74 - Davenport, IA
"The work I do is my calling. I believe I was put on this Earth to serve the way I do. I am inspired by the changes I see in people and the difference one person can make every day."
Ida Johnson moved to Iowa 38 years ago from Alton, Ill. As a newly divorced mother, she left behind an abusive ex-husband in search of a better life for her five children. She found a home in a low-income, inner city neighborhood and employment in a kitchen at St. Ambrose University. Fighting to keep her family safe, intact and fed, Ida began bringing neighborhood children into her home for games and learning activities. Before long, she was managing a small neighborhood center out of her living room. She worked with city leaders to begin offering a variety of free services to those in the Quad Cities area, and her little operations became Central and Western and later became United Neighbors, Inc. Now, nearly 40 years later, she provides families with structured activities to keep kids out of trouble, bridge the technology gap and stabilize neighborhoods through home ownership.
Ida believes the struggles she has faced have made her more sensitive to other people’s needs. Her mission is to help others help themselves while building self-worth. The youth programs Ida created include an after-school program, a kids’ café, a summer parks program that brings activities to the kids in their neighborhood parks, an alternative suspension program in conjunction with the Davenport Schools and now houses a pre-school program. United Neighbors also provides a first-time homebuyer education program, down payment assistance and a HUD lead-based paint reduction program in partnership with the city of Davenport. It runs a minimum code repair program, handicap ramp accessibility program and a fully staffed, HUD-certified housing counseling office. Ida is regarded as a mother to the community and a beacon of compassion and leadership also May 20th, 2004 was proclaimed by the Mayor of Davenport as Ida Johnson Day. That's why Ida is a 2012 Women of Worth!