Legion recognizes local business owner

From left are Holly Preston, Ron Hartman, Poochie, Don Chandler, and Bob Derr.

From left are Holly Preston, Ron Hartman, Poochie, Don Chandler, and Bob Derr.
Locals know Poochie’s Place for the family friendly atmosphere, homemade omelets and quality burgers, but most do not know about the owner’s long standing impact on the local community.

Mary Ellen Johnson-O’Hara, better known as Poochie, is the owner of Poochie’s place located in Amelia. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1980. Her father, Vick Johnson, built the building and Poochie learned firsthand how to run the family business.

“He was tighter than a banjo string!” Poochie exclaims with a bout of laughter as she recalls her father’s teachings. The values her father taught her then encourage the silent contributions she provides each year as part of the Clermont County Council of American Legion Neediest Kids Christmas Program. Poochie prepares and donates all the food for the program’s lunch and she’s been doing it for over 20 years!

The Council of American Legion was originally established to help widows and orphans after World War I. As time went on, wealthy veterans decided to donate large amounts of money and time to the local disadvantaged children during Christmas.

The tradition has continued to present day and Poochie proudly prepares a hearty meal for the children each year because of her respect for the Legion’s history, mission and dedication to the children.

“I enjoy seeing the children’s faces during their lunch and I see how much they truly appreciate the warm meal,” Poochie said.

Each year on the first Thursday in December, the Legion hosts their The Neediest Kids Christmas program which has taken place every year since the end of World War II.

Each Legion post, nine in Clermont County, are responsible for working with local schools to select 10 kids ages 5-9. The kids are assigned a volunteer shopper for the day and are granted total access to the JC Penny store located in Eastgate.

Croswell Bus Company donates three buses and drivers to transport the children and teachers the day of the program. JC Penny employees donate their time the night before to stock the displays and provide captivating selections for the children. The employees also donate their time the day of the event and arrive early to open the store just for the kids.

After the shopping, kids receive a free lunch with Santa at the Mt. Carmel Legion Hall and wrapped Christmas toys.

“Over the years, Poochie’s kind contributions have saved thousands of dollars for the program and has fed hundreds of local children in need,” Bob Derr of the American Legion Council said.

This year, the Legion vowed that Poochie’s untold story would be heard and her compassion acknowledged. Last week members of the Legion presented her with a plaque in front of her lunch hour crowd.

“I’m going to hang the plaque right above the cash register, I’m so thrilled to receive this gift from the Legion, to be recognized amongst such honorable people that work so hard for our community is something I’ll treasure forever!”

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Poochie’s Place and thank her for supporting local children. Be sure to take home one of her homemade desserts for later!

To learn more about the American Legion Council or their local charity events, contact Mr. Bob Derr at (513) 752-4277 or send an e-mail to robertderr07@aol.com.