Charles “CJ” Johnson doesn’t have family. He doesn’t have a car, he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have the use of his legs.
FORT WALTON BEACH — Charles “CJ” Johnson doesn’t have family. He doesn’t have a car, he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have the use of his legs.
But despite his situation, you’ll find the 62-year-old former U.S. Marine out and about helping his neighbors or collecting cans.
“You have to have physical activity to keep yourself going and keep your spirits up,” CJ said.
CJ said he suffered an accident that damaged his spine and brain and left him in the ICU for three years. As a result, he had to undergo facial reconstruction and cannot use the left side of his body well. He also suffers memory loss and has some difficulty with numbers and words.
Because CJ cannot maintain normal work hours, he receives disability. But when that runs out, he collects cans and scrap metal to pay the rest of bills.
“I do okay,” CJ said. “I enjoy it.’
CJ does not have a license or a car, so collecting cans can be a creative endeavor. Every couple of days, he goes around to local businesses on Hollywood Boulevard to pick up the cans they have left him and anything else he can find. He’s been doing this for the last four or five years. On average, CJ collects about nine pounds of cans which go for about $3 at Big Iron Environmental Inc.
Most of what he earns goes towards medical expenses or wheels for his wheelchair, but every now and again he likes to treat himself.
“Occasionally I go out,” CJ said. “I like to bowl. I like to play Frisbee.”
CJ said he likes collecting cans because it’s social. Most of his friends he met on his collection route.
Liz Cain lives down the road from CJ. The first time the 68-year-old widow saw him, he was using the weight of his feet to crush cans. Not too long after, they became friends and he started coming over to help her around the house. Cain said just recently CJ helped to organize her carport.
“I don’t even recognize it,” Cain said. “He is in a wheelchair and moved a washing machine. I don’t know how he does it. It’s amazing.”
She said it is CJ’s nature to help people without anything in return.
“This man wants to work,” she said. “He doesn’t take handouts. Heck yeah he gets all my cans.”
CJ is working on earning his license and saving for a car so that he can pick up large scrap metal. But, he needs help studying because of injuries.
After that, CJ is interested in starting a support group for people with disabilities similar to his. Until then though, CJ is happy.
“I will be enjoying what’s left of life and the community,” he said.