Kokomo pastor, the Rev. Jeff Newton, was recently named by the Kokomo Perspective, a free weekly newspaper with a circulation of 31,000, “Readers’ Choice Person of the Year.” Newton is pastor of the Cassville and Trinity United Methodist churches of Kokomo, as well as executive director of Kokomo Urban Outreach, which started in January 2006.
He started five years ago with one food pantry, now operates six, and in addition, Kokomo Urban Outreach has created a network of churches with food pantries. In May 2010, Kokomo Urban Outreach and the Kokomo Rescue Mission started the “Food to You” mobile food pantry and recently expanded it. Through the Urban Outreach, Newton also:
- Started hosting a regular outdoor cookout in one neighborhood and now hosts one in seven,
- Started serving indoor meals in one neighborhood and now serves seven neighborhoods,
- Started providing Thanksgiving dinner to one neighborhood and now provides for 11,
- Started distributing Christmas sack lunches to 400 in one neighborhood and now distributes 2,000 to eight neighborhoods,
- Started by creating 125 Easter baskets for children in one location and now creates 600 in four locations,
- Started by filling Buddy Bags for one school and now fills 575 a week at four schools, and
- Provides back-to-school backpacks filled with hygiene items to 400 kids so that they can have confidence and good self-esteem when they go to school clean.
The staff of the Kokomo Perspective chose Newton as a person of the year, and 799 readers (actually more than that but they stopped counting after the voting deadline) voted for him, making him the “Readers’ Choice Person of the Year.”