CRESTVIEW — Community leader Gary Johnson is ready to move forward with a new outlook and a new ministry following a tumultuous couple of years.
Johnson, who once headed the Brotherhood of Love ministry, was arrested in January 2016 after signing a stolen vehicle’s title and bill of sale as a witness. Authorities say he knew the vehicle was stolen; Johnson, who spoke to the News Bulletin over the phone Wednesday, said he was just trying to help a friend and wound up paying a price for it.
“At first I said it was a mistake, but I don’t see it being a mistake; I really don’t think I did nothing wrong because I had no knowledge of it,” Johnson said. “Rather than just let it keep going on, I went and I didn’t plead guilty, I didn’t plead not guilty. I got a year probation and I did six months probation; they cut it off early.”
Now, Johnson and his wife, Doris, are looking toward the future as heads of a new organization. New Way of Life Outreach Ministry is their newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, through which they plan to serve the community by reaching out to troubled youths and others who might be headed down a dangerous path.
“We are creating a new way of communication, a new way of love and a new way of peace and a new way of happiness and joy so we can come together as a people,” Johnson said. “It don’t make any difference what your race is, it’s about us as a community and as a people, and wanting to make a change. And the only way you can make a change is with a new way — cause the old way ain’t the way.”
With the holiday season coming, New Way of Life plans to hold the same Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas toy giveaway held in years past under the Johnsons’ previous organization. This year, New Way of Life seeks local businesses and individuals who can help donate food and supplies for the Thanksgiving feast, including turkey, roasts, macaroni, sugar, napkins and plastic ware.
The meal will be served at 2 p.m. Nov. 23 at 398 Spring St. N., Crestview.
For Christmas, the Johnsons hope to gather toys and clothes, both new and gently used, to give away to children as part of their “Santa Claus is coming to town” campaign, where they are looking to bring hope to children who might not experience the same “Santa Claus” joy other children get to have.
“There are kids in Crestview and surrounding areas that have heard what other kids say about the wonderful clothes and toys they get from Santa Claus, but they never get a chance to see it,” Johnson said.
All donations are tax deductible and can be dropped off at 398 Spring St. N., Crestview, or can be picked up by Johnson or his wife by calling 229-379-1741 or 398-0431.