Like many Virgin Islanders on the mainland, Milt Newton had been watching with worry this summer as the Caribbean endures another hurricane season.
Many of the worst fears came true recently with the devastation brought by Hurricane Irma to St. John and St. Thomas, where Newton grew up.
“A lot of people have lost everything. It’s going to take a while for people to rebuild,” Newton said recently. “We had to find some way to assist.”
His Emerald Gems Foundation — which he operates alongside his wife, Shalaun — has joined the list of Virgin Islanders and others who are pitching in to help the cause.
As assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks and a big name in NBA circles, Newton said it’s part of his duties to help however he can.
Emerald Gems made a call for donations recently and will send funds directly to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
The Newtons join high-profile figures such as San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, country singer Kenny Chesney, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg who are mobilizing support for the Virgin Islands.
Newton thought about organizing a drive to collect supplies like Duncan did, but decided it would be more efficient to send money immediately to an organization “on the ground,” he said.
Newton has family and friends throughout St. Thomas, particularly in Savan, Tutu and Bordeaux. He said his loved ones have property damage but are staying on island through the aftermath of the storm, along with thousands of others.
“One thing I do know, we all talk about VI Strong, which is a real statement, but we also stick together and help out our fellow man,” said Newton, who remembers enduring a hurricane on St. Thomas in the late 1970s. “That’s how I was brought up and that’s how we’ll stay.”
Newton, who grew up in Bordeaux on the west end of St. Thomas, won a national championship with Kansas during his playing days and played professionally in Europe.
He began his post-playing days as a scout and worked for the league office prior to joining the front office of the Washington Wizards. He reached the top of the basketball world as the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves before being let go in 2016.
This summer, Milt and Shalaun Newton hosted the third annual Emerald Gems basketball camp on St. Thomas, a free clinic for young Virgin Islanders to learn from Newton and other NBA personnel.
Milt Newton was hired last month by general manager Jon Horst of the Bucks, who made playoffs last season and have a young roster on the rise.
Newton joined the Milwaukee front office staff on a retreat recently as training camp approached.
But he’s had one eye on the television recently, monitoring the media to help make sure mainlanders understand the serious plight Virgin Islanders face.
“That’s the thing why we decided that we have to do all we can to bring light to the situation, as we’re not on the mainland and we tend to be forgotten,” Newton said. “I’m really grateful for what MSNBC has done because they have really kept the spotlight on the Virgin Islands and the other surrounding islands.”
Duncan’s inner circle has reached out to Newton about collaborating on more relief efforts, and Newton has tried to spread the word throughout his NBA circles.
“We believe in prayer,” Newton said. “But it’s going to take people continuing to display the strength to pick up and fight for another day. We want to bring the situation to light and let people know that they can help too. That’s our purpose for doing what we’re doing.
“My family and I, we’re going to continue to pray for everyone down there so they can begin to regain some normalcy in the area,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can through our foundation to assist in any way we can.”