Column: Newkirk, handyman and so much more

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I know it shouldn’t be this way. Some people living in our own backyard are sleeping on the floor.  Some kids are eating their dinner on a folding chair without a table.  And for others, a sofa to sit on would be considered a luxury out of reach.  Refugees from the Middle East, single parent women suddenly on their own or families with a devastating illness and loss of income are forced to make choices.

You on the other hand, might have excess, as your daughter just took a job in Chicago. Her childhood bed stands unused and could be put to good use right here in our community.

This story is not about the Merciful Help Center and the amazing program to match furniture with those in need with those who have it to give. Instead, I want you to know about a man who works tirelessly and far beyond any reasonable expectations. The man I want you to meet is responsible for seeing to it that hundreds of families in Hamilton County live a more comfortable life, slightly enriched with beds, sofas, kitchen tables, washers and dryers.

“Jerry Newkirk has a gentle, compassionate and kind heart which is incapable of judging.  You can tell him anything and he will work to find understanding,” said Merciful Help Center Director Jayne Slayton. “He is such a humble man.”

Slayton is just one of hundreds who admire the work Newkirk quietly completes to help the needy in Hamilton County. It all started when he agreed to assist Slayton with a handyman ministry in 2008.  Repairing washers and dryers which could then be repurposed into people’s homes, soon turned in to a Furniture and Appliance Donation operation to rival professional logistics companies. He is responsible for many aspects of the program which include visiting every home served in advance to determine the need and as Slayton put it, “With wisdom, and no judgment, find the right balance.”

Newkirk would be the first to credit others, recognizing the large number of volunteers who assist him with this monumental undertaking. But that is also another great skill of which he brings to the operation.

“If Jerry were to take an aptitude test, wooing others to help would be his highest ranked skill,” Slayton said.

Newkirk, is an icon and symbol of a different kind of great in our community. This man is responsible for not just changing lives, but improving them. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.

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