Baristanet Profile: Desireé L. Johnson

Name: Desireé L. Johnson

Where do you live? Montclair, New Jersey

When did you move there? 23+ years ago

How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion? 

My greatest passion is the experience I get every day as a mom of two amazing children (Amya and Andrew) who happen to be 16 years apart in age. I empower them to reach for success, embrace the wins in failure and make decisions they are proud of regularly. 

I get to help move my community forward working on two amazing boards, the Montclair Fund For Educational Excellence and the North Essex Chamber of Commerce.

I’m also the Director of Development at the YMCA of Montclair where I’ve worked for the past 8+ years. My role involves cultivating and stewarding sustainable relationships, managing the Annual Campaign, events, volunteers, donor database and raising funds which collectively aid in moving the Y’s mission forward through our financial assistance program.

Coffee, tea or … ?  Tea or hot chocolate however, preferably sorbet!

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day? 

One that offers some laugh out loud time with my family, equity conversations with my adult daughter Amya and talking theory with my preschooler Andrew. Preferably on a beach somewhere with an opportunity to sneak in an afternoon nap. Oprah would probably tell me to dream bigger. However, if I could just squeeze in the afternoon nap, I will know that I made it!

What’s your favorite local restaurant? 

Oh come on…there are way too many in Montclair to just pick one! However, I do frequent MishMish! And…then there is Gelotti because I mean…sorbet qualifies as a meal right?

What’s on your nightstand? An alarm clock (that I don’t use anymore), my bible and thank you cards.

What are you listening to? 

R&B, Gospel, Mickey Mouse Hot Dog Song (don’t judge – it’s on my 4.5 year old’s play list – he loves it!). I also enjoy some of my 21 year-olds play list. Her list includes genre she calls old school that I recall listening to at her age.  Excuse me, that’s not old anything!

What are your current indulgences? Sorbet and more sorbet and a little more please.

What talent you would most like to have? To convince my four-point-five year old not to have tantrums in public even when he’s bored, tired and wants the toy I won’t buy.

What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about Montclair? 

These three fantastic organizations that I’m connected with below!

  • The Montclair Fund For Education Excellence (MFEE) – raises funds to offer grants that support Educational Excellence, Social and Emotional Learning and Professional Development in Montclair Public Schools. MFEE collaborates with teachers, students, parents and the school district to encourage educational innovative (BID IDEAS), enrich learning and the futures of young children through young adults attending Montclair Public Schools. 
  • The North Essex Chamber of Commerce office is located in Montclair, service area includes Montclair and works to connect businesses to community through events, volunteering and networking. 
  • The YMCA of Montclair – serves 9 towns, is more than a swim and gym and focuses on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility through afterschool, chronic disease and teen programming just to name a few. The Y’s mission includes welcoming all and offers financial assistance for all programs and services to those with demonstrated need who live in our service area. 

What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? That I helped build equity so that regardless of situation, individuals are equipped to: 

understand their importance, 

change their narrative, 

ignite their power, 

be their best self, 

eliminate the fear of failure,

find the positive in the negative,

align their posture to stand tall, 

make their motionless become motion, 

adjust their silence to speak out loud, 

encourage and uplift others, and

use their influence to encourage others to find comfort in being uncomfortable discussing inequities which lead to taking sustainable action.

And… that I loved, lived, laughed and shopped for a heck of a deal!


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