Ian Johnson does it all! Not only does he volunteer for numerous community organizations, but he also works at The San Diego LGBT Community Center helping to organize special events, as a manager at Martinis Above Fourth (where he helps organize and MC the annual charity wreath auction and AIDS Walk "Summer Splash" fundraiser), and he appears on the weekly online talk show, "They Said."
Ian, who is 36 years old (and said "wow, I'm 36" when sharing his age), is from Diamond Bar, California and has been in San Diego for nearly 16 years. He is single.
What organization(s) do you volunteer for, and why?
AIDS Walk San Diego; Dining Out for Life; Christie’s Place; Mama’s Kitchen; The San Diego LGBT Community Center; Queen Eddie Conlon Youth Fund; and, new for 2012, AIDS Lifecycle (gulp, a 545 mile bike ride)!
It’s not that I physically am there at all of these organizations or events, but I have either participated in or coordinated a big fundraiser for each one of them.
Why? Why Not!? Doing stuff for others is in my blood. Growing up, my parents were very active in our community and I began at age 11 working with the Special Olympics. I went through the training and became the youngest registered coach in California. As an adult, it took awhile to find my cause.
Years ago, a close friend who helped me through a rough patch in my life, passed away from AIDS complications. That sparked my involvement and it has continued to grow.
What motivates you to do the volunteer work you do?
I am doing something to make a difference in the lives of others. I will admit, sometimes I ask myself what am I doing (in the midst of a fundraiser), but the final result of raising money and seeing it affect someone’s life, is a feeling that is indescribable. You begin to see your hard work actually making a difference.
I have a huge support system and a group of people who really believe in what I do. They also keep me motivated. I have never done any of this alone. A very special group of people always come to my aid and are there to assist. Whether it’s volunteering, donating, or encouraging me that lives are being changed.
Growing up with Special Olympics introduced me to a very special kind of person. Never to judge a person because of whom they are or what they have done. Everyone deserves a chance and if I can do a fundraiser that is giving that person a chance, then I will exhaust myself in doing so.
I was that person in my early twenties who made bad decisions, I grew and overcame them. Everyone should have that opportunity.
Do you volunteer because of your work, or not? And what do you do for a career?
I have worked at Martinis Above Fourth for seven years in management. Did I have any idea when I started that this job would change my path in life? Absolutely not.
I took it as a job in the beginning and it grew to be so much more. I have been able to use Martinis as an outlet and a way to reach out to so many people. Those working in the hospitality industry have this advantage; we are in contact with so many people. People want to get involved, but they just don’t know how - and that’s exactly how I was!
Early on, Martinis showed me that about our community. When I started and created our AIDS Walk team, I had no idea how successful it would be. Everyone has that power, you just have to use it in a positive way.
Do I volunteer for work? No. I volunteer because I love doing it! I love spending my time coordinating an event that is reaching a lot of people. Whether I am at Martinis or not, I would still be doing what I’m doing.
What is something that many people do not know about you?
Growing up I was an angel. I did the class president thing, homecoming king, you name it.
At the age of 20, I moved to San Diego and got into the wrong crowd. I spent my early twenties doing destructive things and making bad decisions, and ended up homeless and sleeping in my car.
I refused to go back to Diamond Bar because I felt I had put myself in the situation I was in and was determined to pull myself out. I did it with a lot of hard work and a vision that I was not supposed to be that person in life.
On a lighter note, I love kids! I think one day I may have some of my own, but my clock is ticking.
What would you like to see change in the LGBT community?
The judgments and the superficial attitudes. I love our community, but many people make judgments based on what you did in your past, how you look and what material things you have, or what you do.
What do you like most about the local LGBT community?
While there are a lot of judgments, there is also unity. When our community here in San Diego pulls together it is such an amazing thing. I have seen the power of this community making a difference when they pull together for a common cause.
What sorts of things do you do to enrich your social life other than volunteering?
I am a social butterfly. Working in a restaurant/bar, I get paid to socialize and laugh with people.
I also do a weekly internet talk show called "They Said," which I get to use as a platform to promote other non-profit fundraisers and address LGBT issues. As the gay man on the show, I feel I can educate others about our lives.
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