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West Newton Friends In Service -- Norma Gaston

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Each month we’re going the work of one of West Newton Friends making a difference in our community. We’re all involved in different ways and sometimes we don’t realize the ministries we're doing in locally and around the world.

This article features the volunteer work of Norma Gaston.

The journey that brought me to outreach projects began with my family and my early years in West Newton Friends Church (WNFC).

As an active farm family, we worked the land, cared for animals, raised all of our own food and, except for shoes and “Papa’s” overalls, made our clothes. The limited money we
earned was strictly tithed for support of and outreach at West Newton Friends Church.

In the summer of 1961, I traveled to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, (yes, I rode a camel out to see the Pyramids). What an impact of cultures different than mine!
In 1962, I married the “love of my life” and moved back to the farm, which was a Land Grant to my father’s family in 1831. I was a stay-at-home mother 12 years. This was so I could help nurture our 2 sons. I returned to teaching and was the vocal music instructor at Decatur Middle School for 35 years. 

From 1963-2014, I was organist and director of choirs and English hand-bells at Mt. Olive United Methodist Church.

I am an active volunteer with a number of organizations:

  • Amnesty International -- I have been a part of A.I for 42 years. I write letters and sign petitions to leaders of many countries asking for unconditional release of prisoners of conscience.
  • Mt. Olive Ministries -- I continue to be a member of the Outreach Team and serve as the contact with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU).
  • West Newton Friends Church: (Birthright member) -- I assist with music for worship services, [serve on Ministry and Counsel], and am part of the community outreach group.
  • Valley Mills Friends Church -- I assist with music for worship services.
  • Western Yearly Meeting (2 years) -- member of the Christian Education Board and program planning for Yearly Meeting sessions.
  • Decatur Central Alumni -- I am working with the revised Alumni Association to establish the Brick Plaza and develop the Heritage Room, which will become a Decatur Township Museum.
  • Decatur Central Lions Club: (Lions International) (10 years) -- some of the service projects that we support are: vision screening, eye glasses for local families, eye glass collections for mission trips, leader dogs, measles vaccinations, cancer control, Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, camp Woodsmoke for physically challenged youth, Decatur Township Elementary schools’ Angel Funds and, we provide a personal dictionary for every 3rd grade student in our school system. I also manage the Peace Poster Contest for 11-13 year old students and assist with the 4-H program and schedule entertainment for the Fair.
  • Decatur Township Education Foundation (12 years) -- I helped develop this organization whose purpose is to raise funds so we can award grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects.
  • Community Leaders (3 years) -- We meet quarterly with Decatur Township administrators to review the education processes, successes, opportunities, and needs of our  schools.
  • Decatur Township Drug Free Coalition (2 years) -- This group addresses the Opioid crisis in Decatur Township. My focus is helping develop strategies and programs to assist people who are dependent on meth, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, etc. I recently attended training to better understand the needs of people who are on the recovery path. We also address the need for all of us to be aware that addiction is a disease and must be met with care and concern.

Oh yes, I am still very much involved with family and grand children activities: carpooling to and pick-ups after school, attending sports and dance events, and family gatherings.

First, there was the journey which brought me to the projects, then came the opportunities for me to unleash my passion for helping the “least of these” in the name of Jesus