Meet the 2019 United Way Board President
Sam Newton brings energy and charisma wherever he goes, and his new position as the Board President at United Way of Greater Lafayette is no exception. Sam’s passion for supporting his community tenacious, and he hopes to inspire others to get involved with the variety of talents that they have to offer. We had the opportunity to sit down with Sam and get a glimpse of who is he is and what he has planned for this organization.
How long have you been in the Lafayette community?
My wife, Denise, and I moved to Lafayette in 1991. We came here with a company called Jefferson Smurfit, I was working in the factory at the plant. At the time we moved here just the two of us, but little did we know we were pregnant. 28 years later and seven children later we are still in this wonderful community.
How did you get involved with United Way?
About 20 years ago a woman by the name of Lisa Deckard asked me to be a board member, and when I showed up little did I know that it was Lisa Deckard’s last day as a board member. So, I was asked by someone and I said yes. I have been involved in United Way ever since. I just keep coming back. You may ask, why would I say yes when someone asks me to be in United Way? Well I did a little research and everyone knew about United Way and what it did, and it was a great brand throughout the country. I was at a time in my life where I was looking to get involved in the community, and I thought it was a great way through United Way to get involved in the Greater Lafayette community.
What does community impact mean to you?
It’s making a difference. The word impact is the key. It can be community, it can be regional, it can be local. But the word is impact, and like in anything else if you are going to make an impact in something you are going to make a difference. You are going to be engaged, be involved. So to me, community impact means making a difference in the community that we live.
Describe one way that you have seen United Way positively impact the community.
We’ve evolved. We’ve changed over the 20 years that I have been involved with United Way, and I think the most positive impact has been recently. We have truly asked our customers, all of our customers- the people who donate, the people that we serve and the local agencies that help people- where do they need our help? What do they need? What is most important to this community? Then we started bringing the pieces together to make a change. And I think that’s the biggest difference we’ve made.
What are some goals you have set for this year as a board president?
As president for the upcoming year, we hope to achieve a handful of things. Number one is to continue the great work that we have done by reaching out to our customers, by finding out what the community needs, and figuring a way that we can make an impact on that community. The second way is in our fundraising. We have done a great job fundraising over the years, and we can’t loose that. We have to be open to new opportunities: to state of the art technology, to embracing the new donor, which is that 25 to 35 year old person. The young professional and college graduate who wants to be impactful, wants to be involved, but they would do it differently than my era does. We need to continue our impact work, continue our fundraising and reach out for new ways, and then strategically always look forward. Now, it’s mental health, it’s opioids, it’s teens. What’s it going to be 10 years from now? As a United Way President, I believe we need to be able to use forward thinking to try to figure out what that is going to be and how are we going to be impactful when that happens.
What makes United Way’s mission powerful to you?
It’s the people. Our mission is obviously to be impactful, to give, to raise money, to donate to great organizations, programs, and agencies. But really our mission is to provide resources to those who don’t have them. There are great programs out there that are doing amazing things for people, so our mission is to continue to reach out to the donors, benefactors, to everybody to try to be that conduit and explain to them all of the great things that different organizations, agencies, and programs are doing and how their dollars impact a successful program.
The Cradle to Career Commitment to me means getting engaged early, and then seeing it all the way through. It’s easy to just throw money at a problem, or simply try to fix something. But unless we go all the way back to the beginning and really educate, train, teach, and coach then we won’t have an impact 20 years from now. We will still just be throwing money at the problem. So to me, the Cradle to Career Commitment is all about engaging early and staying with people until we see them all the way through.
What motivates you to continue to invest your talents in United Way?
It goes back to impact. When I see the videos each year of the people who we’ve helped, some of these people aren’t the people you’d expect that United Way is going to help. It might be somebody I know, somebody I didn’t even know had a problem, or somebody I didn’t know whose child has a problem. So to me, the little bit of talent that I can bring to the table is the least I can do to try to help all those who really need things that they are not able to help themselves with at the time, regardless of what that issue might be. Some might be totally beyond their control, some within their control, but at least I feel like I can help by joining and working with United Way to at least provide opportunities for these people.
Why is it important for professionals like you to get involved in the community?
I think that we can’t take, we have to give. And I am a big believer that the more you give, the more you get. It’s kind of like at Christmas. Christmas is more fun when you are giving presents then when you’re getting. It’s always nice to get something, don’t get me wrong. But I truly think that it’s our responsibility as young professionals, older professionals, and people who live in a community to take care of everyone and everything in that community. I think that is it important to give back as much time, treasure, and talents that we have to make our community a better place to live.
How would you encourage others to get involved in the community?
Just say yes. We are going to ask. We are going to make a conscious effort to ask. It’s a grassroots campaign, please say yes. And that is all you have to do. Once you say yes, then it becomes something that you just get up and you do. You will find joy from it, you will find fulfillment from it, and you will find meaning and impact from it. So just say yes.
What would you say to someone that says they do not have a lot of money or time?
We all have talents. We all have something that we have been given, a gift of some sort. Whether it’s the ability to speak, to write, to communicate, or just to be analytical, or even just to listen. We all have a talent that we can bring to the table. It doesn’t have to be dollars, or your commitment of overwhelming time, just bring your gift. We have been given gifts, and I think it is our responsibility to share those with others.
What do you do in your spare time?
It’s very interesting because I have a lot of it now! With seven kids we were always at events, at basketball games, soccer games, football names, you name it. I announce [at Harrison sporting events], my wife is involved in the high school, I run a business in town, we are involved in the community. So now, it’s weird because I have one child left at home and it’s very quiet. So that is a great question that I need to find an answer to. Hopefully I will stay involved, I know my wife and I were talking this year about looking and seeing what else can we do. Where can we make an impact? Where can we make a difference?
Author: Lauren Bayley, Purdue University Professional Writing Senior.
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