Tag Archives: Lee Newtson

Newtson lends a helping hand

Sycamore resident travels to Oklahoma to aid with tornado disaster relief relief
Sycamore—A powerful tornado tore through Moore, Okla., just 11 miles south of Oklahoma City on May 20, between 2:56 and 3:36 p.m. The tornado, which destroyed two elementary schools, a middle school, the Moore Medical Center and a movie theater, was ranked between an EF4 and EF5, two of the most disastrous ranks on the “Enhanced Fujita Scale,” established in February 2007.

Sycamore resident Lee Newtson recently took it upon himself to go and help with the disaster relief in Oklahoma.

“I was in the Shawnee rural area at a subdivision by a pond of 85 home sites that were destroyed by the first tornado,” he said.

Newtson’s trip lasted just over a week. He described the scene of his first night there.

“On Friday, we got a tornado warning and had to get out of there and seek shelter. I was a few miles away in a motel room when the storm hit. I was seriously planning on getting into the bathroom and in the tub,” he said. “The storm was fierce with very dark clouds, wind, rain and a lot of lightning. The electrical system of my car door locks was triggered and it unlocked my car and opened the trunk lid. When I went out, I found five to six inches of water in my trunk.”

Newtson also went into detail about how he and others helped the victims.

“We were able to get a big tent from a local veteran post to use for a central drop-off and pick-up point. Then we got a hold of a company that brought in port-o-potties,” he said. “We contacted Lake View Church and survival supplies starting rolling in. Then we called a pump repair company to assist with the use of a generator to get the battered up water system working so people could have water to drink. Many coolers with ice and beverages are now available with some food. We started to get the residents some relief, sanitation, food, water and compassion. We were a shoulder to lean on and a sounding board to listen.”

Newtson is no stranger to helping with disasters such as this—he’s assisted with disaster relief in Joplin, Missouri; Harrisburg, Ill.; and Ridgeway, Ill. Newtson says he has a lot of support from the Grace Fellowship Church in Maple Park and from his prayer group comprised of churches in the area.

On top of many other family, friends, and acquaintances, he also personally acknowledged Pat Hill, Kaneville Village Board President and owner of Hill’s Country Store.

“(Pat) has gone above and beyond in doing fundraisers, raffles and collecting money for my trips,” Newtson said. “She even packed a cooler full of sandwiches, snacks, and beverages for me to use during my drive to Oklahoma.

Newtson took the trip—totaling 1,946 miles—alone in his Mercury Grand Marquis.

“I could not find a place to stay overnight, so I slept in my car at a truck stop the first night,” he said.

Newtson said that he had a plan of action put together, but he wound up making a wrong turn the next night and found Lake View Church, a distribution and shelter for victims, which directed him to the area in which he volunteered.

“Many of the volunteers told me of the area just a few miles away that had 85 homes in it that were destroyed, and no one was there with any assistance for them,” he said.

Newtson said that he relies on donors to enable his trips to these disaster areas.

“When they came out of the storm shelters, they only had clothes on their back and nothing else. No home. No car. Everything was gone,” he said. “I hope that we were able to lighten the load and be of help and support to those who endured such devastating hardship.”

Letter: Time to work together for the good of Elburn

I have had a PO Box for years in the town of Elburn. Now I see a problem that needs to be resolved in the best interest of all.

Four areas are to be considered in this problem. The town board, the business owners, the church in question and the customers.

First, I have heard it all: that the mayor does not really care. I happen to have known Mayor Dave Anderson for many years from school years to present day. I know him to be a fair and honest man who is concerned about the town. I also know that the town board has the responsibility to make decisions and vote on them. The only time the mayor has a vote is if the board ends up with a tie vote.

Second, the business owners: I am told many have offered to pay whatever the insurance and maintenance cost is to the church until such time that the parking lot is purchased or sold. No business owner is going to write a letter like this and possibly become a target for retaliation. They are willing to take money out of their own pocket to make this work.

