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Son’s death sparks mother’s commitment to work on behalf of veterans

Theresa Hart started Newby-ginnings.

On July 7, 2011, Theresa Hart’s son, 20-year-old SPC Nicholas Newby, was killed in Baghdad, Iraq by an armor-piercing bomb.

In October 2013, with the help of her husband, James, and friends, Theresa opened Newby-ginnings of North Idaho, a nonprofit program for active military, veterans and Gold Star families.

Newby-ginnings allows her to honor her son and others who have died serving the country. Its motto is, “humble support and steadfast honor to those who served and sacrificed.”

Theresa thought she would offer support part-time from her dining room table office. In the first five months, she was able to help more than she expected.

Her work allows her to talk about Nick daily.  He joined the Army National Guard in 2008.  In 2009, he graduated from high school and went through basic and advanced training.

He was deployed with the National Guard unit out of Post Falls in 2010. He was 10 months into his 12-month deployment when he was killed.

Theresa recites many statistics.  Nick was the 4,471st U.S. casualty in Iraq since U.S. involvement there in 2003.  He was one of 54 fatalities in 2011.  This year, 11 people have died there.

Two months after she learned of his death, Theresa went to work as an RN for the State of Idaho. 

“Grief of that magnitude changes a person at a cellular level. When I walked back into work, I said, ‘I do not want to be here!’” she said. “Being Nick’s mother defined me. Losing him defined me, too.  I had to do something.”

For about a year and a half, she did nothing.  During that time, many of Nick’s battle buddies called her, telling her of their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and financial and relationship problems.

Theresa realized she could help young men and women who had returned home.  Her mother came up with the name “Newby-ginnings.”  As Theresa sat at her kitchen table, the motto, logo and mission statement flowed.

The mission statement is: “With support from and in partnership with the community, Newby-ginnings of North Idaho, Inc., a nonprofit 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.”

They provide basic necessities and common comforts. They welcome clean, functional donations, such as household items, furniture and clothing. They provide these free with no red tape or appointments. People don’t have to wait for months, she said.

“We do this with community support through donations and fund raisers,” she said.  “There are no income eligibility guidelines.  No one has to prove their need.  All that is required is proof of military service.  They can take what they need.”

Since starting, Newby-ginnings has enrolled 2,325 veterans, active servicemen and women, and Gold Star families in the Coeur d’Alene area, serving 50 to 100 a day.

Theresa called Scott Thorsness, director of the Kootenai County Veterans Services Office in Post Falls. She asked him to refer people with needs and things to donate. He began making referrals to her.

For about two months, she and James stored items in their garage.  They ran out of room, so they rented a 1,700-square-foot industrial unit behind their home. It filled within three months.  Then they used a Dalton Gardens facility for two years, but outgew it.

The next move was one of many serendipitous experiences she has had. It began by her wishing she had a box truck like the one across the street at Dalton Gardens. James had been using his personal truck to haul goods.

When a $26,000 grant she wrote for a truck, tires and maintenance was denied, she was devastated.

Within a week, Molly Shirey called to say she was dissolving “We’ve Got Stuff” and giving her remaining inventory to us,” Theresa said.  That included a bigger and better box truck and the driver, Cedric.

One connection led to the next.  Through the Coeur d’Alene VFW, Josh Scott of Maximum Exposure donated a wrap for the truck.

He contacted Riverbend Office Park, which gave Theresa a lease at 570 S. Clearwater Loop in Post Falls, where they have been since May 2016.

The nonprofit works with various area veterans’ organizations, service agencies and assisted-living facilities.

“If a veteran is released from rehabilitation with a new knee or hip, they call us.  We can give them what they need—walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, potty chairs or power chairs,” she said.

Newby-ginnings welcomes new kitchen items, underwear, socks, cleaning supplies and more.  Those donations go to veterans when they move into a new location.  They may have been homeless or just out of the hospital.  She wants them to have both a new home and a fresh start with dignity.

They are now having a “Stuff-Raiser.”  For every new kitchen item someone donates, they receive a raffle ticket for a patriotic quilt.  The drawing is July 3.

Theresa spends about 60 hours a week providing this service—30 hours at the shop Mondays through Wednesdays, plus she attends meetings, makes presentations and works at home. 

“It’s never-ending,” she said.  “It’s not a job.  It’s my life.”

Newby-ginnings has a seven-member board of directors and a staff of about 50 volunteers.

“Their unselfish effort, caring and compassion for others is the lifeblood of our organization,” she said.  “They are a source of inspiration for me and for the clients.  We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Theresa was born in Norwalk, Conn.  Her father was in the Air Force 10 years.  By the time Theresa was in the ninth grade, she had attended 11 schools.  After his discharge in 1978 in Anchorage, the family settled there, attending Catholic churches for a while.

Theresa graduated from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 1985 with a bachelor’s in nursing.  Her children, Nick and Nathan, were born to her and her former husband, Wayne, in Alaska. They moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1996.

“Sometimes, I still can’t believe Nick is gone,” she said.  “I just keep moving. My faith has been challenged, but I wonder if God has a sense of humor, because of the coincidences I have experienced with Newby-ginnings.

“I have an overwhelming sense of responsibility.  I want people to appreciate their freedom because of the sacrifices made by so many to preserve it,” she said.

“It is our job to live our lives worthy of their sacrifice, to live our lives to the fullest, to laugh, to love, to make this world a better place.  Nick would want that,” Theresa said.

“Newby-ginnings is the collateral beauty that occurred after immense tragedy.  It has helped bring our local veteran community closer together.  It has impacted the lives of thousands of people,” Theresa said.

For information, call 208-610-6996, email

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