Table of Grace: Remarkable Woman Stacy Johnson opens shelter to ‘help kids like me’

Austin

We asked you to tell us about inspiring women in your life. We went through hundreds of nominations in our Remarkable Women contest. Now, we’re sharing our finalists’ stories.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The signs are everywhere. Inside this house, inspirational quotes and children’s drawings color the walls. Outside, yellow flowers bloom in the sunshine next to a row of colorful bikes in the backyard. For the children at this Round Rock house, this is the first place that actually feels like a home.

“I opened the shelter because I grew up in foster care so I was going to help kids like me,” Stacy Johnson said.

Growing up in foster care, Johnson bounced from home to home and by the time she was 14 years old had been in 10 foster homes. Frustrated with the process, she asked her caseworker to place her in a group home for girls.

With guidance from a therapist, and a book he recommended titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” Johnson finaly felt hopeful about her future.

“It just taught me about being proactive instead of reactive. It was almost like magic. I can write down a goal, I could do something and then it would happen,” Johnson said.

She reached her first goal less than two years after writing it down on a piece of paper — to become an adult at 16 years old and get out of the foster care system.

“I had just accomplished my first major goal! The goal of a lifetime,” Johnson said. The accomplishment led her to set a new goal to help others.

“I want to teach other kids like me they could have control of their life, too,” Johnson said.

In 2014, Johnson’s life changed again when she opened Central Texas Table of Grace, her own emergency shelter for kids between 6 to 17 years old.

“An emergency shelter is designed for foster kids to have a safe place to stay after they are removed from an abusive situation,” Johnson said. The 501(c)(3) non-profit has helped more than 200 kids, so far.

“Every single one of them has a story. Every single one of them matters. They’re just all worth it, they all have so much potential,” she said.

Johnson’s goal is a full-time job: to raise $250,000 a year to keep Central Texas Table of Grace open. She came up with the shelter’s name after hearing a song, “Table of Grace” by Phillips, Craig, and Dean.

“It says, ‘where the cup’s never empty and the plate’s always full,'” Johnson recalled. Her eyes teared up and her voice broke as she spoke the lyrics of the song. “You’re always welcome at the table of grace.”

“I want my place to feel like you don’t ever have to worry where your food is coming from,” Johnson said of the shelter. “You don’t ever have to worry that you’re not welcomed. It’s full of love and comfort.”

It’s the same kind of love and comfort Johnson says she was missing as a child.

“It took a long time to get here because when you have trauma in your life and abuse in your life, it makes you not feel good about yourself. But, when you can accomplish a goal and other people believe in you, you can start believing in yourself.”

Johnson has also created a program called Grace-365, an extension of Central Texas Table of Grace. She helps teens who age out of the foster care system rent their own home and successfully transition into adulthood.

Her next goal is even bigger.

“A community village,” Johnson said. She aims to create a tiny home village in Round Rock with houses, jobs, mentoring and education services — a place with a Table of Grace so big, it seats everyone.

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