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US Volunteer Travels Cross Country to Help People in Need

Drew Johnson delivers food for the Meals on Wheels program

President Barack Obama has been stressing the importance of public service and volunteering. Drew Johnson is doing that in 48 U.S. states over 48 weeks. He has done everything from building homes and delivering meals, to cleaning up after a flood.

Drew Johnson, a web designer, considers helping others his passion. He says it occurred to him one day that he should make a road trip to help the needy.

"And volunteer as you go, really help people, and then use your knowledge and ability with technology to connect people, to motivate them to go out and serve their communities," he said.

Inspiration and documentary
He began his journey last October and is documenting his experiences on a blog and on Facebook. He is encouraging people to make volunteering a part of their lives. "I wanted to invite people along with me, and I think some of the best ways to do that is through pictures, video and writing," he explained. "But the blog to me is kind of that mixture of everything and allows people to follow along."

Johnson lives simply and relies on donations. Sometimes people feed him and offer a place to stay. Otherwise, he sleeps in a tent, or in his car. He says he tries to set up volunteer work in advance, but sometimes he just arrives in a town and asks where he can serve.

When Nashville, Tennessee, was devastated by flooding this year, he helped people remove debris from their homes. He also lent a hand to refugees, including people from Burundi in East Africa.

Making a difference
Today he is delivering free meals to the elderly in Maryland through a program called Meals on Wheels.

Peggy Toole of Meals on Wheels says Johnson was a wonderful surprise. "I wish there were more people like him putting a spotlight on how important it is to volunteer, to just help one another, try to put yourself in somebody else's position," she stated.

Johnson does the dirty jobs some volunteers don't want to do like cleaning up after horses. At a location in Pennsylvania, where horses were rescued from certain slaughter he places covering on their heads to protect them from flies.

Kindness begets kindness
Johnson believes kindness begets kindness. The owner of this auto shop in Maryland fixes Johnson's car brakes after hearing he volunteered for Meals on Wheels. "I think it's great," the mechanic said. "I think it's cool, and we're going to help him out."

"You can use your talents, your abilities in so many different areas out there to actually help people to make this world a better place," Johnson said. He will continue his travels through October. But he says his journey to help others will never end.