Turning a birthday into a blessing

Hemet woman diverts her many birthday gifts toward a higher cause—helping animals

Photo courtesy of Ramona Humane Society
Virginia “Ginny” Johnson stands next to a trunk filled with gifts for the Ramona Humane Society. Johnson celebrated her 50th birthday Feb. 3 and requested donations for the nonprofit shelter in lieu of birthday gifts.

■ By Olivia Gildea / Reporter

Virginia Johnson was preparing to celebrate her 50th birthday when she found herself faced with a simple question: “What gift do I want?” In today’s world of bargain sales and online shopping, the possibilities are virtually endless, albeit a little superficial. That’s when it occurred to her–what about the animals?
Immediately, Johnson got in contact with the Ramona Humane Society, San Jacinto’s only nonprofit animal shelter, to which she regularly donates small household items, like old newspapers and towels. Employees there referred her to the shelters’ wishlist.
First opened in 1969, the Ramona Animal Shelter has been nonprofit from the start. It originally began as the brainchild of two sisters who wanted to help the local population of homeless and neglected animals, and later blossomed into the open-admission shelter, low cost clinic, and animal control service it is today. The shelter also offers information on pet care, in addition to microchipping services that help return lost animals to their owners.
But all these services don’t come cheap for the shelter, and as a nonprofit, even everyday office supplies like pens and copy paper add up in cost. While the demand for animal care and rescue continues to soar, many shelters like the Ramona Humane Society are struggling to maintain a supply of just about anything.
That’s where Virginia Johnson came in.
“At 50, I just thought what do people get you that you don’t already have?” Johnson said. “This seemed like the best way to give back to the community.”
So Johnson rallied her troops. In lieu of any gifts of her own, she distributed to friends and family the shelters’ wish list. Nearly 60 people attended Johnson’s birthday party, all of them bearing gifts for the shelter. On Feb. 6, three days after her birthday, Johnson drove a trunk full of towels, blankets, pet food and litter, as well as $165 in cash, down to the same shelter from which one of her own dogs came.
“I’m not doing this for a pat on the back,” Johnson says, though that’s what she well deserves. When it’s all said and done, Johnson just hopes her donation will inspire others to give back to the community, bring in adoptions, and raise awareness. That isn’t too far off from the shelters’ own motto: “Advocate. Educate. Adopt.”
The Ramona Animal Shelter is located at 690 Humane Way, San Jacinto. Call 951-654-8002 or visit www.ramonahumanesociety.org to find the shelters’ donation wish list, or to find out how volunteering can help save the lives of shelter pets.

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