Monday, December 01, 2008
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Personality of the Week

Norm Newhouse: Easy does it for this community leader

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[December 01, 2008]  Ask others for a comment about their relationship with Norm Newhouse and the adjective "easy" consistently comes up. Easy to get along with, easy to work with, a nice easy personality all find their way into the compliments individuals cheerfully use to describe their association with Newhouse. Norm has this air of easiness in everything he does, but that doesn't mean he is laid-back when it comes to helping the community.

At a sit-down at a local cafe, Norm talked about his activities reluctantly. He is a modest man and doesn't feel comfortable bragging about himself. Friends interviewed, however, had no problem telling how influential he is in their activities and their lives.

Retired for a year from Hundman Lumber, formerly Mitchell Newhouse Lumber Co., Newhouse has been anything but inactive in his life after lumber -- or before lumber, for that matter.

DonutsA lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Lincoln, he has been active in his church for years. Currently he is on the church's administrative council as well as the elevator committee, which has been planning to change the church's handicapped accessibility.

For a dozen years, Norm and a small band of church members went down to Appalachia for a week to help with building projects in poor areas of the region. This year his group stayed home, but they didn't just rest on their laurels. Rather, they did a great deal more than they ever did in the South.

Norm explained in a previous interview: "After the ‘Together for Lincoln' weekend, it was obvious there were a lot of people right here who needed help with projects. So we decided to stay home and work locally." Norm and his small group completed two wheelchair ramps and two roof jobs this fall that didn't get done during the Together for Lincoln weekend.

He has plans to get some other projects going in the spring and looks forward to next year's Together for Lincoln day. Norm was instrumental in helping make materials lists and in some cases made drawings to help volunteers with the more detailed projects, working for weeks before the actual day began last September.

A great deal of the latest conversation with Newhouse dealt with his current interests with the Lincoln/Logan County Food Pantry. Norm first became involved about a decade ago, when the Methodist church, which owns the grounds and food pantry building, expanded the pantry building and added a garage with the help of Norm's knowledge and expertise. In ensuing years Norm kept up an interest in the pantry, and with his retirement he was able to become actively involved.

Norm says the work is gratifying. "You can see in a lot of people's eyes that they really wish they didn't have to be here (at the pantry), but they are very appreciative because what we are able to give them and their families really helps," he said.

He currently is the pantry's manager, but the acknowledgement of that title never came out of this modest man's mouth. It was the food pantry's president, Bill Overton, who explained that Newhouse has been the pantry's manager since May of this year.

When Overton was asked about Norm's job at the pantry, he, like everyone else, came out with the same praise. Overton had known Newhouse for years at the lumberyard and had always been impressed with his knowledge. He also mentioned that Norm was never overly impressed with being an owner of the business and was always right there to help with questions. Overton also belongs to the Methodist church and said he has always been impressed with Newhouse's strong sense of mission work, a sense that is now being directed locally.

Overton stressed how Newhouse, with his strong organizational skills and easygoing personality, has fit well at the food pantry. The staff is all volunteers, and that is different from paid employees, but Norm's management style fits the pantry perfectly.

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Although Newhouse is directing his efforts with local building and the food pantry, he has had a history, along with the lumberyard, of helping "anyone who needs help," as his daughter Dianna puts it.

Bill Sahs, who is a member of the local Habitat for Humanity group, says it was Norm's early help with getting materials donated that got the first several houses by the group built. "His efforts were critical in getting us off the ground in those early days," Sahs said. He recollected how once, after the lumberyard had a clearance sale, Newhouse called the group up and told them to come get what hadn't been sold, including 10 high-quality Andersen windows.

Perhaps the measure of any person is how they relate to family members in a work environment. Spud Newhouse, Norm's brother, when asked about his brother, immediately said, "The best partnership a person could ever have is working with Norm."

Spud also pointed out how Norm would help wherever possible. For years the lumberyard allowed the Kiwanis to have half the parking lot to sell trees. The Cub Scouts use one of the warehouses to receive and distribute their popcorn sales. Parade floats have been stored in the lumberyard, and as Spud mentioned, countless other groups have relied on Norm and the yard to help them out with donations or support over the years.

When it was mentioned to Norm's daughter Dianna, who worked at the lumberyard for 20 years with her father, that he was going to be LDN's "Personality of the Week," she found no need to have a loss for words. "He deserves it and more," she said. "He is the most easygoing, nicest man in the world."

Once again, "easy" describes this community leader.



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