Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 7, 2021

SALISBURY — A local gardening nonprofit was only expecting a few garden bed frames when it received a donation this week, but it got a lot more.

Dave Johnson dropped off 14 garden beds, 12 bird houses and a pair of benches he built. The lumber was milled from a pine tree that fell on his farm.

Happy Roots Executive Director Ashley Honbarrier said this was one of the best donations the group has received

“This is super huge for Happy Roots because the price of lumber is crazy,” Honbarrier said.

The garden beds will go back into the community as part of gardening kits for a program Happy Roots started last year.

Honbarrier said it’s nearly prime time for gardening. Last year, the program donated more than 100 kits to local families and community centers. It was the first time gardening for half of them.

She said families have sent pictures and talked to about continuing their efforts.

Johnson, known to locals as “Mr. Dave,” delivered all the goods in his vintage red Ford truck. He is not new to volunteerism. He spent a few years as a guardian ad litem then moved on to volunteer with Meals on Wheels.

Johnson said that became difficult because he developed friendships with people when he would deliver meals, and then they would pass away. These days, he can often be found cleaning up around roadways in town and makes it out to the intersection of Main Street and Jake Alexander Boulevard almost every week to pick up litter.

His handiwork can also be seen throughout the county in his birdhouses. Johnson estimated he has built about 1,450 and has them anywhere and everywhere. He keeps one in the back of his truck and will feed birds when he stops. He will also give people bluebird boxes when they stop and have a conversation with him. Local elementary schools have one of his birdhouses as well.

Johnson has an affection for wildlife. He said he worked in construction for a while and saw the removing trees and other habitat as invading areas where wildlife belonged, so he wanted to do something to give back to those animals.

He retired three times and currently raises miniature horses and goats on his farm. He said he has Canada geese nesting on his pond, and one pair just had babies. He also enjoys seeing deer jump his fence and come down to drink from the pond.

Johnson said he was clued in to Happy Roots by people he knows and they were surprised he had not connected with Honbarrier before.

“I think it’s excellent,” Johnson said, adding we need to get kids outdoors, teach them how to be citizens and give back.

He pointed to always seeing his dad getting involved in the community and stressing the importance of being active as an influence on him. Sometimes picking up litter gives him a sense of disgust at what people throw out in public places, but it still feels good to make a difference.

“I get a happy heart from my accomplishments,” Johnson said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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