In 2013, United Way of Bradley County Inc. will celebrate 75 years of service to the local community. While some people live by a “What have you done for me lately?” mindset, others who have been helped in those seven-plus decades remember the helpfulness of the nonprofit group and the many volunteers involved with the organization.
One is Dean Newman, a fixture in downtown Cleveland who has delivered mail for many years to offices along the Bradley County Courthouse and other sites in the vicinity. However, if it wasn’t for help provided by United Way of Bradley County, and the caring assistance provided by volunteer Tom Johnson, it would have been a different story.
As Newman’s wife, Anne, related in a letter she wrote to United Way of Bradley County (coincidentally, delivered by her husband to the office), the gift by United Way kept them from disaster.
It read, “Your money was given to us by a representative of yours named Tom Johnson who was a loan officer at the Cleveland Bank and Trust branch on 25th Street. The bank’s name is not First Tennessee, and that branch is no longer there. Tom vouched for us that we would return your money. So, we are keeping his promise although we are sorry we did not return it 30 years sooner.
“If not for your generosity, the mailman who delivered this letter to you today may not have been able to do so. You see, that man is my husband, Dean, and it was your money that paid for the gas that enabled us to drive back to Winchester, Va., to get his old job back as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. Five years later, Dean was able to get a postal job transfer back here to Cleveland where we are happily living out our lives.
“We trust that you can use this money again for someone in much need who might not have otherwise been able to receive it.”
The letter is signed “Anne and Dean Newman.”
The gift by United Way of Bradley County was only for $100, but in August the Newmans presented the organization with a check for $500, which Mrs. Newman said is “a reimbursement for (the gift) we received from United Way here 30 years ago, in the summer of 1982, when my husband and I were out of work and in dire need of help. We are giving you more money back to account for inflation, interest and our own additional donation,” she added in her letter.
“We are sorry that it has taken so long to do this,” Anne said apologetically in a recent interview where she and her husband met Tom Johnson again for the first time in 30 years.
Even Dean said that this was something they had discussed several times.
Johnson, now president of Health Services in Cleveland and still an avid supporter of United Way of Bradley County, said he has heard people talk about how United Way has helped them in the past, but this may be the first time he can recall anyone “paying back” that help in this manner.
“It is, I would think, very unusual for someone to come back to United Way and say, No. 1, thanks for the help, and No. 2, let me return this so you can help other people,” Johnson said. “I think that we are very fortunate to have this couple here in Cleveland because the attitude they have displayed is one of wanting to reach out and make a difference for other people.
“For all of us in our lives, someone has helped us out, and to be able to pass that forward and say they want to do their part and help someone else less fortunate is just delightful,” he added.
The current staff at United Way of Bradley County was not with the organization in 1982, so none of them knew of the assistance received by the Newmans. All the United Way staff knows is that Dean Newman, who has worked for the USPS for 46 years, delivers the mail to the office with a smile and a warm greeting each time he is there.
“I didn’t even know that he delivered the mail (to the United Way) before I wrote the letter,” said Anne Newman.
The Newmans, who celebrated their 38th anniversary in August, stayed in Virginia for a few years until a job opened up in Cleveland. They have been here ever since.
“Cleveland is just a great place to live … we had recognized that when we were here before, and we wanted to be here,” Dean said. “It took five years, but I finally got an appointment here and we came back. It’s a nice place to live, a nice place to work, with some very good people.”
This includes Johnson, who the Newmans said they had been trying to locate. Johnson joked that he has changed a bit in those 30 years.
Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County president and CEO, said he had not had the opportunity to speak much with Dean Newman, but is very impressed with his professionalism and his pleasant nature when he does come in to the office. Now, he knows that he and his wife are caring individuals who want to give back to help others.
“What a testimony to Dean and Anne Newman, to give back to United Way what they received 30 years ago, and add to that to help others,” Ryerson said. “To receive services from United Way does not require a donation, but to have someone who remembers the help they received so long ago, and want to provide that to others, is so, so special.”