CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — She might have only decorated one Christmas tree in her lifetime, but Lynne Newman enjoys helping others celebrate with or without a tree each Christmas.
Newman, who calls herself a “professional volunteer” and has coordinated the Franklin County Salvation Army Christmas dinner for the past 19 years, is part of a small but giving Jewish community in the Chambersburg area.
Newman, who doesn’t decorate for any holidays as part of her Jewish faith, said the one Christmas tree that she decorated was an obligation of a former job where she was “the low man on the totem pole.”
“I said I don’t even know what to do. I said I’m not sure I should be doing this, but OK, I would try,” she said.
“And I ended up decorating it all in blue and white,” laughed Newman, who will turn 65 next month.
She and numerous others from her synagogue, Congregation Sons of Israel in Chambersburg, helped out with Saturday’s dinner that gave around 550 local people a real Christmas, complete with the meal and gifts.
In addition to a majority of the food, about 600 presents were donated for the event, Newman said.
Maj. Duane Harris of the Salvation Army has worked closely with Newman for many years in putting on the event, and couldn’t say enough of their efforts.
“It’s just amazing,” Harris said.
For Newman, volunteering is a labor of love.
“I think that in my mind and in the mind of a lot of people, the giving is the important part — not the time it takes, not the effort it takes — but just the gift,” Newman said. “To give up oneself, to give up one’s times — it’s such a joy to you.”
Enjoying the work she does, Newman never expects anything in return for the hours she devotes to others.
“I don’t want to be thanked for having such a good time, really,” she said. “I really hate being thanked for doing things like this because there’s no reason to. It’s just fun. And Lord, you meet nice people. The people that work are so nice and so giving.”
Harris, who encounters many volunteers on a daily basis who donate time to the Salvation Army, said it’s easy for anyone to give some money or donate a gift here and there, “but when you start to give your time, you now get a personal investment and a personal joy.”
No matter how much people can afford to give, anything is better than nothing, and people shouldn’t shy away because of the time restrictions, Newman said.
“I always tell people, I don’t expect you to spend a lot of money,” Newman said. “If you only want to buy two or three presents, that’s fine. I think most people are intimidated by volunteering because they think they have to be all things and they don’t realize that you can start small.”
To Newman, the hard work she puts in to help others is all worth it at the end of the day. She said they had so many leftover toys after Saturday’s dinner that close to 25 kids got to go home with five or six presents, making it a real Christmas.
One child told her that Santa didn’t come to their house this year. That child ended up walking out with an armful of gifts thanks to generous community donations.
“I liked that Santa came to the Salvation Army this year,” Newman said.