24 Feb, 2024
2 mins read

Maryland Legal Aid honors 98 year-old Baltimore native for decades of service and activism in her community

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
[email protected]

When Baltimore native Gwendolyn Johnson was a little girl, the only thing she knew was that she wanted to be able to help people.

Her mother had given her up when she was six months old, and another family took her in.

“My family that I lived with has always been a family that helps other people, and I’ve been raised up like that. If somebody needs something you help them, you help a person [who has] less than you,” said Johnson.

The 98-year-old grew up in Cherry Hill in South Baltimore, and the neighborhood became the breeding ground for her life of activism and service.

She began by representing Cherry Hill on the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, a position she held for 20 years. Voting was always important to Johnson, and she constantly encouraged community members to participate in elections.

She said she told them as United States citizens they had a responsibility to vote, and she’s continued her voting advocacy to today.

While serving on the committee, former Mayor of Baltimore William Donald Schaefer enlisted Johnson’s help to launch the Eating Together In Baltimore program, which brings seniors together to promote health, reduce social isolation and provide nutritious meals.

Johnson continued to oversee the program for several years after its establishment.

In Cherry Hill, Johnson also became the go-to person for youth searching for summer employment. She believed that idle time could lead to young people getting involved in criminal acts or substance use, so she worked with the Baltimore City Council and former Senator Barbara Mikulski to connect youth to summer jobs.

During her career, Johnson discovered Maryland Legal Aid (MLA), a Baltimore-based organization dedicated to protecting the basic needs and

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