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From Going it Alone to A New Meaning to Family: Johnnie’s Journey

The script is set in stone. Who gets to deliver the lines each morning is up for grabs.

Johnnie Greer-Martin pursued her GED through the Salvation Army’s Red Shield program to set an example for her three young children who are still living with her at home, but her 10-year old son has already figured out the value of an education. He tells her each morning when he leaves for school “Have a Good Day. Learn Something and Be Good.”

“Hearing him encourage me is amazing,” Greer-Martin said. “I should be the one encouraging my children. Now I try to beat him to the punch each morning.”

It all started when Greer-Martin came to the Salvation Army for assistance in paying her light bill. But, turned out, she received so much more.

She found a support system that was going to help guide her and her family on a pathway to become independent and she knew it was time to do what she needed to do – pursue her GED, go to college and start giving back.

“Every time I tried to do it by myself, it was so overwhelming,” Greer-Martin said. “The Salvation Army helped me realize that it was OK to ask for help. They (Salvation Army) don’t judge you, but they do give you positive input to get you through it. They also introduce you to other organizations and resources which can help you.”

Greer-Martin would always put others before herself. Everyone else’s problems were her problems. If they needed something to eat, she would feed them; if they needed to talk, she would talk with them; putting their needs before hers. Enter Brittany Jewell, former Life Skills Learning Program Director for the Salvation Army.

“Brittany helped me realize that I had to put myself before everything else. I had a lot of stress in my life and I didn’t know who I was anymore – I didn’t have a ‘me’. Through this program, she showed me how to be me,” Greer-Martin said.

Who she is now is one test away from earning her GED and becoming a high school graduate. She has passed four of the five tests necessary and has only the math exam to pass to complete the course. And now, she is encouraging others to pursue their dreams with the help of Salvation Army programs.

“I always had a reason why it was impossible to get my GED, but the Salvation Army helped me put ‘me’ first and when I did that, I knew I could accomplish that goal,” Greer-Martin said. “Don’t let money or kids be an excuse for why you can’t get your GED. The Salvation Army will help you figure out how to get from Point A to Point B and do what is best for you. They also helped pay for the course and will help you with every process in your life.”

Not only is Greer-Martin succeeding in the classroom, she is also succeeding at home.

“The Salvation Army has not only helped me, but they have helped my children also,” she said. “It helped me be a better mom to them. I used to feel like a robot. I would wake them up, feed them…. It was very hard to connect with my kids, but now that I feel better about myself, I am actually interacting more with my children, and we have become close, very close.”

Greer-Martin continues to work on her goals which include going to college and studying a double major. She wants to get her family financially set and help counsel kids and adults. She also wants to share her story and spread the word about the Red Shield program along with other Salvation Army programs to those who may need help.

“I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I will continue to reach out to get help and advice from the Salvation Army,” Greer-Martin said. “All you have to do it ask. That is what I did and now I am sitting here thankful and grateful and holding my head high.”

Greer-Martin encourages others to reach out and ask for help.

“Don’t close yourself off, be shy or embarrassed about things,” she says. “Everybody goes through something in life and if you are not open with yourself or someone else, you will never accomplish your goals. It took me more than 20 years to accomplish this milestone.”

“No matter what you are going through, don’t think you can do it all on your own, because you can’t,” Greer-Martin said. “Ask for help and make sure that you are open about your situation,” she advises. “The Salvation Army is a lifelong program for people because they understand and care about people – they are like family.”

“They help you figure it out……they helped me figure it out.”

Update: Johnnie passed her math exam and earned her GED. She is now enrolled at Nashville State Tech majoring in Information Technology.

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