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Loving Where You Live is as Simple as Being Selective

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Jen Johnson

After traveling and living in many different sizes of cities, Jen Johnson selected Kalamazoo as her home.

Employed as the Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Johnson has lived in the city for 12 years.

For 32 years, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes has provided food assistance to individuals and families in need in Kalamazoo County. The organization's mission is to feed the hungry and engage the community in the fight to end hunger.

"I'm originally from Petoskey, MI," Johnson said.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in the early 1990s, Johnson traveled around the country for various jobs before pursuing a master's degree. Upon completing her degree, she was immediately hired locally.

"I got a job as an adjunct professor teaching English/Literature at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Kellogg Community College.

Johnson said she was familiar with the area before accepting teaching positions here.

"I had friends at CMU that grew up here in Kalamazoo and we'd come back to visit their families and go to the Western Michigan University games, so I knew a bit about Kalamazoo before becoming a permanent resident," she said.

Johnson initially noticed and liked the area's cohesive nature.

"Some of the things that struck me about this community from the beginning were that there were so many people who grew up in the community or came to college here who stayed," she said. "I felt it was because of the resources it offered-great schools, corporations that were healthy, and an incredible group of non-profit organizations that were woven together and really committed to the people and making things happen in the community."

That sense of community and educational opportunities are just two of the reasons Johnson is happy to raise her family in Kalamazoo.

"I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter getting ready to enter school at one of our really phenomenal Kalamazoo Promise schools," she said. "I'm so looking forward to her growing up in such a wonderful city."

Connecting with community runs in Johnson's family.

"My father taught me that it was important to select where you live-and that you'll know the right place when you find it," she said.

"As a lifelong Rotarian, he believed it was important to invest in the place you live by learning what it has to offer, the people who make up the community, and, most importantly, giving back to it. Kalamazoo has all those elements and his legacy has now become mine."

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