Ducks Unlimited holds an important place in the extremely active heart of Rich Johnson, a Virginia Ducks Unlimited volunteer for nearly 40 years.
“I like to get involved with good people doing good things for good causes,” he said. “Educational and environmental issues and causes impacting kids, those come out on top for me.”
Johnson holds leadership positions in several local and national organizations. He’s an emeritus trustee for one of his alma maters, the University of Richmond, and supports his graduate school, Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s on the boards of the American Civil War Museum and the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society.
“To be a good citizen of your community, you need to take a role in making sure institutions like colleges, museums and conservation organizations don’t operate in a vacuum,” he said. “Those institutions will last if concerned people put their time, energy, money and talent behind them.”
Johnson is chairman, president and CEO of The Wilton Companies, a Virginia-based real estate company engaged in multi-family and commercial real estate property. Rich and his wife, Joyce, reside in Richmond. They are Ducks Unlimited Legacy Sponsors with lifetime contributions and pledges of $550,000.
In April, Ducks Unlimited organized a tribute to Rich Johnson in Richmond and has raised $1.86 million in pledges, cash and commitments. Chip Heaps, Ducks Unlimited senior director of development, is a longtime friend of the Johnsons.
“Rich is the face of Ducks Unlimited in the Richmond area and he may be one of the hardest working people I know,” Heaps said. “He and Joyce are incredibly generous with their time.”
Like many other members, Johnson was introduced to Ducks Unlimited through a friend’s invitation to a banquet. Johnson was an enthusiastic target shooter in high school who never learned to hunt. Joining the local Ducks Unlimited chapter gave him an avenue to meet hunters and learn the sport.
“It was a combination of being attracted to hunting and what Ducks Unlimited did for conservation,” he said. “DU identifies a problem, determines what it takes to fix it, raises the money and goes out and addresses the problem.”
Johnson has held numerous positions within Ducks Unlimited, from committee chair all the way up to Ducks Unlimited national board member. What has impressed him most is the power of the local committee to impact conservation efforts.
“The two roles that are so critical to what DU does are the area chairman and the state chairman,” he said.
These local leaders influence the state’s structure, he said, managing a network of committed volunteers. They make sure their committees not only present successful events but have solid plans for the future. Stepping up from Ducks Unlimited member to volunteer came naturally for Johnson. His advice for others looking to carve out time to volunteer is simple.
“You will get out of it what you put into it. You don’t need to make a major time commitment, but you owe it to yourself, your children and your community to put a level of emphasis on making your community and the world a better place.”