Braving the cold while wearing jeans and a Lafayette High School varsity jacket, Niklas Johnson laid out several coats donated by Tates Creek Christian Church on the steps of Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza on Dec. 13 so those short on cash would have a little more clothing to brave the near-freezing temperatures. Niklas, 17, also handed out hand warmers and socks, much to the delight of a small crowd huddled near the courthouses.
Niklas, a senior at Lafayette, makes it a point to help out those less fortunate than him, especially during the holidays. In addition to assisting with Lexington’s homeless, he helps out children with special needs with the Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League baseball program at Shillito Park in the fall and spring.
“That’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Nilkas also volunteers at Church Under the Bridge, which offers Christian services and meals for homeless people. One of his responsibilities is ensuring that the speakers and microphones are working during the service. He helps out with the service nearly every Sunday.
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Brad Johnson, Niklas’ father, said this is normal for his son, who has been doing compassionate deeds since he was in middle school.
“It’s just kind of part of who he is,” Brad Johnson said. “This is what he does.”
Niklas credits his considerate actions mainly to his older brother, Matthew, a senior at Asbury University.
“My brother seemed to like what he was doing and then he went on to college and is still in college and has a really good life right now. So I kind of followed in his footsteps and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” he said.
Matthew Johnson said it was “awesome” that his younger brother looked to him as model.
“It’s a great feeling,” Matthew said. “(I’m) very proud to be his brother.”
Niklas said he’s had a good life.
“I think generally I’ve been pretty fortunate as a kid to have the life that I have,” he said. “Some kids have to run their families when they’re 10 or 12 (years old). I just have to worry about eating lunch and going to school.”
Brad Johnson said because of Niklas’ frequent volunteering, it’s not uncommon for him to run into the same people.
“If Niklas stayed out here tonight (Dec. 13), there would probably be 100 people who would say, ‘Hey Niklas,’” Brad Johnson said. “I told somebody once, I think Niklas knows more people downtown than the mayor.”
Demarkus Davis has seen Niklas regularly for about three years. The two metduring a Church Under the Bridge gathering at the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. Davis was in front of the courthouse on Dec. 13 and collected a coat, a vest and socks from Niklas. Davis said Niklas has “a good heart.”
“He’ll give the coat off of his back if he had to,” Davis said.
Niklas is also in the school’s marching band, jazz ensemble and the wind symphony. He said balancing all of the activities is hard, but “you just find time,” and it’s very rewarding.
“As a high schooler, I don’t have a lot of money,” he said, “but I have a lot of time.”