News Interview with WANE 15 News

Painter turns pro bono into profit

Updated: Thursday, 04 Oct 2012, 6:19 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 04 Oct 2012, 4:31 PM EDT

KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Ron Johnson is laid back and personable, donning the traditional white painter’s shirt and shorts, as he brushes a fresh coat of white paint around a window sill. He’s owned his own painting and drywall company in Warsaw since 2005. Even through the tough economy, work was coming in.

“New home construction dropped off and people were looking to fix what they have, which is what I do,” he said.

Johnson’s the owner and only employee of Lake City Drywall & Paint and stayed busy most of this year. But, at the end of July, the phone stopped ringing.

“Usually October and November starts to slow down, but it ended two months early. And it wasn’t a slow decline. It was an immediate shut off,” Johnson said.

For two months, he sat at home waiting for a job request and trying to think of ways to advertise better. He was getting restless from not working, so he decided to sit still no longer. Johnson sent emails to several area churches offering his services for free.

“When you advertise something for free, a lot of people think you’re trying to scam folks. But, this is legitimate. I just want to work and provide for my family and this has turned out incredibly well so far,” he said.

Johnson said he’d do any painting or drywall work free of charge and people would just need to pay for the cost of supplies and transportation. The idea was to not only pay-it-forward, but to get his name out there to drum up paying clients too.

“I wanted to give back to the community. I run across a lot of people who don’t have the funds or need work done and don’t know who to call,” he said. “It’s working well promoting myself, doing pro bono work for individuals who need it and for churches that need it and also generating paying customers.”

In addition to emailing his service offer to churches, Johnson contacted four Christian radio stations. After his story aired on WBCL Thursday morning, Johnson’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing.

“More than I could have ever imagined. I had no idea it would work out this way,” he said.

Johnson was juggling the calls from new clients while painting the porch, window trims and eves of Mark Fishburn’s Leesburg home. Fishburn, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Pierceton, took Johnson up on his offer of free work.

“We’ve been wanting to paint the last few years and haven’t gotten around to it, so it’s a real blessing to have him come here,” Fishburn said.

He expects his church will have Johnson do some work too, and he’s happy the painter’s plan is working out.

“I talked to him a couple of days ago and he didn’t have much happening and all of a sudden he has paying jobs lining up. It’s neat,” Fishburn said.

People are offering to pay Johnson even though he’s not charging for his time.

“They’ve offered to pay something, which is really pretty cool. I’m just going to accept whatever they’re willing to give. I had one man call and say he didn’t want free work, but because he heard the advertisement he would like to have me come out and give an estimate,” Johnson said. “I’m very, very thankful.”

Anyone who would like to contact Johnson can call him at 574-377-2189 or go to his website by clicking here .

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