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Volunteer of the Year

September 18, 2005|By TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN

While growing up in Smithsburg, Thomas C. Newcomer would help his grandparents with their farm. While he was working in a field one day, his grandfather, who once served in the General Assembly, asked a simple question.

"What do you want to do with yourself?"

Newcomer talked about his ambitions and how he wanted to see the world. Then, his grandfather asked another question.

"And after you've done all that, what are you gonna do for your fellow man?"

These days, Newcomer does a lot.

In addition to running R. Bruce Carson Jewelers in downtown Hagerstown, Newcomer has been a leader for local nonprofit organizations of all stripes - from business groups such as the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation, to educational concerns such as Grace Academy and the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown's steering committee, to cultural organizations such as the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, and to groups that help such as the United Way.

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Volunteering was a family tradition - he remembers both parents and both sets of grandparents giving of their time, Newcomer said.

"It's also part of my faith - to plug into things where you're called," said Newcomer, a member of Tristate Fellowship Church. "There's great fulfillment in helping."

Yet Newcomer said he was surprised he was chosen as the Chamber of Commerce's Business Volunteer of the Year.

"I'm really surprised and very humbled by it," Newcomer said. "It hit me from left field."

"These are things I enjoy doing. A lot of people in the community could say that - this is a community that has a lot of good volunteers," including many of what Newcomer called the "unsung heroes" who quietly help out every day, such as the World War II veteran he knows who regularly collects loaves of bread for the needy.

"I'm not worthy," Newcomer concluded. "What I'm excited about is celebrating what we are as a community. Sometimes, we get mired down in the problems and don't celebrate what we have here."

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