Third in a series

At the tender age of 23, Ashleigh Lakey already owns one business, manages another and is still a student.

On top of that, Lakey is a small-group leader at her church.

Lakey is one of three honored as the Newton Area Women of the Year, selected by the Newton Area Women of the Year Program.

The award has been given since 1956 and is open to women who live or work in Newton or North Newton.

The theme for this year’s award is "Bloom Where You Are Planted."

"It’s kind of funny. I never thought I would be 23 and win something like this," Lakey said. "I haven’t even really got to talk to them because of the coronavirus and everything. I haven’t even gotten to read my letters of nomination."

Lakey is the manager of Norm’s Coffee Bar on North Main Street in downtown Newton. She has been working for the establishment for five years and has been manager for 2 1/2 years.

She also owns a business called We Are Newton, an e-business that created a community flag and other logo merchandise.

"It hasn’t been adopted by the city at all, but we’ve been trying to create a grass roots movement and create community pride and something to rally around," Lakey said. "We have a flag and we have merchandise. We’ve created some photography and videography for it, trying to remind people Newton has good things going for it. It doesn’t have to stay the same as it always been."

Lakey said Norm’s is a unique place to work, being run by a nonprofit group, the So Shine Foundation. The group runs an after-school program for local fifth- and sixth-graders, as well as Lighthouse China, which supports two orphanages there, and the Lighthouse Coffee Shop in Vladimir, Russia.

"It’s been cool to see the relationships I’ve had with city and county officials," she said of working at Norm’s. "We had a lot of pastors meet there. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the religious community in town. I’ve met a lot of people from Mirror Inc., from the school district. That’s given me a lot of valuable relationships.

"With our after-school program, we have a lot of fifth- and sixth-graders from Santa Fe come in. We have about 150 middle schoolers come in. We’ve developed a good relationship with the teachers."

She is the small-group leader, a worship leader and a vocalist at The Gathering, a church located in the former Fox Theater in downtown Newton.

Lakey is a graduate of Berean Academy and currently attends Hutchinson Community College’s Newton branch.

"I was born and raised here," Lakey said. "I have loved my time here. I feel like I have a unique perspective, managing a small business. I see the value in the local economy and having it grown. Obviously right now, we’re all kind of suffering, but I want to see a downtown that is thriving with people who are proud of what it’s become. I want to see it as a place where they want to raise their families."

Lakey will be honored at a brunch to be held at a later date.