LEVITTOWN >> The members of NextGen Newtown Rotary rolled up their sleeves, cranked up the tunes and got to work on Sunday morning at the homeless shelter in Levittown.
And in just four short hours, the team of young business professionals had reorganized a jam-packed 17 by 20 square foot storage shed into a more efficient space for the Family Service Association, which operates the shelter.
“Everything went great,” said Nathan Breece, a sales manager with American Insurance Agency in Newtown who helped organize the group’s second community service project. “Going into this, our fear was that we’d be here until dark. But we had a good turn out, everyone helped out and thankfully that did not happen.
“Hopefully this is going to improve their efficiency. Before, when you walked in there, it was hard to find anything,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to get this done for them.”
So is Murielle Kelly, the director of housing services for Family Service Association, who has been trying unsuccessfully for a number of years to recruit a group of volunteers for the job.
“It’s good that it’s packed full of donations and supplies,” said Kelly, “but it would be better if I knew what exactly is in there.
“We constantly need things so being able to go in there and grab it and know what we have is huge for us,” said Kelly. “If we knew what we have we could order ahead of time so we are not scrambling around. This will be a cost savings and a time management savings for us.”
Kelly couldn’t say enough about the volunteers. “We couldn’t fulfill our needs without volunteers. It helps us to focus on the clients we are servicing. If we didn’t have volunteers helping us - money-wise and time-wise - there’d be no way we could do what we do.”
The NextGen members, along with some of their kids, made quick work of the task at hand, quickly emptying the shed of its contents and then organizing it into categories, from toiletries and feminine products to diapers, clothing and food.
NextGen members Mitchell Blaak, the head trainer and owner of Blaak Out Training in Newtown, and Joe Dantone, who owns a photography business on State Street, had the job of putting together metal shelving for the inside of the shed.
And when that was done, they moved to the food detail. The two quickly sorted through five overflowing boxes of canned goods and boxed products pulling out all the expired items.
Nearby Danielle Wittig, the general manager at Triple Sun Spirits Company on South State Street in Newtown, was taking charge of the clothing brigade.
She quickly recruited a number of children, including two of her own, to help sort and fold clothing according to size and age. They then packed it all into containers, labeled each and then neatly stacked the containers inside the shed.
The youngsters also kept busy making activity boxes for the kids staying at the shelter. They packed each plastic box with crayons, coloring books, stickers and other fun stuff.
“We have a good army of people today, which is great,” said Wittig. “It’s making everything go that much faster. And the kids are doing a fantastic job.”
Wittig joined NextGen after hearing about it from Breece. But what really sealed the deal for her was something Rotarian Rick Rogers said.
“He said something to me that really stuck about giving back - that when you give back you feel good about it,” she said.
NextGen, an organization of young business professionals, formed earlier this year to cultivate the next generation of Rotarians and to expand Rotary’s mission of Service Above Self.
As its initial project, the group partnered with the Newtown Rotary Club, local businesses and the public to collect socks and towels for the homeless shelter.
“This is the first project we have done as a group completely on our own,” said Breece of Sunday’s storage unit project. “It feels good to now have this under our belt.”
Looking ahead, the group is already planning its next service project - a block party on South State Street to support Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.
NextGen is hoping to secure the approval of borough council this week to close a block of South State Street between Centre Avenue and Penn Street for the event on Sunday, Sept. 19.
“It’s going to be like a carnival fair atmosphere with game booths and food,” said Breece. “Several businesses have already said they will be donating a portion of their sales that day. Hopefully we’ll be able to raise a good amount of money.”