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Longtime Ric-Rack chair dies
BAJS Ken Newell
Kenneth Newell

Dawson County has lost a man who was passionate about serving the underprivileged.

Ken Newell, former director of the thrift store Ric-Rack, died last week after an extended illness.

Friends described Newell as a passionate man. He had such a passion to help people in need that when he talked to you, it became your vision, as well, longtime friend Steve Carey said.

Friend and fellow Ric-Rack Board Member Charlie Barry agreed.

He was passionate about whatever he did, Barry said. When he worked for FedEx he was passionate about that. You dont get to be a senior vice president without being passionate.

Newell took over as chair of Ric-Rack in 2000, Carey said. It was then Newell was tasked with finding a new place to house the thrift store and food pantry after the building Ric-Rack was using was condemned.

Carey described as heavenly Nancy Noblins donation to Ric-Rack of property and housing on Highway 9.

Being the visionary Ken was, he started getting his friends together, myself being one of them, and the first thing we had to do was remodel that location, Carey said.

Newell recruited members of the Lions Club and 20 to 30 other friends to spend about three weeks getting the new place up and running.

From there, what started as a facility serving about five to 10 families a week grew to serving 300 families in a month. This past year, Carey said about 3,800 families were served, and more than 170,000 pounds of food was handed out.

Ken was the visionary who kept it going, Carey said. He was always looking to see how we could improve.

Newell was also known for his magnetic personality. It was fun to work with him, Barry said. He made it interesting and enjoyable, and you couldnt help but enjoy it. When he recruited you for something, whether or not you wanted to, you did (it) with a smile on your face. The county will miss him.

Board member Mike Poynter said that even after Newell resigned from Ric-Rack, he still came to all the meetings. It was like he couldnt let go of it, Poynter said.

In 2013, Newell was honored for his work with Ric-Rack by the Dawson County Homeowner Associations You Care Award. The award recognizes residents who demonstrate by actions, deeds, or written words that they care about our community, our environment, and above all else, our people.

In addition to his work with Ric-Rack, Newell was also a member of the Dawsonville Lions Club and a volunteer for Kare for Kids. He and his wife, Jo Ann, lived in Dawson County for 18 years. They moved to the area after Newell retired from a 20-year career with Federal Express.

Memorial services for Newell are scheduled for Saturday. In lieu of flowers, the family asked for memorial donations to Ric-Rack.

For more information see Newells obituary on 3A.