We had the good fortune of connecting with Marie Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marie, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Operation Resource Arizona (ORA) was founded in November 2021 because I saw a need for more of a connection between resources and the heroes in our community. Our mission is to provide information, resources, and funding to uniformed personnel located in Arizona. Our goal is to educate our community about the available resources for Veterans, First Responders/EMS, Law Enforcement Officers, Dispatchers, Correctional Officers, Border Patrol Agents, Nurses, and their families. ORA works with organizations in Arizona, California, Texas, Utah and beyond to make sure we can provide the best resources available to our heroes. We develop personal relationships with our partners and those we assist. For me, this is so much more than a job; a non-paying job at that. We volunteer our time and put our heart and soul into the work we do. My desire to help all our heroes can only be accomplished by partnering with organizations that have a specific niche in this community. We all have a specialty and by working together, we can accomplish more and truly impact this community for the better.
Not only are we a “one stop shop” for available resources, we bring awareness to mental health, educate our community of ADA Service Dog laws, and provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to partner programs.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Operation Resource Arizona (ORA) is different than most nonprofits due to the fact that we help all heroes across the board; Veterans, First Responders/EMS, Law Enforcement Officers, Dispatchers, Correctional Officers, Border Patrol Agents, Nurses, and their families. By not selecting just one group to assist, we can be a central hub for information. I’m excited to be in the position that I am today. I have so much hope for the future of ORA! I have hope that we will continue to expand our network, that we will continue to impact the lives of local heroes, and that our presence will make this community a little better.
I have always had the desire to volunteer and started to do so when I was sixteen years old. I have volunteered in various categories over the years from homeless, child, animal, educational, and religious organizations. I loved helping out with all these charities, but did not find a path that really called to me until 2020. While volunteering for another organization, a recent contact mentioned a charity they had recently started that assisted first responders and veterans in Southern Arizona. He was not finding the time to run the charity and offered me the opportunity to take on this task. I have always volunteered with established organizations, so this was a new and intimidating role for me. I learned a ton in the first year of operating the organization. I established relationships with individuals in the community that were incredibly helpful and patient with me. This role is what really lite a fire in my soul and made me feel like I finally found my calling.
In November 2021, after months of tossing around the idea of starting my own charity, Operation Resource Arizona was formed. Fortunately for me, my previous work allowed me to establish relationships with individuals that were willing to build ORA with me. Marshall Johnson, Pedro Jungk, Margaux DeConcini, Andrew Hooper and Kristina Grebloski make up our board and I could not do this without them! Being a new nonprofit, awaiting our 501(c)3 status, has presenting challenges that have been frustrating. We have had to be innovative and utilize all avenues to try and solidify our place in the community. We are not even close to our full potential, but we are building off a solid foundation of integrity, passion, and compassion.
I have learned a lot over the years and I continue to learn more everyday. There is so much knowledge out there and I want to be exposed to it all. Not only have I learned invaluable information, but I have learned a lot about people as well. I believe that integrity and compassion emanate from one’s soul. I have met individuals that have something within them and you can just feel it radiate from them. That’s another blessing from all of this; meeting incredible people with so much to give beyond money.
I want the world to know that people come into your life for a reason. The lessons they teach you, whether good or bad, is meant to shape your character and direct your path in life. The people that have come and gone throughout my life, have helped me be the person I am today. Even though this whole article is about Operation Resource Arizona and my story, I don’t care if people remember my name. Honestly, I would rather stay in the background and continue to do what I love. I don’t need recognition or praise for starting Operation Resource Arizona. I just want people to remember the organization’s name, so that they know where they can go when they need something. ORA is bigger than myself- it’s about community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Tucson, Arizona is full of culture and activities that feed the soul. When you visit, you have to see everything the Sonoran Desert has to offer, like the Sonoran Desert Museum. The museum is about 40 acres of protected nature reserve that educates the public about desert life. When you think of the desert, you most likely think of horses, cattle and cowboys! Although you can drive an hour out of Tucson and get the full wild west experience in Tombstone, you can get a quick preview at Pinnacle Peak. They have live gunslinger shows, a small functioning train that wraps around the property, a photographer that has all clothes and props to take you back to the 1880’s, and delicious steak to fill your belly. Not that you would wear a tie to a steakhouse, but if you do, be prepared to lose that tie. Pinnacle Peak has a fun tradition of calling you out for wearing a tie and publicly cutting it off for all the see. Since it’s all in good fun, you get to put your name and date with your cut tie on the wall for display to all patrons.
