McHenry woman learned volunteering from her parents

Penny Johns-Thompsen stays involved in various community causes. She is part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters, a charter member of the Rotary Club of Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers, and on the Raue Center board.
Penny Johns-Thompsen stays involved in various community causes. She is part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters, a charter member of the Rotary Club of Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers, and on the Raue Center board.

There isn’t much Penny Johns-Thompsen will say “no” to.

Her laundry list of volunteerism seems to go on for miles: Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers Rotary Club, Raue Center for the Arts board, Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, Shop with a Cop.

We’re not done yet.

Leadership of Greater McHenry County, Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, Crystal Lake Centennial Fundraising Committee.

“Somebody, please stop me,” Johns-Thompsen said, laughing.

She is the daughter of longtime Crystal Lake Police Chief Sam Johns and his wife, June. Johns-Thompsen was called an asset not only to the community that raised her, but to her job as branch manager at BMO Harris Bank in Crystal Lake, a career she loves. She was nominated as an Everyday Hero by her boss, Jamie Maravich.

“I see her dedication to everything she does,” Maravich said. “She’s always thinking about how she can help other people – whether it’s customers, employees or the community at large. … It all comes from her heart. She’s a very genuine person.”

Johns-Thompsen is a charter member of Rotary’s Dawnbreakers club. She said she was invited to join 25 years ago because it was the first Rotary Club in McHenry County to allow women.

“I thought I would do it for a couple of years, now I’m 25 years into it,” she said, marking that as her most important work. “It’s like family. We do so much good.”

Johns-Thompsen was raised in a large family.

She is the seventh of eight children. Though she doesn’t have children of her own, she’s described as “the best aunt you could ever imagine,” Maravich said.

Johns-Thompsen has 12 nieces and nephews, and remains close with them. She also is a mentor to a young boy through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“I joke that I started having kids when I was 11,” Johns-Thompsen said. “I changed more diapers than anyone with children of their own, I swear.”

She’s a ball of energy with an infectious laugh and positive attitude, which comes in handy when she’s on stage singing “torch songs” as a member of the band Dow Jones and the Industrials. She also sings the national anthem at various community events, such as the Santa Run and Little League games.

In her office at the bank, Johns-Thompsen keeps a picture of her smiling parents within eyeshot. They both have died, yet she still looks to them for inspiration.

“Mom and dad were the wisest people I’ve ever known,” she said, eyes welling with tears. “I keep their picture here. Sometimes I ask a question and I think, ‘What would mom and dad do?’ ”

To this day, her parents inspire her volunteer work and they are whom she calls her everyday heroes.

“I think an everyday hero would be somebody who is respectable and honorable and has high ethics and integrity,” Johns-Thompsen said. “That would be an everyday hero to me.”

She’s been married for 12 years to husband, George. Johns-Thompsen said she had “given up on dating” when a friend set her up with George on a blind date. It was an engagement that Johns-Thompsen declined three times before finally agreeing.

“My mother said, ‘When it’s the right one, you won’t have to try so hard,’ ”Johns-Thompsen said. “I didn’t understand that until I met George.”

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