Newman joins Safe Harbor in fundraising role

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 11:57 PM

Tom Newman, former executive director for United Way of Sevier County, has joined Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center as the organization's program development director.

"I'll focus predominantly on fundraising," Newman said. "Also community education, community awareness." In addition to his fundraising experience at United Way, Newman will draw on his experience working with youth organizations including the Boy Scouts, where he served as district executive.

"I'll be doing a lot of presentations to different community groups, clubs, associations and businesses," Newman said. Safe Harbor also receives donations from individuals and government grants.

Founded in 2005, Safe Harbor serves children who have been the victim of abuse or neglect, or who have witnessed violence. The agency conducts forensic interviews and provides therapy for children in Tennessee's Fourth Judicial District, which is made up of Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties. Safe Harbor also works to educate community members about child abuse.

In a time of tight budgets, fundraising expertise like Newman's is critical for organizations such as Safe Harbor. "Federal grants are drying up," said Safe Harbor Executive Director Donna Koester. "We pretty much have the same plight as every other nonprofit in the community."

Dwindling grant money isn't Newman's only challenge. "Safe Harbor's space is grossly inadequate for what we're trying to do," he said of the group's Sevierville property. "So we're looking to do a capital campaign soon to get a larger facility." Last year, Safe Harbor's facility hosted nearly 400 forensic interviews related to child abuse, Newman said, and almost 1,000 therapy sessions were conducted there.

The group's services are free. "For children who have gone through something that never should have happened," said Newman, "that they can come and receive therapy at no cost – that's just a good thing for a community to do."

Safe Harbor's mission sends a powerful message to would-be donors, Newman said. "It's not just parents, but especially if you're a parent, the thought of children being sexually abused is pretty frightening."

A Sevier County native, Newman joins a Safe Harbor staff of six. His coworkers are heroes, he said.

"Everyone wants to fight and prevent child sex abuse, but not everyone is willing to do that like the staff here," Newman observed. As a fundraiser, he said, "I want to try to make it better for them, get them resources, alleviate pressures, so they can just work with the children."

kburns@themountainpress.com