Homeless Health Initiative: Vanessa Johnson's Story

Vanessa Johnson Image The thought of children in homeless shelters starting school without school supplies was what spurred Vanessa Johnson to action.

She started a back-to-school supply drive at CHOP in conjunction with the INSIGHTS Forum Alumni Association (IFAA), which she founded.

Thanks to the generosity of CHOP employees who donate, and IFAA, which gathers and delivers the donations, children in the shelters the Homeless Health Initiative serves have begun the past three years with full backpacks.

Johnson, a clinical research associate and Cancer Registry manager with the Division of Oncology, grew up and still lives in West Philadelphia where the shelters are located. She says she feels compelled to give to those in need near her own neighborhood.

While visiting the shelters, she learned of residents’ other needs and has tried to meet them by donating goods and clothing.

She often gives of her time, volunteering for special events. At one, she recognized a family — the mother and her young daughter had attended the same church Johnson attends — but she never would have guessed they were homeless.

Since that experience, she has felt more empowered to help others less fortunate than herself, and she has ramped up her volunteering for other organizations as well.

Originally posted: May 2013