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Gift-wrapper raising funds for American Red Cross

December 13, 1999

Editor's Note: For these 12 days before Christmas we will be recognizing individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others. This is the second in a series.

Charles NewcomerBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




HALFWAY - Toiling away among a group of women at the American Red Cross gift-wrapping table at Valley Mall recently was a lone man, Charles Newcomer.

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Newcomer, 69, of Ringgold, has been volunteering as a holiday gift-wrapper since the Washington County chapter started the fund-raising effort six years ago.

The number of volunteers has grown from about 160 to more than 700 since then, Newcomer said.

Most of the volunteers are women.

Newcomer is undeterred. He points to a professional wrapping background as part owner of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers in downtown Hagerstown.

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He said his experience dates back much further, to the days when he was growing up on a farm in Ringgold.

"I'll tell you how it started. When I was about 7 years old, we did not have money to buy gift wrap," he said. "We wrapped our presents in newspaper. My mother taught us

"We had to spend a year in the kitchen before we could go off in the fields."

A board member of the county chapter of the Red Cross, Newcomer also serves as state field chairman. He recalled how he got involved with the organization.

An acquaintance approached him outside Farmers & Merchants Bank one day in 1974 and told him that he was nominating him for the board.

"I said, 'Don't you dare, I've got too many things,'" he said.

But the acquaintance persisted.

"I've been doing it ever since," he said.

Now Newcomer ranks the Red Cross second only to his church activities in his long list of volunteer endeavors.

Last year, the Red Cross effort raised $14,220. Volunteers from 23 businesses, 12 service clubs, seven churches and four schools wrapped about 35,000 gifts. They put in 2,948 person hours. At $7.50 an hour, the service would cost $22,110, Newcomer said.

The gift-wrapping table will be open through Dec. 23.

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