WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio — Sharon Johnson, founder of the faith-based nonprofit “Never Give Up, Never Quit,” has been committing random acts of kindness for over 30 years across Northeast Ohio. To continue her mission, she has opened a soap shop to help fund her charity crusade.
She says giving has helped her through the most trying times in her life.
"I went through a season of homelessness, and during that time I was just determined to keep giving. It kept me alive. It kept me alive,” said Johnson. “I was determined to do what the scriptures taught me. Not to read them, but to do them.”
The mission of her nonprofit has helped many. Her team of volunteers goes to community shelters, food pantries and low-income areas to hand out bus passes, grocery store gift cards, health food and snacks.
To continue the gift of giving, Johnson needed funds. She got an idea from a bar of soap she received when she was homeless.
"A young lady gave me a bar of soap. I knew it was handmade, and I asked her did she make it, and I began to study soap-making on YouTube, and I loved it," she said.
Johnson opened The Natural Soap Lab in Willoughby Hills, which is the fund-raising arm for her cheerful charity.
The shop, lined with positive sayings on the walls, sells handmade soaps that not only smell good but are good for your skin.
In 2019, Johnson was able to purchase a motivational truck to help her spread her message of kindness. It’s loaded with items to encourage and inspire hope.
One experience she had in her van, while eating in a Lowe's parking lot, affirmed her mission.
"Out of nowhere, a man pulled up in a white van. He was emotional, and I rolled my window down, and he began to cry and he told me he was on his way to commit suicide," she said.
He said he saw her "Never Give Up" truck and felt compelled to follow it.
"He said, 'I'm getting ready to call my daughter because I believe God is trying to tell me something," she said.
The preparation it takes to load up the motivational truck is a lot of work, but Johnson said it’s worth every person.
When asked about the future of her giving crusade, her dreams are big.
"I would like to set up teams all over America in every major city and just like the Red Cross, when something goes down, we show up."
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.