Lee Newton

(1952 – 2014)

Lee Newton was a graphic designer and community activist, forming the Winnipeg Harvest.

Born at Winnipeg on 1 July 1952, daughter of Bill and Mae Newton, she attended Lord Wolseley School, McLeod School, John Henderson Junior High School and River East Collegiate. After a year of design training at the University of Manitoba, she worked for 30 years as a graphic designer, first with the advertising department of the Eaton’s Department Store and later with the Winnipeg Art Gallery where she was the head of the design department.

She then formed her own business Newton Coleman and Associates, publishing Interchange magazine and other publications for the Osborne Village area. In 1983, after hearing about a food bank in New York City, she established Winnipeg Harvest. It opened in July 1985, and she managed its volunteer program, held fundraising events and organized publicity. She did not want to open a place where people lined up for handouts. Instead, she decided to open a distribution centre, where donated food would be redistributed to social agencies.

It was fitting that Lee finished her career at Winnipeg Harvest, first managing the volunteer program and later organizing various fundraising initiatives, including Empty Bowls. “I’ve had bowls from David Suzuki, Bob Geldof, Michael Bublé, Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart and Elton John,” Newton told Flannery Dean for a July 2009 Chatelaine magazine article. “Last year, the Rolling Stone bowl raised $5,000.”

She also established The Huron Carole, which features Tom Jackson and other celebrity musicians.

Other Harvest programs she founded and helped manage until her retirement in 2010 were Grow-A-Row and Kids Who Care.

She also raised public awareness about hunger and the work of Winnipeg Harvest through speaking engagements and interviews. Lee was loved and respected by everyone at Harvest and in the community that supported it, because she treated each person with the same concern and respect, from corporate sponsor to the newest volunteer sorting groceries. “I have learned that everyone at Harvest takes a great deal of pride and sense of ownership for their jobs,” Newton said in a statement. “I have learned that it is just as valid when a disabled volunteer can make five food hampers an hour as when an able-bodied person can make 50.”
In recognition for her role there, she received a YMCA/YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in 2005.

She retired from the organization in 2010. A special Lee Mae Newton Excellence Award has been created in her memory by Winnipeg Harvest to be “dedicated to an individual or a volunteer family that contributes to the spirit and operation of Winnipeg Harvest in a way that strengthen individuals or families who struggle with low-income issues in Winnipeg”.

She died at the St. Boniface Hospital on 8 February 2014 and was buried in the Victoria United Church Cemetery at Balmoral. In 2017, she was inducted into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame, only the third inductee to be recognized solely for her community service.

Image: 

Supplied