Originally published in the April 2017 issue of Berks County Living
Together we can. The Bryant Johnson Community Fund is dedicated to that idea; that together the people of the City of Reading can unite to create a better community for future generations.
Finding the Drive
One good deed inspires another. Sam Bryant – a constable in the City of Reading and a Reading High School varsity football coach – was assisting with an athletic department food drive. When the first donation was dropped off, three cans of corn, Bryant made up his mind that he needed to do more to help those in need in his community. “To actually receive food and to know where it was going to go, it was one of the best feelings of my life. There was no way I could not continue to do this.”
In January of 2015 Bryant held his own food drive. He worked with local schools to collect items for families and organizations across the city. After the first event, he teamed up with his cousin Carissa Johnson, and the two formed the community fund. They wanted to be more than just the food drive, so they planned an event for every month of 2016, including what has become the annual Resolution to Fight Hunger food drive in January. Just over a year later, the community fund now has a volunteer board of directors that coordinates efforts across the city.
A City United
Each of the organization’s events is aimed at commanding unity. Bryant recalled growing up when the city was a tight knit community, and is trying to inspire that among residents and businesses again. “Our biggest goal is to get the community out and involved and to know that there are others out there like them who need help.”
In addition to the food drive, they have also organized street and park clean ups, and volunteer opportunities all across Reading. “Anywhere that we can reach people we try to do it. Whether it’s 10 people or 200, we just want to reach them,” Bryant said. They have also established the annual Backpack to Victory drive. In 2016 they supplied bookbags full of supplies to more than 150 children around the city, and threw a back to school party including food, physical activities, and even haircuts courtesy of partnering city businesses. This year they hope to also provide simple health and dental screenings at the event.
Together We Can
Together We Can is a movement created by the fund to instill the core values of community, respect, commitment and accountability in the community’s youth. Bryant’s goal is to be in every city elementary school, working with the future of Reading at a young age. “Hopefully the early message creates a change at the middle and high school levels about how they feel about their community, and themselves and others,” he explained. “We’re trying to make sure our kids have those core values that we feel are lost right now.”
The Bryant Johnson Community Fund lends a hand to, and welcomes support from, residents, businesses and organizations throughout the City of Reading. If you are interested in getting involved please contact Sam Bryant at email@example.com or 610.468.1390.
Did You Know
Say Cheese The Resolution to End Hunger drive is held through local elementary schools each year, and the class with the most items in each school gets a pizza party, courtesy of Maria’s Lounge and Restaurant.
The First Dollar The fund’s first donation was from Gwen Didden at Family Promise of Berks County. The money was to open a P.O. Box. Bryant said, “That’s what made it real.”
The Power of Unity Bryant collected 1500 items during his first food drive, but with the backing of Johnson and the rest of the fund, they were able to collect more than 7000 the following year.