Bar owner Sue Johnson makes an impact in Granite City with 'Kids at Christmas'

Bar owner Sue Johnson makes an impact in Granite City with ‘Kids at Christmas’

What began with pennies was hundreds of {dollars} for “Youngsters at Christmas.” However that is solely a part of the influence Sue Johnson has had on the Granite Metropolis group.

Johnson and her daughter, Terri Johnson-Bast, personal the Sue’s Nook bar at 4222 Nameoki Highway in Granite Metropolis.

Johnson, who turns 80 in March, has been a bartender for 59 years. Fourteen years in the past, she and her daughter began gathering cash at Sue’s Nook for “Youngsters at Christmas.”

“I used to be speaking to my daughter and mentioned we needed to do one thing for the children at Christmas, and the primary yr we raised 300,” Johnson mentioned. “Final yr, we raised $12,200 and we are going to exceed that quantity this yr. Now we have raised $72,000 since we began.

Each Saturday, The Clever will put up a “Meet Your Neighbor” story about native residents who deserve recognition for his or her work in the neighborhood. To make a nomination, electronic mail Scott Marion at [email protected] or Mary Cox at [email protected].

Cash raised by “Youngsters at Christmas” is donated to organizations that may assist kids at Christmas, together with Coordinated Youth and Granite Metropolis Colleges.

“We have given these organizations more cash yearly and added extra organizations to provide to,” mentioned Johnson, whose different daughter is Daybreak Mushill, is the manager director of Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Chamber of Commerce. “We will let you know the place each penny goes, and everybody is aware of about us.

“We’re one of many smaller bars in Granite Metropolis, however we’ve got some nice individuals coming right here. Different teams on the town have given us cash, together with Arlington (Greens Golf Course), which saves the additional cash from its machines and provides it to us.

Johnson, in the meantime, has constructed an enormous group of mates and supporters, having labored as a bartender for 21 years at Sue’s Nook and 38 years at Bowland in Granite Metropolis.

“I additionally labored 25 years part-time at Granite Metropolis Elks Lodge and was at Bowland full-time for 36 years,” Johnson mentioned. “This bar has been round for a very long time and Sam Andria, the proprietor of Andria’s Steakhouse in Fairview Heights, used to personal it.

“It has gone by three or 4 different house owners since, and my two daughters labored right here. One other gentleman purchased the bar and Terri was nonetheless working there. He wished to lease the bar and he requested Terri if she wished it and mentioned he would promote it to her for much less as a result of he knew he was in good palms. I used to be nonetheless working in Bowland, however a month later I left and got here right here.

Since then, Sue’s Nook has constructed up a steady and rising clientele.

“After we took over this place, it was solely making $200 a day, however we took the time to show it round,” Johnson mentioned. “Now we have all age teams coming right here they usually all speak to one another, they usually all get alongside.

“After I began as a bartender I by no means imagined I’d be doing it this lengthy, however it’s my calling and I’ve no real interest in retiring. I used to be in 4 golf leagues this yr and I’ve mowed three lawns and work 4 nights every week, so I hold busy and I prefer it.

Equally, help for “Youngsters at Christmas” exceeded Johnson’s expectations.

“Somebody got here in and donated a Budweiser fireplace pit, which was by no means used,” mentioned Johnson, who added that Pavia’s Place in Granite can be donating to the Christmas fund. “We raffle it off and other people purchase tickets for it. One of many issues we’re raffling off for is a boxing glove signed by Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.

“We even have a golf match and we’ve got a music quiz contest on November 19 that we may use extra individuals for. Each penny goes to the children apart from the prize cash and all trivia objects have been donated.

One of many bar’s signature drinks is a part of the fundraising effort, and it additionally confirmed how individuals missed Sue’s Nook in the course of the lockdown interval because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We promote pickle photographs for $2, with $1 going to the children and the opposite $1 going to purchase Claussen’s pickles and vodka,” Johnson mentioned. “We put them in cups with sliced ​​pickles.

“We had been closed eight and a half months in the course of the virus and one Saturday I posted that we had been going to promote pickles for 3 hours. We bought 800 of them.”

Johnson and her daughter start distributing the cash raised for “Youngsters at Christmas” across the first weekend in December.

“We’ll take cash after that as a result of there are individuals who will want it the second weekend,” Johnson mentioned. “Initially, I did not have a purpose for it, however I obtained to the purpose the place I wished to beat the yr earlier than.

“All people obtained into it and in some years we have taken an enormous leap ahead, however in my wildest desires I by no means thought we might elevate as a lot cash as we’ve got.”

For Johnson and his daughter, fundraising has by no means been about selling the bar. All the things revolves round kids.

“I consider youngsters waking up on Christmas morning and having a gift that they in any other case would not have had,” Johnson mentioned. “Joe Schuler’s mother began one thing like this in Granite Metropolis not less than 35 years in the past they usually do an ideal factor for the children at Christmas.

“One yr they known as us and mentioned they wanted just a little extra cash and we mentioned, ‘After all we can assist you.’ We have been giving them cash ever since and attempting to provide them extra yearly.

Whereas “Youngsters at Christmas” may be the signature fundraising occasion for Sue’s Nook, it is from the one one.

“When the younger man (Police Officer Tyler Timmins) was shot and killed in Pontoon Seashore, we held a fundraiser for his household,” Johnson mentioned. “When a younger man from Granite Metropolis needed to have his leg amputated, we did a fundraiser for him.

“We’re not the one firm on the town doing issues like this, however everybody in the neighborhood is so beneficiant. We simply did a barbeque for the children over Christmas and raised $4,820.25.

In relation to selling Granite Metropolis, it is laborious to discover a higher salesman than Johnson.

“Granite Metropolis is an enormous metropolis and other people aren’t allowed to speak badly about it right here,” Johnson mentioned. “That is my house and I find it irresistible.”

For Johnson, doing no matter she will to assist others is one thing she has completed all her life.

“I give all of the credit score to my mother and pa,” Johnson mentioned. “We lived in a small city of 700 individuals in Illinois (Tamaroa) and like everybody else, we did not have some huge cash. However they believed in serving to everybody they may.

Sue’s Nook has additionally been a place to begin for a number of musicians, together with Chris Bandi, an up-and-coming nation singer whose guitar is on show on the bar.

“Chris is from St. Louis, however he mainly began right here and provides us credit score,” Johnson mentioned. “Now we have loads of his songs on the jukebox.

“Now we have a number of different musicians who’ve performed right here, together with Scott and Mechelle (Smith), an acoustic duo from Granite Metropolis. This month alone, they’ve booked 17 occasions within the St. Louis space they usually each have full-time jobs. Their very first job was right here and that was not less than 10 years in the past.

Whether or not it is elevating cash for the children at Christmas or spending time with the prolonged household who’re her clientele, Johnson cannot think about her life with out Sue’s Nook.

“It is only a nice bar and my daughter and I’ve labored laborious to make it what it’s,” Johnson mentioned. “Now we have loads of volunteers who come to assist us. At 4pm (opening time) you will note a man are available and get us some ice cream. One other man will are available and empty the trash.

“Individuals cannot do sufficient for this little bar and it seems like house. I’ve all the time believed that inside these 4 partitions, nothing can contact you right here. That is the place I need you to come back and calm down. Somebody truly made an indication that somebody did known as ‘Sue’s Sanctuary’ and that is what I need it to be.

To study extra about Youngsters at Christmas and the November 19 Music Contest, name 618-931-9913 or go to Sue’s Nook on Fb.

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