When it comes to Durham, Wes Newman has always been an early adopter.
He made Durham home after graduating from Duke University in 1978, “back when staying in Durham was not as cool a thing to do.”
He and his partner re-located Kontek, their audio/visual design company, to downtown Durham in 1997, “back when there was nothing else down here.”
And this year, as many local businesses and people struggle to shed the weight of the recession, Newman’s company actually quadrupled its gift to the Duke-Durham Campaign.
“Anybody who’s downtown sees firsthand what the recessionary economy is like – we volunteer at the soup kitchen, for example, down at Urban Ministries, and you see the effect every morning, the people in need,” Newman said.
“We didn’t need the Duke-Durham Campaign to tell us the need is drastic, but the campaign has been the perfect way to respond.”
Every year the Duke-Durham Campaign raises money from local businesses to support the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership and its work in local schools and communities.
Mary Lou Rollins, Director of the Duke-Durham Campaign, said Kontek’s support has been remarkable.
“We’ve seen many local companies hit hard by the economic downturn and unable to match previous levels of giving,” Rollins said. “The support and generosity of Kontek, a company with such strong ties to both Duke and Durham, is truly special.”
Newman and his partner, Frank Konhaus, both graduated from Duke and worked for the university before founding Kontek in the 1980s. Today, Duke is one of Kontek’s largest clients. During that long history with the university, Newman said, he’s seen some changes.
“When I was a student at Duke, it felt to me there was very little interaction with Durham; the campus felt somewhat isolated,” Newman said. “I just can’t say enough how much it pleases me and everyone else here to see how engaged Duke has become in Durham.”
That’s why Kontek has supported the Duke-Durham Campaign ever since Newman first learned of it, a few years ago. He said few fundraising campaigns, at Duke or elsewhere, afford their donors such a direct impact on the lives and well-being of their neighbors.
“We’re a company of 14 people; we’re way smaller than Duke University, smaller than most Duke departments,” Newman said. “The Duke-Durham Campaign is a way that a small company, a small donor, can feel that they’re making a difference. It’s a great fit for us.”