Northwest looks back fondly on Perry E. Johnson. Perry was a passionate and committed member of Northwest, which he and his wife Helene joined in 1977. Perry was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer in October 2004. On the last Sunday of his life, Perry announced that he wanted to go to church and while he was there, he spoke about how much it had meant to him to be a part of the Northwest community. The Perry E. Johnson award was created to recognize an outstanding volunteer each year in Perry’s name. Perry was often a volunteer behind the scenes and he encouraged others to become more fully engaged in Northwest. In the 15 ensuing years, we have honored volunteers who, like Perry, often work behind the scenes to keep Northwest running smoothly.
This year’s award was given to another one of NW’s unsung heroes who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, Melissa Niedermeyer. She has made a difference in the lives of many of NW’s children and families and, by doing that, has made a major contribution to the success of our congregation. She is someone who, although she spends her days teaching high school students, has dedicated herself week after week, year after year, to the children and youth of NW.
Some of the comments about Melissa’s tireless service are:
“When I think of all my years at Northwest, I think of Miss Melissa.” — member of the Youth program
- As an RE teacher – She worked on a year-long project with Eileen Taylor and a group of 5th/6th graders studying the origins of the Golden Rule and creating art work which became the wall hanging that’s now in our sanctuary.
- As a Youth adviser
- She started teaching the core group in 5th or 6th grade and moved up with them to the Youth Group, becoming the Youth Adviser for them and others who came to NW during these 6+ years.
- Melissa served, often alone or with minimal help, during these years—designing & organizing curriculum, planning social justice activities, and fund raisers.
- She planned a summer trip for the group yearly, chaperoned and drove them.
- Some examples are: Tybee Island where they learned about sea turtle conservation, Plains GA where they visited historical sites, this summer’s trip to Alabama to visit various civil rights historical sites and museums.
- She caught up several senior youth who had missed out on Coming of Age so they would have that experience prior to bridging. Much of this was done over a weekend retreat/workshop in Ellijay.
- She helped plan & execute several bridging banquets and services as various Youth graduated and moved on from RE.
- She has served on the RE committee for so long we’ve lost count — more than 6 or 8 years.
- For all these years she has made phone calls and emails to DREs and teachers along with a million odds and ends that go with the committee.
- She has taught other RE classes throughout the years when needed
- She has organized and lead the RE pancake breakfast forever.
- She was instrumental in starting Pi Day in 2012 (now an annual tradition at NW) and has continued to organize and lead it every year since.
- She has co-directed the annual children’s holiday pageant since 2011, organizing props and costumes, attending all practices, working on script and assigning roles.
- She has helped organize and plan family nights for RE, including one memorable camp out in Ellijay.
- She is currently co-leading this year’s Coming of Age Program, planning lessons, team building trips, and a winter retreat
- She served as a member of the OWL teaching team for middle school owl.
And, she has done all of this while working 2 jobs and, along with Bruce, running a house and raising 2 kids!