By Aliya Schneider
Long Island resident Kiora Johnson, founder and executive director of God’s Blessings Plan, said she left her six-figure finance career to pursue community service, guided by her Christian faith.
It all started after returning to work from maternity leave in the fall of 2017. She was noticing more homeless people on her way to work, and she wasn’t sure if it was because of her break from commuting or if the homeless population suddenly skyrocketed.
“At the very least, they’re somebody’s child and we kind of walk past them,” she said.
In early November, she noticed a homeless man pulling pieces off of his sandwich, sharing them with pigeons.
“It literally stopped me in my tracks because I was going to walk across the street and I felt like God was like, he’s sharing what little he has and you can’t even look him in the eye,” she said.
She wanted to help the man, but didn’t want to give him money to support any “bad habits” he may have. She read about “blessings bags,” which are donated bags full of basic necessities, like toiletries and gift cards to get food. She planned to give out 50 bags before Thanksgiving that year, but she said God told her to give them out on Jan. 2, when there would be fewer community giveaways.
“I hand wrote in each one of them ‘to God’s child’ to let them know that they’re loved by others and by God,” she said.
In 2018, she quit her job and started God’s Blessings Plan, a non-profit.
In 2020, she also created Living Water Health, a company that sells cleaning supplies. The business both brings a source of income to her family and helps sustain her non-profit, as 10% of profits go to God’s Blessings Plan.
Johnson does not take home a salary from the 501c3 and its only paid employee is a virtual assistant.
In 2020, God’s Blessings Plan had $39,350 of revenue and $37,027 of expenses, according to information provided by the organization to Guidestar, a database of non-profit organizations. In 2018, the organization served 400 people, which rose to 2,000 in 2019 and 2,600 in 2020.
The non-profit’s first Bronx event was in March this year, which distributed food and basic necessities like toiletries. Then, in August, another event in the borough offered school supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Johnson’s next events will be held this Wednesday and Thursday, the first in the Bronx and the second in Queens.
On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Graham Triangle, a grassy area surrounded by Third and Lincoln avenues between East 137th and 138th streets, 500 people will be able to receive food, winter coats and accessories, baby supplies, toiletries, PPE and cooking supplies on a first-come, first-serve basis. On Thanksgiving, 300 people will have the same opportunity in Queens.
At both events, there will be a 17-foot truck with two 80-inch television screens, which her uncle owns, playing Christian rap, she said.
Both events will also have representatives from Hire Point Staffing Solutions, a Bronx-based staffing agency, and Ena’s Driving School, a Queens-based school that offers free CDL licenses. The goal is to help people find employment or new employment, addressing people’s long-term needs alongside the distributed necessities.
“Now all of a sudden you’re standing in a space in maybe February where you’re making $50,000, $70,000 dollars a year and a couple of months ago you needed a coat and diapers and wipes for your kids,” she said.
Johnson started the non-profit in Queens, so that’s where most of the programming has been concentrated. She moved to Long Island with her husband — who helps with both initiatives — and now four-year-old son after the pandemic hit, so her events span across New York City and Long Island.
While Johnson said her organization’s mission “is to be the answer to prayer” and to be ambassadors “of Jesus Christ on earth,” its events are open to anyone, no matter their religious background.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.
This story first appeared on BxTimes.com.