Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Heart-Felt Journey

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Heart-Felt Journey

Article excerpt

Recognition paid for a life of helping others

Beth Johnston did not have to win the Charlotte County Schools volunteer-of-the-year award to earn the respect of people in Englewood.

She did not have to mentor Lemon Bay High School students, meeting with them at the school once a week for 10 years. She did not have to cook food for the basketball team's Sixth Man Club. She did not have to work for seven years on Project Graduation, the annual, all-night, lockdown party designed to keep kids from drinking on graduation night.

She has accomplished all that, but people in town who keep up with such things already know what Beth and her husband Ed have done year after year for children in Englewood. They know the type of help the couple has offered when no one was looking.

Ed and Beth Johnston have no biological children, but they have plenty of unofficially adopted ones in Englewood. When a young person needed money, the couple might hire them, for an overly generous wage, to watch their cats. When someone needed help to find their bearings, the couple might offer them a place to stay or maybe just a word of encouragement. Sometimes the right words from the right person can influence a life.

Barrett Karvis would be a good example. Back in the mid-1990s, the outdoor basketball courts at the recreation center on Orange Street attracted players from all over town, including Ed Johnston. In addition to schooling the younger players with an uncanny three- point shot, Ed ended up befriending some of the neighborhood kids, including Barrett, who was then in eighth grade.

The young boy's father was no longer in the picture, and Ed ended up sharing fatherly duties with Barrett's older brother.

Barrett became a point guard in high school, and Ed and Beth paid for him to go to a camp where college coaches could see him play. He ended up starring at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. During his sophomore year, the couple lent him money to buy a 1989 Thunderbird. They also helped Karvis and his wife, whom he met at school, buy their first home.

Through his entire basketball career, Karvis says, he and Ed talked after every game. Each now plays in recreational leagues, and they still talk after every game.

"It was more to me about the advice: the business advice, the family advice, the basketball advice," Karvis says. "The personal talks we've had over the years? I've valued that more than anything else."

Now 32 and living in Atlanta, Karvis calls Beth his second mom. "They're two of the biggest hearts I've ever met," he says. "The world needs more people like Ed and Beth."

Most of us never take the time to have that type of influence on the life of someone, who, under normal circumstances would remain a stranger. Beth and Ed have taken the time, in too many ways with too many kids to mention. …

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