By Austin Newcomb and Jacklyn Mansour
Newk’s Eatery founders and current employees aim to embody kindness and humility through a dedication to personal service inside and outside of the kitchen. In line with the restaurant’s mission, this Oxford dining staple encompasses a foundation of experience and passion to not only fuel the kitchen, but also fuel awareness for ovarian cancer.
Gene Pearson, general manager of Newk’s Eatery in Oxford, said the experience you receive at Newk’s reiterates the commitment and passion the restaurant has for the birthplace of the restaurant – Oxford.
“I’ve been with the restaurant since 2009, and I graduated from Ole Miss in 2006. It’s a sense of ownership, and Newk’s mission statement basically states providing excellent service to all customers, ” Pearson said.
Through that service, Pearson said Newk’s is adamant about its devotion to the community in another way – raising awareness and promoting research for ovarian cancer. Lori Newcomb, co-founder of Newk’s Cares and wife of Newk’s Eatery co-founder and CEO, Chris Newcomb, lost her battle with ovarian cancer in February 2019.
“In 2013 my mom, Lori Newcomb, was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. After being diagnosed, she made it her life’s mission to improve the rate of early diagnosis of this disease,” daughter Madison Newcomb said. “As an active wife and mother, she always put the priorities of our family before her own – even when she was not feeling her best.
Madison said after her mother was diagnosed she decided not to let cancer get the best of her. She used her remaining energy fighting to bring attention to early diagnoses for women.
Madison, Newk’s marketing coordinator and Newk’s Cares Co-Chair, said her parents established “Newk’s Cares,” the philanthropic arm of Newk’s Eatery, in 2014 to improve the rate of early diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
With over 120 locations in 13 states, all of Newk’s restaurants are committed to joining the fight against ovarian cancer. On the Newk’s Cares website, the Newk’s family outlines the fundraising efforts the program has accomplished including:
● Selling Newk’s Cares themed water bottles in all 120-plus Newk’s Eatery restaurants, where $0.10 of each bottle purchase is donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (ORCA).
● Hosting an annual Ovarian Cycle® Jackson spin event with proceeds directly benefiting OCRA, as Lori was an avid cyclist prior to becoming ill.
● Serving as a board member for OCRA.
● Helping to establish the OCRA-funded “Woman to Woman” mentor program at the St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, which unites a current ovarian cancer survivor with a newly diagnosed patient.
● Inspiring several menu items at Newk’s Eatery, including the shrimp and avocado salad and a seasonal thai chicken soup offering – which was created with numerous cancer-fighting ingredients.
“To-date, Newk’s Cares and Newk’s Eatery restaurants have raised over $1 million for ORCA, the largest global organization dedicated to advancing ovarian cancer research while supporting women and their families. While my mom lost her physical battle to ovarian cancer in February 2019, her mission to help women will continue to live on,” Madison said.
In a 2017 interview with Hottytoddy.com, Lori said she refused to let her diagnosis control her life.
“It becomes a part of my day-to-day activities,” she said. “And it’s good to surround yourself with positive, happy people which keeps my spirits up. I’ve made some wonderful friends through this journey.”
Madison said it’s rare to come across someone with her mom’s unique energy, confidence, optimism, determination, and a genuine heart for serving others.
“She knew what really matters is making a difference in the lives of people around us. Our lives are enriched because we were blessed to know and be inspired by her. It is my wish to help her legacy live on and her mission to continue,” she said.