Since you need to work off all that steak, we would have to take a hike through the Saguaro National Park, where saguaros are plentiful; saguaros are the universal symbol of the west. Tucson isn’t all hot desert either; an hour drive up Mt. Lemmon and you feel like you’re in a completely different city. The elevation of the mountain allows it temperatures to be around 30 degrees cooler year around. Hiking on Mt. Lemmon is another wonderful treasure that Tucson can surprise you with.
Tucson was founded in the Yaqui, Pima, Apache, and other Native American tribal areas. This is why our region is known for beautiful turquoise jewelry. There is also a variety of cuisine available from a combination of Anglo-Saxon, Mexican, Spanish, Native American and other cultures. But you can’t travel to Tucson without trying a Sonoran Hot Dog, chimichanga and churro!
The desert has some uniquely cute and some dangerous animals as well. The javelinas, also known as peccary, are a medium sized hoofed mammal that looks like a wild pig, but they belong to the Tayassuidae family. We also have jackrabbits that not rabbits at all, but actually hares. These hares are larger than rabbits with their long hind legs and larger than life ears. Tucson also has poisonous animals that you hope not to run into like the Gila Monster and rattlesnakes.
Tucson is also known for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and although you can’t tour the base, you can see the extensive collection of aircraft from outside the gates. If you really want to get up close and personal, the Pima Air & Space Museum is the place to go. It’s the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museum with about 300 aircraft on over 80 acres; make sure to wear walking shoes!
If you plan to come out at the end of February, you are in for a week long treat of Rodeo events. Every year our city puts on La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. The weather can be warm, even in February, so we would have to get an Eegees. Eegee’s is Tucson famous for its blended ice drinks with various fruity flavors. You can’t forget to get a side of fries and ranch. The ranch is unlike anything you have ever tasted and it goes perfect with their fries.
Tucson has delicious food, various hiking experiences, military history, Native American jewelry, old western cowboy immersion, baile folklórico (traditional Mexican folk dance), and the University of Arizona Wildcats. There are outside concerts, annual fairs, parades, the Tour de Tucson, bike friendly trails, ziplining, car shows, year round sports, astronomy viewing, and photography opportunities galore. There is so much packed into this town that one would not see from the outside looking in.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have wonderful mentors and support. There are many individuals that have taken me under their wing and helped me be successful in my endeavors. On the home front, my husband Marshall, Vice President and Co-Founder of ORA, has been a solid support system of encouragement and love since day one. My mother in law, Brenda Johnson, has been a solid shoulder to lean on that is full of unconditional love as well. When I start to consider this community and those I have the privilege of working with, I can’t believe how lucky I am. My recognition list is long, but every single one of these people have gone above and beyond to be there for me in one way or another. I know for a fact, that without this community, I would not be able to do what I love to do- help others. Everyone I interact with is special to me, but I want to make sure I give credit to those that have not blocked my number yet!
Joe Wood and Codi McCaw at Boulder Crest Foundation (AZ) have been incredible individuals to work with and we have developed a great friendship along the way. Jeff Copfer and Margaux DeConcini at Therapeutic Riding of Tucson (TROT) have been kind and shared their knowledge with me even, before ORA was formed. Diane Sherwood with Remember Rally, Inc (MN) connected with me over social media and has been a wealth of knowledge and resources even though she has never met me in person; she has a special place in my heart. Keith Hamblin at the local Vet Center has been a wonderful connection that is always willing to help answer my questions. Mike Gamez with the Tucson Police Department is a true community leader that is an inspiration and is always there to help. Victor aka Flaco at The America’s Overwatch Motorcycle Association (AOMA) has been a solid contact that is always willing to partner and help a veteran in need. James Espinoza with The Veteran Mentor Project, Inc (CA) has always been willing to listen and help me since the first day we spoke. Mark Lacy, Operation 22-PTSD Awareness is yet another individual that has been an inspiration and has led by example. Pedro Jungk, my Executive Director for Operation Resource Arizona, is full of encouragement and sound advice.
I tried not to forget anyone that has been there to support, encourage, and mentor me. These individuals, and many more, inspire me everyday. To everyone that I have the pleasure of working with, I want to thank you, you all have an important role in my story.
Other: TikTok: operationresourceaz
Through the Hoop Photography