Woman’s Facebook page helps community, but she never expected it to help like this

Richland Center is a small town with just more than 5,000 people.

It’s a close-knit community that became even closer when Jennifer Johnson moved there three years ago.

“I didn’t really know many people here,” Johnson said.

To help her come out of her shell, she started a Facebook page focused on giving.

“I mean it really honestly all started because my children and myself, we always did 25 acts of kindness for Christmas,” Johnson said.

The group gained 1,200 members in the first month, so Johnson thought she should expand the season of kindness and make it a year-round project.

“Why just do this during the month of December? Let’s keep doing this,” Johnson said.

She’s helped hundreds of people with the help of the group’s co-founder, Lyndzi Edwards.

“It makes my heart just overfilled,” Edwards said.

Johnson and Edwards focus on gathering donated items and giving them to people in need.

“We want to let our community know we are behind you, regardless of what situation you are in,” Johnson said.

In one case, that meant helping Katie Olson cope with the loss of her daughter.

“The last year, she’s been battling depression,” Olsen said of her daughter Tiyanna. “I don’t know if the sexuality issues at school became a problem or not. I guess if someone really wants to end their life, it’s hard to stop them.”

Olson said her daughter, Tiy, was going to counseling sessions for her depression and ensured her mother she hadn’t had any thoughts of suicide the last several months she was alive.

But Tiy took her own life on Dec. 20, 2018.

“There were no signs that day,” Olson said. “She was wrapping Christmas presents and having fun and went out to do chores, feed the dogs and the horses. She did her chores first and she didn’t come back in.”

Tiy went to the same school as Johnson’s son. When Johnson learned what happened to Tiy, she said, “Something told me, ‘You need to do something about this.'”

Being in the business of giving, Johnson felt compelled to help Olson through one of the worst times in her life.

But she was used to giving clothes, food and material goods. None of these things were the type of help Olson would need.

Jennifer thought of a new plan to plant a tree in Tiy’s honor.

“How can somebody that doesn’t even know you do so much for you?” said Olson, who also said she is grateful for what Johnson has done for her.

Johnson said the tree won’t bring Tiy back, but it might help Olson grow through the pain.

“I think it’s going to be hard watching the tree grow when she [Tiy] doesn’t get to,” Olson said.

It’s going to be tough to see, but Olson also knows it’s a way for anyone to visit her daughter at any time of the year.

“She isn’t buried here. It’s a way for [her friends] to visit her,” Olson said.

Johnson said she never expected her habit of giving back would land her a relationship with someone in the community like this.

“The tree ended up being way more than I ever expected and now I can call them family,” Johnson said.

When Johnson and Edwards first told Olson about the tree, they said her face said it all.

“The reaction on her face that day it was priceless,” Edwards said. “I think it just reassured her that she wasn’t alone. I have no words that could even describe the feeling we had with just taking that little sliver of pain away from her.”

Olson said she was shocked that the community could come together like this for her and her daughter.

“I was just trying not to cry and I was just in awe that a whole bunch of people I’ve never met are coming together to do this for her,” Olson said.

The tree will be a permanent reminder of Tiy’s presence in the community and a symbol that she will grow along with the community.

Johnson said she chose to plant a tree “because flowers die” and a tree can be seen at any time of the year.

Woman’s Facebook page helps community, but she never expected it to help like this

Johnson said she went to great lengths to make sure everything came together. She even got approval from the mayor to plant the tree in a city park.

“The idea of the tree was excellent,” said Mayor Michael Kaufman. “I sat and thought about it for a while and then I came to the realization that the park would be a very good place. It just kind of grew from there.”

Johnson said the Richland Center Middle School eighth-grade class will plant the tree on Arbor Day.

Olson anticipates it will be a symbol of growth and a reminder of how fate brought them all together.

“It’s crazy the coincidences, too,” Olson said. “Her older son and Tiy were the same age and now our little ones are the same age. Tiy passed away on Jennifer’s birthday. It’s like all these coincidences are just fate. We were supposed to meet. She’s one of those people you know you’re supposed to have in your life.”

To learn more about how you can donate to Johnson and Edward’s Facebook page to give back to others in the community, click on the link to their Facebook page here.

Woman’s Facebook page helps community, but she never expected it to help like this

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