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Dave Olson, Published December 19 2009

Traveler volunteering in 48 states

Drew Johnson’s personal philosophy is: Kindness begets kindness.

“It always seems to come through when you need it most,” said Johnson, who has been depending on the axiom a lot lately.

In October, the 30-year-old from Boise, Idaho, began a journey of the lower 48 United States carrying a message of doing service to others.

His goal: to spend a week in each state doing volunteer work.

This past week, he visited Bismarck and Fargo, where he helped out at the Great Plains Food Bank and the Fargo Moorhead Community Bike Workshop.

In Bismarck, Johnson was preparing to spend a night in his car when he helped jump-start another vehicle in a store parking lot.

It turned out the other driver was the son of a man who booked hotel rooms for a living, and Johnson ended up with a warm room on a night when the temperature dropped far below zero.

When he hit Fargo, the “check engine” light came on in Johnson’s car, but he isn’t too concerned.

“I just don’t worry about those kinds of things,” said Johnson, who put his business designing Web sites on hold while he travels the country.

He said he gets by on donations and the kindness of strangers, which suits the self-proclaimed “minimalist” just fine.

“If something happens, I’m pretty confident it will just be an opportunity for something good to happen as well,” Johnson said.

North Dakota was the ninth state on his list, and Minnesota is next.

In addition to finding volunteer work, he plans to attend a cousin’s wedding this weekend in the Twin Cities.

Johnson said many people believe they don’t have time to volunteer, but he said most places are looking for someone to pitch in for half an hour to three hours a week.

“That’s really, really small,” he said. “Give up a television show, for goodness’ sake, and help somebody.”


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555