(This is the 13th installation of a series of stories that share with readers special events that continue to take place as Newtown heals following the events of 12/14 at Sandy Hook School. It is also a continuation of anecdotes from across the country, of people offering kind gestures on behalf of our town.)
A mere 48 hours after the events of 12/14, Roland Roth, the executive vice president for customer services of Engineered Tax Services (ETS), received an email from ETS CEO Julio Gonzalez. Mr Gonzales was offering to Mr Roth to assist in Newtown.
After consulting people close to him, Mr Roth decided the best way to put forth his efforts would be help those in need locally. It was then that Engineered Tax Services, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-headquartered national engineering firm that combines professional engineering and accounting services, adopted Roosevelt Elementary School, also located in West Palm Beach.
“After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary we wanted to do something positive to assist our local community as a response to the tragedy,” said Mr Roth. “While others were debating in circles about gun control and other social issues, we knew we could do something that would rise above the yelling and anger.”
According to Mr Roth, when he met with Dr Glenda Garrett, the principal of Roosevelt Elementary School, she told him ETS was the first local business to reach out to the school in all her eight years as principal. When he asked Ms Garrett what the school’s students needed the most, he said, he did not anticipate the answer he received: socks.
Mr Roth and ETS started a drive in February and were able to collect more than 1,000 pairs of socks. They also collected school supplies such as pencils, markers, and notebooks to include in their donation. Still, Mr Roth wanted to do more.
“That was when we decided to begin the Roosevelt Rockets Reading Buddies program, a monthly event where local adult volunteers come in during their lunch hour and read with first graders. We chose this grade level as it had suffered the greatest in the tragedy at Newtown,” said Mr Roth, who was a former schoolteacher.
Roosevelt Rockets Reading Buddies began in March with three or four employees from the company, as well as outside friends of the company, taking time out of their day to read to the students.
Every month the number of volunteers grew. By June there were 20 volunteers donating their services to read to the first graders. They hope in the future to be able to have enough volunteers to read to all five first grade classrooms.
Over the summer Mr Roth and Engineered Tax Services decided they wanted to do even more. Mr Roth said this time they wanted “something permanent for the children that emphasized reading and was uplifting.”
The idea was to paint a mural along the outer walls of Roosevelt Elementary School’s building. The hope was that when kids saw the mural they would be filled with a sense of pride.
Local award-winning artist Eduardo Mendieta volunteered his services for the project in August. Mr Mendieta created an outline at night so the next morning volunteers could come paint the 40-foot-wide by 30-foot-tall stretch of wall.
There was a large turnout of 50 volunteers, ranging in all ages and backgrounds. There were ETS employees, company friends, and local residents wanting to help out.
“Engineered Tax Services CEO Julio Gonzalez generously donated all of the supplies and a light breakfast to all the volunteers, and Eddie generously donated his talents, energy, and time,” said Mr Roth.
Every gesture of kindness done has been so well received that now Mr Roth hopes to not only continue, but to expand the impact. His hopes are that his company will inspire other businesses to adopt a class or grade.
“It is impossible for us to fathom the grief that Newtown has to process,” said Mr Roth. “The pictures of the children, particularly Noah [Pozner, one of the children killed on 12/14], come back to me each time we sit with these needy children.
“I hope that the efforts we give down here in south Florida somehow are felt as comfort and love to the families and community of Newtown, Conn.”