January 10th, 2017
Tennis Profiles in Giving Back: Miami’s Kevin Johnson, Volunteer of the Year
“For it is in giving that we receive.”–St. Francis of Assisi
Kevin Johnson, of the Doral section of Miami, who was recently named Volunteer of the Year by USTA Florida at its annual meeting in November, says that whatever you put into volunteering comes back to you tripled. The man should know: He has volunteered for USTA Florida for the past dozen years — this after volunteering for the USTA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana tennis tournaments for a few years, as well.
Echoing St. Francis’s insight above, Kevin noted that, growing up in Jamaica, he learned that “we should always help those who are less fortunate than us. We need to reach out a helping hand.” He’s also leant his hands as a volunteer for the past four years at the Miami Rescue Mission for the homeless.
“My mother volunteered at the Senior Citizens’ Center in Georgia, and as a baker, she’d come in with a cake cut into 55 slices (the number of people there).” Her work has definitely inspired the USTA’s volunteer award recipient.
Having known him through a mutual friend during the past four years of USTA annual conferences, I was thrilled to hear of his award recognition, and immediately asked him if I could do a story on him. But the modest Jamaican with the mellow spirit politely demurred, suggesting that there are better stories that I could do. This went on each time I asked.
Finally, he consented. When a teammate on his 4.5 team said that the Miami Herald did a piece on his trophy, he said to me playfully, “Now you can pile on the love.” He still has not seen that article.
Grieve not, but if you do, Kevin can handle it
Kevin has volunteered in various capacities for USTA Florida. He worked on the Leagues Committee for three two-year terms, and currently serves on the Grievance Committee. He was first inspired to pitch in locally by Dolly Morris of Miramar, and later, Jacqui Brunton inspired him to expand his territory from local Miami activities to the Region 8 Grievance Committee, which also includes the Keys, Broward County, and parts of south Palm Beach County.
Former USTA Florida Leagues Director Sandy Marshall inspired Kevin to work on the Leagues Committee and the Section Grievance committees. Cathy Nordlund, the tennis program coordinator for Region 8, asked him to volunteer in non-league events, such as the Special Olympics (once), the Junior Orange Bowl (the past four years), and the membership booth at the Miami Open (four times, as well). He’s also worked tournaments — one regional and 16 sectional events.
As for tournament volunteering, Kevin noted, “I love seeing the faces of the players — I’ve been one myself. Thursday at Sectionals, there’s that look in their eyes, and by Sunday there’s some real excitement among the finalists. I love to see the excitement in their eyes.”
Grievances seem to suit the award winner. An 18-year flight attendant for American Airlines, he’s also served the carrier’s union as a vice chairman in HR and grievance issues. “I love rules,” he said. “I always read the little booklets. And I learned from committee work that it usually takes about two years for a proposed rule amendment to become ratified.”
The Jamaican native, who came to the U.S. in 1985, realizes that the easygoing spirit that permeates his native land has played a role in his volunteering. “I’ve tried to give the tournament players peace. Many of them are extremely excited, and often stressed out. I like to be a calming influence.” As a Grievance Committee member who’s had to suspend players, he’s worked to “not make the letters harsh, but mellow.”
“I have known Kevin for several years, and was excited to hear that he received the Volunteer of the Year award,” said Jim Tierney, tennis centers administrator for the City of Boca Raton. “He’s very enthusiastic about league tennis. His positive and easygoing demeanor has helped him to service the Miami-Dade community in many capacities for years.”
All he is saying is give volunteering a chance
To those considering volunteering, Kevin says, “Give it a chance. You’ll learn how tournaments are run, and see so much of what goes on in the background. You’ll also enjoy tennis a lot more, and learn about the organization and how a tournament comes to life.
“Volunteering is such a privilege,” Kevin continued. And for USTA Florida, having Kevin Johnson to volunteer is a privilege, as well.