GRANITE CITY, Ill. – A smile and a wave can change someone's day. Hundreds of smiles and waves every day can change a community. A Granite City, Illinois man brings that joy to friends and strangers every day as he volunteers to help direct traffic outside a school. And he’s the latest recipient of our Pay It Forward award.
It’s late in the afternoon, the students at Frohardt Elementary are beginning to leave and get on buses; that means Leonard Johnson is in place as a volunteer to help direct traffic in and out at the front of the school.
Johnson doesn't see the world through rose-colored glasses, but big funny green sunglasses, with his lime green gloves and a red white and blue umbrella. He's quite a character, waving and smiling to everyone who drives by.
Autumn Gartner, a parent of a student at the school, nominated Johnson for the award because of the joy he brings.
“We will go out of our way after school and come by just to see him and just to wave before we go home," Gartner said.
Gartner presented Johnson with a $500 gift card from Fox 2 News and First Bank.
"This is a blessing to me,” Johnson said. “I mean, these people get a kick out of it, but I enjoy it."
Johnson began spreading his joy two years ago when he was dropping his grandson off at school. He noticed an awkward way for buses to arrive. The drivers would have to get out of the bus and move some cones out of the bus lane, so Johnson said he took it upon himself to act as a volunteer traffic cop. The buses now get in and out without delay and everybody gets a cheerful wave.
Johnson said he has great respect for the school bus drivers.
"They need to be courteous with these bus drivers. They got our most valuable possessions on the bus with them – our children," he said.
"He doesn't get paid. He's not through the school district. He just does it out of the kindness of his heart and we all appreciate it," Gartner said.
If you would like to nominate a person you think is deserving of the award go to fox2now.com and look for the Pay It Forward page.