MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Four women will be honored for being remarkable leaders in the community during a celebration Friday at the South Carolina Aquarium.

News 2 and our parent company, Nexstar Media Group, wanted to acknowledge the great contributions that women have made to our nation and local communities in honor of International Women’s Month.

For weeks back in December, members of the community were invited to nominate women who inspire, lead, and forge the way for others – not just one day or month, but day-in and day-out – to be considered for our Remarkable Women initiative.

All essay submissions were judged and ranked by a special panel leading to our four finalists.’

During News 2 Today, one winner of the four finalists will be selected to be named the Lowcountry’s most Remarkable Woman for 2021 and receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of her choice.

This year’s nominees include Dr. Jocelyn Evans, Nilsy Rapalo, Geona Shaw Johnson, and Emily Cruse – four women, all positive role models.

Geona Shaw Johnson, who leads a team at the City of Charleston’s Department of Housing and Community Development, was named the 2022 winner.

“My mom passed away in 2014, and I believe behind the remarkable women who sit here today, are other remarkable women who poured into us, who invested in us, and who have made a difference in our lives, and have taught us what it means to give back and be a part of the community. So, my mom is foremost in my mind because of her impact in my life,” she said after being announced the winner.

Of her team – who she called amazing – Johnson said that they cannot accomplish what they do in the community every day without each other.

“In addition to that team, we have a number of collaborative partners that work with us in the community and so they are a part of the success as well. They bring capital to the table. They bring technical expertise to the table in order for us to accomplish what we do. It’s a collective effort – I do not take this credit by myself.”

MEET GEONA SHAW JOHNSON AND HEAR HER REMARKABLE STORY:

Empowering thousands of low to moderate-income families through the city of Charleston to become first-time homeowners, Geona Shaw Johnson has made it her mission for the last 15 years to do just that.

Helping families buy, maintain, and renovate homes in the City of Charleston is the goal for Johnson and her team at the City of Charleston’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

“This area was redeveloped in 2013; it includes a mix of rental housing for low- and moderate-income individuals, it includes market-rate housing and includes houses that were constructed under our first-time homeownership program,” explained Johnson.

For more than 15 years, Johnson has served as the department’s director.

“We actually help to create and preserve affordable workforce housing in the City of Charleston,” she said. “For somebody who desires to do it and they’re the first person in their family to own a home, that is a phenomenal feeling.”

The mission of the Department of Housing and Community Development is to create and preserve housing and create economic opportunities.

“I actually help people buy houses. We have a first-time home buyers’ program, and we facilitate that program by working with for-profit developers who build housing as well as nonprofit organizations that build housing. Additionally, we help people remain in their homes and we call that preservation. So, folks who live in their homes but are struggling to maintain those homes. we have programs that literally help them do that.”

In addition, the department has rehabilitation programs, which include roof replacement, substantial, and rental rehabilitation programs.

65-year-old Deborah Edwards’s historic downtown home received major renovations through the programs offered.

“They tore off the back part of my house and add two bedrooms, two baths, and a laundry room in the hall and they remodeled the two rooms they kept,” said Edwards. “I am very thankful.”

Edwards is not alone. Their services impact four thousand families annually.

“We have assisted over 11,000 households. When you double that, of course, that equates to over 22-thousand people …  we have impacted a number of households,” said Johnson

Johnson says she gives all the credit to her amazing team, working on the front lines. Her staff is essential to the progress made throughout the communities they serve.

“I’m working in the back, in the shadows if you will, to make sure we can continue to do this for years to come.”

Johnson believes her role with the city of Charleston enables her to give back to those who are less fortunate and empower them to turn dreams into reality.

“We handed a key to a 60-year-old African American who never owned a home before. So, when we think about opportunity and legacy, that’s a legacy she will be able to leave her family forever. If it were not for that program, it would not have come to fruition. For me, witnessing a miracle like that is pretty phenomenal.”

Making a difference one key at a time.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of individuals in the city of Charleston, and we do that by improving your living conditions and I think that makes a difference at the end of the day.”

Funding for the Department of Housing and Community Development programs comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the City of Charleston. The department receives $3 million from HUD annually.

MEET THE FINALISTS

Dr. Jocelyn Evans

Finalist

Dr. Jocelyn Evans has achieved academic success and works diligently to make sure others do, too. Read More…

Nilsy Rapalo

Finalist

Nilsy Rapalo has made it her life’s mission to open doors for the Hispanic community and lift up those around her. Read More…

Geona Shaw Johnson

Finalist

Geona Shaw Johnson has made it her mission to empower low to moderate-income families to become first-time homeowners. Read More…

Emily Cruse

Finalist

Emily Cruse has a passion for helping children achieve greatness, building a grassroots way of focusing time and resources to help them succeed.Read More…