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Natalie Newcomer - Maranatha's founder has a mission

April 23, 2006|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Natalie Newcomer spent 17 years in banking and has used that experience to help other people get their houses in order as the executive director of Maranatha, a faith-based nonprofit organization she founded in 1991.

Born and raised in Franklin County, Pa., Newcomer and her husband, Bennett, lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area for years before returning to take care of aging parents.

"I had a hard time finding a job because everyone told me I was overqualified," the former banking officer said. A local bank in Waynesboro, Pa., asked if she would be interested in doing budget counseling for clients having trouble paying their bills, she said.

Newcomer began working out of her bedroom, but found her counseling services in such demand that her home office was taking up much of her home. The late Chambersburg community activist Mike Waters offered her space in the Chambersburg Community Improvement Association's offices on Washington Street.

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From there, Maranatha, which Newcomer said means, "Come Lord Jesus," moved to offices on U.S. 30, then Cleveland Avenue and Commerce Street before buying a building at 527 Lincoln Way East.

In addition to financial counseling, Maranatha later added first-time home buyer, reverse mortgage and housing foreclosure counseling.

"In Pennsylvania, you don't have to lose your home if it's from circumstances beyond your control," Newcomer said.

Maranatha also added a food pantry and was instrumental in working with area churches and the Local Housing Option Team to create the Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter, which shares the same Loudon Street building as the food pantry.

Last year, Maranatha opened the Candleheart Facility, a former nursing home in Fayetteville, Pa., it transformed into temporary housing for its transitional housing program. In 2005, Maranatha also received a $453,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant that, with $24,000 in county matching funds, is being used to lease 18 housing units for the transitional housing program.

Through these programs, Maranatha assists hundreds of individuals or families facing hard times or who cannot manage their own financial affairs, Newcomer said. That includes people who are on Supplemental Security Income or other forms of assistance, she said.

"We make sure they have a place to live and food on the table, and we make sure they are not taken advantage of," Newcomer said.

Maranatha works with government human service agencies to provide these services, she said.

"We can react more quickly to the needs of people than a government agency can in many cases," Newcomer said.

Financial services had once been her job, but now has become something of a mission for Newcomer.

"I asked God, 'What is it You really want me to do?'" she said. When she got the answer, "I took off and did it."

Q&A

Name - Natalie Newcomer

Address - Waynesboro, Pa.

Date of birth - Sept. 3, 1941

Occupation - Founder and executive director of Maranatha

Most notable achievement - When I realized who Jesus was in my life and what could be accomplished through Him.

Your proudest moment - When my children were born because they were both miracles. I'd had uterine cancer.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Mother Teresa. She used the gift God gave her to love all people unconditionally and not judge them.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - Life can be difficult, but if you make a covenant with God, He can bring you through it all - the Rev. Clarence Neal, who performed the couple's marriage ceremony.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - Follow God wherever He takes me. He's my guide.

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