fruit for kids that want healthy. Again, NO STRINGS attached. Some kids had to ask permission because they aren’t allowed to go to the park. How sad. Seems Johnelle is taking our park back one pizza at a time.
Johnelle feels we have a broken world and any conversation can lead to helping someone in need. I’ve seen pictures of pizza in the park and what really struck me was none of the kids were looking at a phone, they were all talking to EACH OTHER. Wow. In this age of social media anything that brings them back to the here and now is HUGE. Johnelle is an authentic role model, athletic, healthy, joyous, mom of two and completely approachable. She points out that her blue and purple hair breaks down a lot of barriers. True.
Thanks Johnelle for being one of our Hometown Heroes.