NewsPositively Hampton Roads


From tragedy to charity: Williamsburg organization still helping those in need 20 years later

Ben Newman
Posted at 8:27 AM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 18:16:47-05

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - As volunteers set up inside a non-descript warehouse in Williamsburg, dozens bundled up have been trickling in, waiting outside hours in the cold just for this prompt:

"Hi, good to see everyone today. Today we will do three meats, three deli, three desserts," said Thumper Newman.

One by one on Friday afternoon, people filed in to a cramped ice cold room.

"Come on in, how are you doing," says Newman.

At the door, Newman, who, after two decades of of keeping his seat warm, knows nearly everyone by name.

"How ya doing, Jamaica?" he says.

It's controlled chaos as people pick and pluck their weekly meals.

"They can't believe they have all this free food," said Newman.

It's not just your ordinary canned goods – how about crab dip, shrimp, cakes... even aloe vera leaves?

"I am shocked it's going on this long. I can't believe we have made it 20 years," said Newman.

Thumper's son Ben’s picture is the first thing people see as they sign in to the room.

"It seemed like a way to make something good out of a tragic event," he said.

On Dec 26, 2001, 14-year-old Ben Newman, an eighth grader, and his cousin, Joshua Lass, were riding in a car on Centerville Road with Ben’s brother at the wheel.

"My life was pretty much shattered," said Newman.

The car Ben and Josh were in ran a stop sign. They were not wearing their seatbelts and died.

"Chelsea, to be honest with you, I have a hard time talking about Ben, so I try not to talk about him as I go through life. It's just too painful, " said Newman.

He may not talk about him, but he honors him daily.

"With Ben's death, I found a purpose," he said.

In the months after Ben’s death, Thumper started volunteering by distributing food for a Catholic church.

"I said, 'I gotta do something like this - this is amazing,'" he said.

Every day at 6 a.m., he picks up food donated and set to expire from local stores - and voilà, "A Gift from Ben" was born.

"It gives me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. People are less fortunate or handicapped - it makes you feel better about yourself," said Newman.

"It has been a huge help with finances. Everything has gone up in the grocery store, and I am a single mom with two kids and a daughter in college," said Mary, who stopped in to the warehouse Friday.

"Since we started the charity, we have given away 15 million pounds of food - that is an average of 60,000 pounds a month for 20 years," said Newman.

Cartfuls of food, those needing a little extra hand can get right here, courtesy of Ben’s dad.

"He does this out of the kindness of his heart. He doesn’t get anything out of it - just joy. It’s a huge blessing to everyone," said Mary.

"My soul objective is to bring good from tragic event, help others do well with this charity," sad Newman.

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