A newsmaker you should know: Plum man organizes big efforts for local responders

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Three years ago, when Plum resident David Johnson decided he wanted to give back to his community, he organized his first fundraiser for Plum's Emergency Medical Service.

After setting up a 60-by-40-foot tent on the parking lot of his Penn Hills business, D. Johnson Insurance, he arranged for a catered dinner complete with cocktails, music and giveaways. The event raised more than $10,000, which was used to buy the medical service an endoscope, an instrument designed to assist someone who is choking or experiencing an air tube blockage due to an allergic reaction.

"So far the endoscope has been credited for saving the lives of three people in the area," he said.

Last year, Mr. Johnson followed up by organizing an Appreciation Day Luncheon for Plum municipal workers. With proceeds from that, he bought 200 stuffed animals that are now carried on every EMS vehicle, police car and fire truck in Plum and used at the scene of an emergency to give comfort to children.

"I got the stuffed animal idea from my wife, Heather, and it's been a phenomenal success," he said. "One EMT told me the story of a 3-year-old having an asthma attack. After the EMT gave the crying child a stuffed animal, it calmed him down and turned things around 180 degrees."

Another component of last year's community service event was a joint venture with Invisible Fence of Pittsburgh that supplied every fire truck in all four of the borough's fire stations with a pet oxygen mask, a snout-like apparatus that fits over the animal's head for relief when suffering from smoke inhalation.

This year, a Halloween Costume Party fundraiser is scheduled from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Plum Masonic Hall, 9521 Saltsburg Road.

Admission is $25, which includes food and drink -- including alcohol -- and music. Raffles and a costume contest will be held.

"Everyone from the waitresses and bartenders to the disc jockey will be in costume," Mr. Johnson predicted. His goal is to raise $10,000 to be divided among the Plum EMS and the borough's four fire stations.

Mr. Johnson, 48, was born into a military family in Elk City, Okla., that relocated here when he was 4. His mother was a teacher at Center Elementary in Plum.

Mr. Johnson graduated from Penn Hills High School in 1982 and went on to get an associate's degree in business from Community College of Allegheny County. Early in his career, he took a sales job with Littman Jewelers in the Monroeville Mall and later worked his way up to the position of manager at Orr's Jewelers in Squirrel Hill.

"After Orr's bought out Hardy and Hayes, I became the transplant employee in charge of the two stores, one Downtown and another at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington," he said "After 22 years in the jewelry business, I started my own insurance business because I met a lot of people in the jewelry world who had a great need for customer service in the insurance world."

Mr. Johnson operates his agency with the help of a part-time employee, and also sells jewelry for Robert Currens Jewels in Oakmont during the Christmas season. He joined the board of the Plum Chamber of Commerce last year.

He is also an experienced scuba diver with 100 dives to his credit.

Details on the benefit party: 412-744-4800 or 724-733-4550.


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com


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