Bristol developer Johnson donates $1M for United Way endowment fund

BRISTOL, Va. — There was a loud eruption of cheers and applause at the United Way of Bristol Wednesday morning when Bristol developer Steve Johnson pulled a black sheet off an oversized check.

Johnson donated $1 million to the organization’s newly created endowment fund. He proposed the endowment fund when he was campaign chairman nearly a decade ago and said the long-term goal is to fully fund the administrative side of the nonprofit so 100 percent of annual fundraising benefits more than 30 partner agencies.

“The needs of this region are tremendous,” Johnson said. “The things we take for granted like food and shelter — some people don’t have that. We need to eradicate those problems and giving back to the community means a lot to me. I’m fortunate that I can do it and help the United Way.”

Lisa Cofer, United Way executive director, said 92 cents of every dollar raised goes back into the community — while the remaining 8 cents supports the agency’s operating costs.

“I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t even know what to say,” Cofer said. “This is something that our staff of 18 years has dreamed about and through Steve’s donation we are well on our way towards meeting our endowment goal and that is something we will continue to work towards.”

Wednesday’s donation is not the first big check Johnson has handed over this month. On Dec. 7, Virginia Tech announced that Johnson gifted $1 million toward construction costs of the VT indoor practice facility at his alma mater.

Building a successful business footprint is what allows him to give back, said Johnson. He is president and owner of Bristol-based Johnson Commercial Development and developer of The Pinnacle, a giant retail center in Bristol, Tennessee.

“If you run your business right, you’ll end up financially successful,” he said. “To be in that position and able to give back — it gives me great joy. I also know that this year’s Bristol fund drive is about 20 percent short of its goal. I want everyone to pitch in this Christmas season, too.”

United Way of Bristol has raised $967,217 toward its total fundraising goal of $1.15 million. Donations can be made online by visiting or by mail: P.O. Box 696, Bristol, TN 37621.

  • Bristol developer Steve Johnson and United Way Executive Director Lisa Cofer uncover a check for $1 million donation from Johnson to the United Way of Bristol.

All photos courtesy of David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier

Story courtesy of Zach Irby/Bristol Herald Courier: Link