Johnny Jennings - Keeping the Promise
There is a special group of people whose values have become a testament to our country and to our communities.
They are our military veterans.
This week's Pay it Forward takes us to Ringgold for our $500 cash gift surprise.
That's where a Korean War vet continues his extraordinary mission that's decades in the making.
We begin inside a Ringgold business where a woman is anxiously awaiting the chance to honor longtime Catoosa County resident, 82-year-young Johnny Jennings.
Shay Love's work place is among Johnny's weekly paper pick-up stops.
Shay has known him for five years. She tells me, "He goes to Central Avenue twice a day and drops off his recyclables. And, from Mother's Day to Mother's Day, whatever he collects he donates to the Georgia Baptist Home for Children."
Johnny is not only dedicated. He's prompt. We have to rush into place because he's early.
Shay lifts the warehouse door and says to a surprised Johnny, "Can you look right here? On behalf of McMahan Law Firm and NewsChannel 9 I'm Paying it Forward. Congratulations! I love you."
Johnny smiles and says, "I don't deserve this I don't think but thank you so much."
But, Johnny does deserve this. He's the kind of man who does not make a promise lightly, even one that is more than six decades old!
Choking back tears he says, "When I was 18-years-old I visited the Children's Home with the Catoosa Baptist Association and we had a meal with them and visited with them for the day. And, when we went to leave three little boys grabbed me around the knees and asked 'Will you be my daddy?' I said from then on I would help all I can."
In 1985 Johnny started this paper recycling project to help the children he'd never forgotten. Among the crowd stands Children's Home President James Harper.
James takes Johnny by the hand and says, "We thank you for all that you've done for the Children's Home. The figure that we have is $361,000 that he's raised and donated to Georgia Baptist Children's Home."
Johnny vows to always keep his promise to the kids - a modest hero who exemplifies the Pay it Forward spirit.
"He (Johnny) gives us some big shoes to fill (for) our generation because I don't know who's going to fill them," Shay says.
Since starting the project Johnny Jennings has collected 4,500 tons of paper and has saved more than 76,000 trees.
If you'd like to help you can make paper donations to the Chattanooga Recycle Center on Central Ave. on behalf of Johnny Jennings. Just apply the money from your paper recyclables to account number: 2000034.
Chattanooga Recycle (423) 267-3801, 1845 Central Ave.
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