Regions Southwest Virginia

Santa’s helper

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Christmas came four days early for Bristol, Tenn.’s United Way on Wednesday when developer Steve Johnson donated $1 million to the charity’s endowment fund.

Johnson, the developer of the Pinnacle retail complex and other projects in Southwest Virginia, said that in this season of giving he wanted to give back to the communities served by Bristol’s United Way.

“It’s the season of giving and there are a lot of people in our region in need,” Johnson, president of Johnson Commercial Development, said in a statement. “These needs exist on a daily basis, and I am fortunate to be in a position to give back and help those in need.”

Johnson proposed the endowment fund several years ago as the organization’s campaign chairman and later board president. His goal was to fully fund the administration of the charity’s efforts so that 100 percent of donations to the annual fundraising effort will benefit the six organizations served by the United Way of Bristol.

“I have witnessed the need by families and children in our region and I want them to know that when the endowment is fully funded, every dime that they contribute to the United Way of Bristol will go to those in need,” Johnson explained.  “It is important to note that those who donate can designate that their dollars go to the United Way of their choice in our region. Thus, donors here can help serve United Ways from Johnson City, Kingsport, Greeneville, Elizabethton or those in Southwest Virginia.”

He added that this year’s Bristol fund drive is about 20 percent short of its goal.

“Steve Johnson has been generous with his leadership for many years, and today’s donation to our endowment is only the most recent example,” said Lisa Cofer, the United Way of Bristol’s executive director.

The charity serves six organizations in the community ranging from programs to help needy individuals pay electric bills in the winter to a food pantry and a program to find permanent housing for the homeless.

Johnson made another $1 million donation earlier this month to Virginia Tech’s Indoor Practice Facility. Johnson played football at Virginia Tech and went on to play for several seasons in the NFL. Before this month's donation, he has contributed to other Tech athlertics projects.

Currently, he is the developer behind The Pinnacle, a 250-acre, one-million-square-foot, regional shopping center in Bristol, Tenn., that has brought new national retailers to the area.

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