Liz Johnson has thought about leaving the North Coast a few times. But there’s something special that always brings the Seaside local back.
“The people. They make this area special,” she said. “Anytime something happens, there’s always someone there ready to help in any situation.”
It’s a quality she finds special possibly because of how often she has assumed the role to be ready to help. As the outreach coordinator for the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, Johnson is the one behind the scenes, helping with tasks as small as changing light bulbs to coordinating the Cottage and Garden Tour, the museum’s largest event of the year.
It’s through her love of volunteering that she came to work for the museum.
“I grew up working in hospitality. I worked in it for almost half my life,” Johnson said. “I decided I’ve got to give back to the community with my extra time.”
About seven years ago, her longtime friend Elaine Trucke, the museum’s executive director, encouraged Johnson to volunteer at the museum. “I had no idea the museum existed, and the more I was there, the more I became passionate about it,” she said.
On top of that, Johnson took on Meals on Wheels, summer reading programs and the Lunch Buddy program — a countywide mentorship program for students in elementary through middle school.
While she’s worked with a number of kids, one girl in particular made an impact.
“I had a girl in fourth grade who was very difficult to deal with when I first met her. At first she was shy, didn’t want anything to do with me,” Johnson said. “Now she’s blossomed, and does really well in school. When I met her she really hated school. Now she’s going into high school on the honor roll. It’s feels like more than just mentoring, I guess.”
Her love for volunteering served as an advantage when the outreach coordinator position opened up at the museum, where a large part of her job is recruiting and managing the history center’s volunteers.
And recruiting those volunteers becomes even more crucial when Cottage and Garden Tour season rolls around.
“There’s just three of us (at the museum), and we do it by ourselves. Just trying to get volunteers and homeowners to be a part is a full-time job in itself,” Johnson said.
With almost no prior event planning experience, Johnson learned many of the skills, like keeping track of all the details, calling homeowners, organizing catering and even baking some of the goodies offered at the event.
“At the museum I’ve learned a lot of skills I would not have learned otherwise. I have nonprofit experience. Event planning. Maintenance experience. Even baking experience,” she laughed.
But Johnson does take time to herself. When she’s not at the museum, she likes to go to concerts and looks forward to Seaside’s Barbershop Quartet festival. She would have gone to StackStock, but she said she had a volunteering commitment at the same time. She’s an avid Portland Trail Blazers fan, and when all else fails, an evening at home with her cat is where she likes to be.