Newby-ginnings of North Idaho, Inc. was born in the car. My mom and I were driving on 1-90 on a sunny summer day about a year after Nick was killed. I was explaining to her that I wanted to start a non-profit in Nick's name. An organization that would be based in the community that he loved and would assist his brothers and sisters that came home. She said the name. "Newby-ginnings." I could see it instantly. I was stunned. It was perfect. I spoke about Newby-ginnings for about a year, about my plans, my dream. I would write down the name and slide it across the table to the person I was talking to. I watched their face as what I had written registered in their mind. A gasp usually followed, along with misty eyes. "It's perfect" they would always say. "How can I be involved?" "What can I do to help?" "When are you going to make this happen?" My husband, Natassja Hittle and Joy Rogers helped me make it happen. We had our first board meeting and we were on the move. The idea has flourished and the mission expanded to include families of the fallen, those that have served and those that are continuing to serve our country.
On October 15, 2013 Newby-ginning was launched. I made a few phone calls to a couple of Veteran Service Programs in the area and we introduced Newby-ginnings on Facebook from my dining room table. With no clear vision of what to expect, no clear path to follow, I wrote our Mission Statement:
"With support from and in partnership with the community, Newby-ginnings of North Idaho, Inc., a non-profit organization, will provide, with honor, respect and integrity, essential items, resources and referrals to area active military, Veterans and Gold Star families in need of such services."
Our motto was written at the same time: "Humble support and steadfast honor to those who served and sacrificed."
Our logo design also happened at that time. The Hawk. The hawk is the bird of war and symbolizes keen vision, focus and determination. A hawk crossing your vision from left to right symbolizes victory. Right to left . . . defeat. Our hawk symbolizes victory.
Basic necessities. Common comforts. Things that most of us take for granted everyday. Gratitude and respect for time served and sacrifices made for our freedom. That's what Newby-ginnings strives to provide to our Veterans, our active servicemen and women, and our Gold Star families every day. With no hoops. No red tape. No appointments. No waiting months on end. And we do this with the support of our community. With nothing but donations and fundraisers. Because no money exchanges hands. There are no income eligibility guidelines and no proof of need required. Whatever they need, at no charge.
Everyday we meet Veterans, active servicemen and women, and Gold Star Families that are struggling financially; they are struggling with the VA system, health issues, PTSD, TBI, and relationship problems because of all of this.
We have found that Newby-ginnings is place where they can come, not only for basic household necessities, but peer support, resources and referrals to other agencies. We work very closely with the DAV, the Combat Vet Riders, Kootenai County Veteran Services, Goodwill, Heritage Health and St. Vincent's.
Goodwill has a program called Supportive Services for Veteran Families or SSVF. They received a large grant to house homeless Veterans. SSVF provides Veterans with a home, a bed and some household essentials . . . as well as transportation to Newby-ginnings for everything else they need. In March 2015, Newby-ginnings received the honor of Mission Partner of the Year with Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest for our work with the SSVF program.
So far, in 3 years, we have assisted almost 1400 Veterans, active servicemen and women and Gold Star Families in our area. From Montana, Cheney, Deer Park and everywhere in between.
Everyday people want to thank us for what we are doing. Veterans, active Servicemen and women, Gold Star Families, even donors/contributors and members of our community.
But I'm uncomfortable with that. I want to thank them.
Newby-ginnings has given me an opportunity to do something good with our unfathomable loss. It is providing me with pride and purpose. I am still Nick's mom.
Like Alice through the looking glass, I unwillingly stepped into a strange new world without my son. I can never go back. So I will take this strength, that I didn't know that I had, and I will turn it into something remarkable. I will turn it into a new beginning.