Third, the church involved, I am told, is asking over $200,000 for the purchase price of the parking lot. As we all know, it (the parking lot) has been fenced off with post and cable. They claim that there is too much liability if they leave it open. My question there is what if someone in the dark of the night trips and falls over the low, looped cable and is injured? There is liability. Also, I am told that the property has been appraised at much less than the asking price.

Fourth, the customers (after all, they do pay the bills): How do you expect seniors, handicapped and others to walk a far greater distance in the rain, wind and heat of the summer to do business In downtown Elburn? Let’s not forget that Route 47 is going to be worked on, and that means less parking on Main Street during this work period.

The churches that I belong to have always worked to help in any way, shape or form, the members, other people and the community in God’s name. My request to all involved is that you bring to the table a willingness to arrive at a blessed compromise and continue to carry on that town of Elburn’s good name and reputation.

Lee Newtson

Raffling relief for Southern Illinois tornado victims

Photo: A Catholic church located in Ridgway, Ill., show the damage caused by a tornado that struck Southern Illinois on Feb. 29. Courtesy Photo

Kaneville store plans raffle for Southern Illinois tornado victims
by Keith Beebe
KANEVILLE—Pat Hill’s fundraising effort for families affected by the tornado that ripped through Southern Illinois on Feb. 29 began with a collection jar on the checkout counter of her business, Hill’s Country Store in Kaneville.

The Hill family’s tornado relief effort has since grown to a full-scale raffle fundraiser, thanks to Pat’s 21-year-old daughter, Alexa.

“The donation jar was a great idea, but I felt like we should do something more and get more money, so I thought we’d have some raffles and a bake sale,” Alexa said.

The Hill family first learned of the Southern Illinois tornado relief effort from Sycamore resident Lee Newtson in early March. Newtson told Pat he planned to travel to the disaster area and meet with families whose homes were destroyed by the tornado.

The disaster also claimed the lives of seven people in Southern Illinois.

“Lee came into the store on a Monday and said he was heading down to Harrisburg that Saturday. I said, ‘Jeez, what do you need?’ and he said he was trying to collect money and gift cards to take down there where the help is needed,” Pat said. “I told him I could put out a jar and see what I get by Saturday. I collected some personal hygiene items from people and also raised about $172 before (Lee) left (for Southern Illinois).”

Newtson first learned about disaster recovery at Conley Funeral Home in 1960. He trained on Chuck Conley’s ambulance service and assisted on removals, visitations and funerals. Newtson participated in disaster recovery in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as the relief effort in Joplin, Mo., following a deadly tornado that struck the area in May 2011.

“I have been able to gain support with donations from my Grace Fellowship Church of Maple Park (and) Pastor Jim Harper,” Newtson said. “Also, the Men’s Prayer Group on Saturdays, 1960 high school class mates, doctors, dentist, friends, Pat at the Purple Store (Hill’s Country Store) and acquaintances. They have all given me money, gift cards and goods to take along on the tornado recovery missions.”

Newtson worked primarily with two families—the Wynn family of Ridgway, Ill., and the Lane family of Harrisburg—during his time in Southern Illinois. He took them out to lunch, met their children and surveyed the damage done to their respective homes. The Lanes have no insurance and currently live in the basement of their tornado-ravaged home, while the Wynns are living in a makeshift camper in their friend’s driveway.

The raffle put together by Pat and Alexa Hill will go toward the two families.

“Both of those families are having a hard time, and I thought this fundraiser would be a good event to pair with the Kaneville Fire Department’s Easter egg hunt,” Pat said. “We’ll have a table set up during the event, and my son, Tyler, will be there to help out. My goal is to send each of these families a $500 check, and we’ve raised $102 up to this point.”

Raffle tickets will be sold at the fire station, 46W536 Lovell St. in Kaneville, during the Easter egg hunt, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. Tickets can also be purchased at Hill’s Country Store from now until Wednesday, April 14, at 3 p.m. Raffle tickets will be sold for $1 each, or six for $5.

