Outreach director busy from start

Published 5:04 pm Friday, January 21, 2011

Carol Newton stands in the food pantry at Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry. Newton took over from founder Eloise Thwing as executive director of the nonprofit organization on Dec. 1. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

Carol Newton took on direction of a 20–year–old charitable organization when she began her new position as executive director of the Thermal Belt Ministry Organization Dec. 1.
Upon her arrival Newton needed to jump right in with the Angel Tree program already moving in full force. This year, TBOM served 330-plus families.
“That really gave me a good opportunity to get a feel for how things work together; seeing families pick up gifts introduced me to the volunteers,” she said.
Newton found herself struck by the giving attitudes of volunteers.
She said one volunteer was disappointed because TBOM was only able to provide one blanket per family. In prior years the organization gave out one blanket per family member.
Services to individuals increased by 17 percent last year, while services for families increased by 11 percent.
TBOM worked with DSS, Steps to HOPE and the sheriff’s office to make sure all families in need were taken care of without duplicating services, Newton said.
Newton said it’s important to prevent repetition so resources reach more in need.
She said she’s seen in prior volunteer work how families can teeter on the brink of financial devastation. She served on an outreach committee at her church in Florida. There she directly came into contact with poverty.
“I got to know people that were just on the edge and needed just that little bit of help,” Newton said.
Once Newton and her husband moved to Polk County from Charlotte, she became involved with Holy Cross Episcopal Church; serving two years on a team focused on in-reach.
The group coordinated the church’s efforts to provide meals and home repair to parishioners.
It was through those efforts she found herself introduced to the work of TBOM.
“When I understood that this opportunity existed it felt somewhat natural,” Newton said. “This organization matches resources with needs and we can do so much more if we work together because the resources are there.”
Through her professional life, Newton raised funds for colleges, worked within the performing arts and assisted with the transition of patients from mental hospitals back into society, plus managed a secure document destruction service and her husband’s consulting business.
Her hope for the next year focuses on streamlining internal systems so that the TBOM staff is able to work together cooperatively and smartly. She also plans to increase fundraising efforts.
“We are on our own,” Newton said. “But we are fortunate for what we have received. We just need to be more engaged with churches and community groups to tell our story and to ask them for funds and volunteers.”
This spring Newton also anticipates needing a variety of volunteers to help with the planned 8 acres for a community vegetable garden, and for flowers and trees to later be used in the beautification of Columbus.
Employees and volunteers have also expressed a desire to teach more self-sufficiency classes for families in need, Newton said.
“I think people take an awful lot for granted. When you have to think about, ‘How am I going to put food on the table for my family?’ for the first time, it can be tough,” she said. “We want them to have their dignity and we work to help them keep that.”
Newton said the organization plans to commemorate its two decades of service with a Valentine’s High Tea Feb. 13 from 4-6 p.m. The event aims to honor many of the organizations’ longtime volunteers, including former director Eloise Thwing, Newton said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox