I'm proud to have had the opportunity to be taught and mentored during my undergraduate studies by Jay Newcomb. Having recently retired as the Director of Service-Learning at The College of Saint Scholastica, the Duluth News Tribune profile below demonstrates perfectly Jay's intentional approach to life and community work. Read on to learn about Jay's creative method for discerning his next calling and steps!
After stepping down at St. Scholastica, Jay Newcomb ready to volunteer
Jay Newcomb called his letter sort of “tongue in cheek” but tinged with a certain reality when it came to his retirement this past spring.
“I just don’t want to sit home and do woodworking or gardening,” he said.
Not that he doesn’t enjoy those pursuits; It’s just that he has a larger view in mind when it comes to his retirement from the College of St. Scholastica.
In March, Newcomb sent out letters to seven of his most cherished nonprofit groups in the area. It was a “request for proposals” on how those agencies might employ his services now that he had more time to volunteer.
The letter, and which groups he chose to send one to, was an exercise in setting priorities, he said. He decided he wanted to work with groups that were getting to the “root of problems” when it comes to social change.
Those groups are familiar with Newcomb’s skills because he’s spent plenty of time volunteering with them. In his working life, he showed students how to volunteer their skills as the service learning director at Scholastica.
He chose the groups carefully, “based on personal relationships and trust,” he said.
The letter didn’t come off as such a stray idea as Newcomb originally thought.
“People took it seriously,” he said. “I was honored by that. They all said, ‘This is a great idea.’”
Newcomb said he didn’t want to wake up in retirement wondering “What should I do now?”
“I think it’s a lovely thing,” said Jeff Corey, the executive director of 1 Roof Community Housing, which provides people with housing services in an effort to sustain affordable homes and keep neighborhoods vibrant. Corey received a letter as well, and was hoping Newcomb could help with house inspections and help people improve them.
Newcomb decided to work with Men as Peacemakers and CHUM.
“All of the agencies had great program ideas,” he said. “I chose these two because they are exciting programs to work on for me and because of the people involved. I will get to work with former students of mine and new-to-me people at the agencies.”
Helpful personality Newcomb has the personality to help people, Corey said. “He has such a great way with people.”
It means something that so many people know of Newcomb’s volunteer ethic, he said.
“It’s not something he’s starting to do,” he said. “It’s something he’s continuing. It’s a new chapter in the same book.”
Corey said he hoped Newcomb’s efforts would start a volunteering trend with retiring baby boomers. Today’s retirees are versed in management and planning. Newcomb has a mechanical background matching his work-life teaching others how to lend service to communities, he said.
“He’s not going to be making copies,” Corey said. “We would use those lifetime skills.”
“I hope I can inspire others,” Newcomb said.
“A lot of us are retiring,” said his wife, Mary B. “People in their 60s should continue to find ways to make Duluth a better place. It’s not a vacation.”
Jay Newcomb said it’s a “shame to squander” what he can offer. He wants to continue helping organizations that “work for fundamental change in the way we live our lives.”
“I think to have real satisfaction in my life I need to be connected to other people and bigger causes,” Newcomb said. “If what I am doing has no chance of failure, it is not worth spending a lot of energy on.”
Newcomb said he won’t forget that he is retired, and can go at his own speed.
“I can still take a nap when I want to.”
About Jay Jay Newcomb, 65, was the coordinator of service learning at the College of St. Scholastica for the past 14 years. He spent 26 years at the college, part of it in academic support services. He moved there from the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he worked in American Indian Services. Scholastica’s service learning program shows students how to integrate service work with academics to “enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.” Newcomb led Scholastica’s “Community Day,” which put people from the campus into the community in volunteer activities.
Newcomb sent letters in March announcing his retirement and offering his volunteering services this past spring to CHUM, Duluth Community Garden Program, Myers Wilkins Community School Collaborative, Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association, Community Action Duluth, 1 Roof Community Housing and Men as Peacemakers. He met with organizers for each group and decided which one best fit his schedule and skills.
Newcomb decided to “sink his teeth” into community restorative circles with Men As Peacemakers, both as a participant in a circle and helping to develop the program. He will also work with CHUM as support programs are created for the families that will be in the new Steve O’Neil apartments.
Newcomb said in his letter that he was willing to work up to 20 hours per week for six months to a year on a project. He insisted that his work not displace current paid staff and be “creative” work over routine duties and “must contribute to the common good.”
Who’s volunteering? When baby boomers started reaching retirement age early in this decade, it was the hope of nonprofits that they would fill the volunteer ranks. They are, and they might be pulling others into service as well. While today’s new retirees make up the bulk of volunteer hours, other age groups have been increasing their volunteering in recent years.
The Corporation for National and Community Service reports that Minnesota is second in the nation, behind Utah, in the percentage of residents who volunteered in 2012, 37.7 percent according the 2013 CNCS and National Conference on Citizenship’s annual report, “Volunteering and Civic Life in America.” Nearly 40 percent of Minnesotans 55 and older volunteer.
The report found that across the country, volunteers 65 and older spent a median of 90 hours on volunteer activities in 2012, the most amount of time among any age group and nearly twice the annual hours served by Americans across all age groups.
The report said America’s teens continue to increase their level of volunteering, rising by nearly 3 percent during the last six years. Generation X volunteers, now ages 33 to 49, have had even more years of increased volunteering and make up the largest number of volunteers, largely because of parents involved in the activities of their children.
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