Pat said there are at least 10 or 15 big prizes lined up already for the raffle, including a $50 Visa gift card from Old Second Bank, a $25 gift card to Ream’s Market, a $25 gift card to Sam’s Club, a gift basket from American Bank and Trust in Elburn, a gift card to Panera Bread, a blu-ray player, and a $50 gift basket from Hill’s Country Store.

As for the actual raffle drawing, Pat believes it will take place sometime during the middle of next week.

“I am thinking it will happen April 4 or 5, so we can write the checks and mail them to the families by Easter, which is April 8,” she said.

Alexa said the purchase of just one raffle ticket can make a difference in the lives of both families.

“The pictures of the damage just looked horrible, and I can’t even imagine losing all of my stuff like (these families did). If you can come out and just buy one or two raffle tickets, you’re helping them,” she said.

Area families break bread together thanks to ‘the bread man’

Photo: Lee Newtson packs up his car with about 300 loaves of bread donated by The Breadsmith of St. Charles every two weeks. He makes more than 20 stops around the area delivering the loaves to families in need. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski

by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—Every other Monday, Lee Newtson of Sycamore meets his friend Vic DuFour at Papa G’s Restaurant in Elburn. While coffee is usually involved, the purpose for the meetup is to load up Newtson’s car with about 300 loaves of day-old bread for delivery to area families who could use a little help.

For the last several months, Newtson has taken it upon himself to deliver these loaves of bread, making numerous stops from Kaneville to Cortland and back to Sycamore, to help struggling families.

It all started when Vic told him about picking up the bread in the back of The Breadsmith in St. Charles. Owner Guy Greenfield said all the bread is baked fresh daily, so anything not sold is discarded.

“At the end of the day, any remaining stock is made available to help the community,” Greenfield said.

“Vic does four or five runs a week, so I told him let’s try it out,” Newtson said. “We decided every other week. I give three to four loaves of bread to each family.”

Finding those in need wasn’t a problem. Newtson knows a lot of firefighters, and “they know families that need help.” His pastor at Grace Community Fellowship Church in Maple Park knows a few families as well.

“I’ve expanded it as I’ve found out the need for it,” he said.

That includes 17 stops in the trailer park in which he now lives. Newtson tells of a young woman there with three children and a husband working part-time as a bus driver. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Newtson said someone at his church drops off $100 Jewel gift cards in the collection plates. He said he worked it out that the woman with three children gets one and the pastor from his church gives one to another lady with kidney problems.

“It’s not a lot, but it’s something to go on,” Newtson said. “We don’t know who (provides the gift cards), and we’ve never really pursued it. We figure, OK, the Lord’s providing.”

Newtson’s own beginnings relied on the kindness of others. He was orphaned at age 9 months when his parents were killed in a traffic accident. He lived with his grandparents in Big Rock, then the Elburn/Sugar Grove area near Harter Road. His grandmother died while he was in grade school. A stroke took his grandfather when Newtson was just 15.

The Bunce family took him in while he worked various jobs during the day. In the evenings, he helped Chuck Conley run the local ambulance service.

Newtson said Pastor Harper has a little fun when passing out the bread, telling recipients, “the Lord says you can’t survive on bread alone, but here’s a start.” He said he had no idea there would be such a need for something as simple as a loaf of bread.

“I’m sure they can use it, especially if they’ve got kids,” Newtson said. “They meet me at the door and they’re so appreciative. Talk about getting a good feeling.”

Despite having had a five-way bypass, having a pacemaker and stent surgery, Newtson’s attitude remains optimistic, explaining “we’re only on this Earth a short time.”

He’d like to expand the route, but with gasoline costs and being on a fixed income, he’s keeping to his two-week schedule.

“If the Lord wants me to do it, he’ll show me the way,” he said.