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Johnson gives back

After completing his first season in the NFL, Dallas County High alumnus Michael Johnson returned home to Selma to better his community. But exactly what form that involvement would take was yet unknown to him.

“Basically, when I got done with the season, I got here as quickly as I could because I had messages from my mom that different people wanted me to speak,” Johnson said.

Sadie Moss was on that list. She was the woman who acted as his counselor during elementary school. Moss became director of the McRae Learning Center in 2005.

On the list of those seeking his help was Sadie Moss, the woman who acted as his counselor during elementary school and who later assumed the directorship of the McRae Learning Center in 2005.

“ In elementary school, you have growing pains. She was very influential in my life and my development at that time. I trust Mrs. Moss,” Johnson said. “She is a great woman. We sat down, put our heads together and went to work. We have made progress.”

The first fruits of their efforts will take shape during Jubilee this weekend as Johnson, Moss and others at the center begin their drive to revitalize the program.

Poor financial decisions before Moss’ tenure have left the center mired in debt.

“We don’t believe anything was pocketed. We just believe it was poor management,” Moss said.

At one point, Moss worried the doors to the center might close after more than 30 years of service as a day care.

Her fears have subsided in recent weeks as Johnson has stepped to the forefront in McRae’s fight to improve and stay open.

“I knew somehow, some way, God was going to send me a guardian angel,” Moss said. “I knew Michael was that guardian angel.”

Johnson examined the situation and its circumstances. Then, he decided to make a stand from the MJ 93 Foundation.

All the money raised from concessions tonight at the Stomp Out to Vote Step Show at the Old National Guard Armory will benefit the center.

Johnson will sign photographs for fans and have his photograph made with fans for a $10 fee at the The Gathering on Water Avenue at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Johnson’s Foundation donated two pairs of tickets to the center. For a $ 5 donation people may enter a drawing for the tickets to see the Atlanta Falcons host the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 season. Four chances to win the tickets cost $20 and 10 chances, $35.

The center’s representatives will accept donations at the step show or during the autograph signing.

The drawing is scheduled for Saturday at the Freedom Flame Awards Dinner.

The MJ 93 Foundation — which bears the motto “See it through: a vision for success” — will continue its center benefit efforts with a part on March 26 at the Elks Club on Water Avenue Admission to that event is expected to be $10.

MJ 93’s final scheduled benefit is set for May 8 when Johnson and some of his NFL friends will host a youth football camp for ages 8 to 18. That event will be $10 and is scheduled to feature players from the Bengals, Falcons, Patriots, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Alabama and a few special guests.

Johnson, whose foundation will take on a new project each year, said he hopes to get the center out of its debt and move it toward offering students unique opportunities. He takes a hands-on approach, working with the students in addition to raising money.

“I’ve never liked when people would just give money out and not know what is going on,” Johnson said. “I want everybody in the community to know that I don’t feel like I’m above doing anything. I don’t want to be the type of person that just puts his name on something and turns his back. I’ll see it through until it is done.”