I believe that communities thrive when there is an interdependent culture and we’re all looking out for one another. I give back because I am able to and hope to ensure others in similar positions to do the same so that we can work together to help alleviate poverty.
Meet Greg Johnston
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Greg Johnston. I’m currently President of AltaGas Utilities Inc., a company where I’ve worked for over 36 years. I started my career as a seasonal construction inspector, and have worked in numerous roles and departments during my tenure.
I’ve been married to Monica for 31 years. We have two adult sons, and are not-so-patiently waiting for grandchildren. In the meantime we have two rag doll cats and a boisterous golden receiver to keep us entertained.
How long have you lived in Edmonton?
I moved to Edmonton from Ingersoll, Ontario in 1975. In 1984 I moved to Beaumont, then as a family to Athabasca in 1992. We moved back to Edmonton five years later, and then Monica and I moved back to Beaumont after becoming empty nesters in 2011.
Tell me about some of your hobbies and interests.
I’m a busy guy with not a lot of time for hobbies. However I manage to swim three times a week; the Leduc Recreation Centre is just a few blocks from my office, and it’s a great way to spend the lunch hour. I also find time to attend a monthly Scotch Lovers Club, and have recently taken up golf. Golf, like any pursuit, requires lots of practice, so I may not be able to call myself a golfer until a few years into retirement.
What is something that you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of a solid, three-decades and counting marriage, and two healthy, happy children. Our sons have chosen somewhat unconventional careers, proving they are both smarter and more courageous than their father.
What is your approach to philanthropy and community?
In regard to philanthropy, I have a few causes or charities on which I concentrate my giving, supplemented by a host of ad hoc opportunities based on personal relationships and personal experiences, and not all contributions need to be financial. It doesn’t take long to find opportunities to help out in your community, be it sports, organizations such as Boy Scouts / Girl Guides, or your community league.
Why do you support United Way?
I support United Way for a number of reasons:
1. It’s easy. I use the payroll deduction method; once a base amount is established, any annual increments are barely noticeable. This isn’t unique to United Way, but it’s one of the reasons I started giving.
2. It’s efficient. United Way uses only a small percentage of donations for administration. I know money given to United Way gets to where it is needed.
3. It’s effective. United Way operates regionally, and its staff and volunteers know the needs of the region, and the communities within the region. Investment Committees evaluate the needs of charities, and ensure dollars donated go to where they are needed most, within the umbrella of United Way’s mandate – Creating Pathways out of Poverty.
What inspired you to give?
I don’t know if you could say I was inspired to give. I was raised in a home where helping others was the norm. My parents instilled a sense of fairness and responsibility in me at an early age, whether that be to support a national heart and stroke campaign, the local Food Bank, or a needy individual.
How long have you been supporting United Way?
Approximately 25 years.
Why is it important to give back to your community?
There are many definitions of community, and many ways to give back. It makes sense to support and promote safe, welcoming communities that look out for one another, especially the vulnerable. It makes sense to combat poverty at its roots, providing opportunities for all to receive a meaningful education, financial assistance when things are tough, and access to necessary physical and mental health services. It makes sense because it’s the right thing to do, and it makes sense because we, as a society, cannot afford to pay the higher costs of treatment when prevention is a more cost-effective alternative.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Many people are closer to poverty than they think. An unexpected change in employment or a personal tragedy can have disastrous consequences for entire families, consequences that can be mitigated or reversed by early intervention. United Way supports the 211 system, not yet province wide, but accessible to a large number of Albertans, and continually growing. 211 will connect you with the resources that can help.
If you doubt about how easy poverty can strike, and the impact it has on families, plan to attend a Poverty Simulation. It will change your life.