|By Tammie Gitt, The Sentinel, Carlisle,
Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 27, 2012--An idea hatched over dinner between friends will send 78 rooms of furniture from a Middlesex Township hotel to residents of Toms River, a New Jersey town hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
At that dinner, Justin Cheah, renovation project manager with Janus Services Inc., told Alyssa Loney of Ibis Appraisal Services about his current project -- the renovation of the Residence Inn Harrisburg Carlisle. A member of Carlisle Rotary Club, Loney immediately thought of the relief efforts that have been underway to assist those affected by the October superstorm.
Typically, furniture from such a renovation would be taken to a landfill or liquidated. As Cheah and Loney talked, an idea took shape to send the furniture from the hotel to Toms River instead.
"Not only does it save on costs with manpower, labor and a Dumpster, it's for a great cause," Cheah said.
"We want to do our share to help everybody out," said Ron Janis, owner of the Florida-based company. "Hopefully, we'll do a lot of good for a lot of people."
"It's a great idea," said Clyde Zeller, chief engineer at Residence Inn, who oversees the renovation. "The stuff's in great shape."
At Loney's suggestion, the Rotary set to work building partnerships and coordinating the effort to turn the idea into reality. First up was contacting the Toms River Rotary Club to identify what items would be the most useful and prepare for storage and distribution of the furniture once it arrived.
With the list from Toms River in hand, the Residence Inn, through the work of Janis Services, will provide dining chairs, lounge chairs, office chairs, desk lamps, floor lamps and sofa beds to disaster victims. Allen Distribution agreed to provide warehouse storage for the items for three to six months and to transport the furniture to Toms River when appropriate.
It only took five days for the project to come together. And the timing couldn't be better as the Rotarians are starting to shift their focus from immediate relief efforts to longer term recovery and reconstruction efforts in New York and New Jersey.
According to John Mosko, the Toms River Rotary Club disaster recovery chair, 7,000 families from the "Barrier Islands" area are homeless as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Only 1,500 households can expect to move into permanent housing in the near term.
Because renovations are happening on a rotation that allows the hotel to remain open, the donations will continue to be made over the next few weeks.
The wide-ranging partnership could become a model for future partnerships between Rotary Clubs, hotels and community organizations in need of furniture.
"Hotels do renovate," Loney said. "And there's not a lack of nonprofits."
She also noted that the Rotary is an international organization with the manpower and resources to bring together recovery projects like this or to supply nonprofits with furniture.
The Carlisle community will also be called upon to take part in the project at some point in the future, according to Rick Coplen, president of the Carlisle Rotary Club. Volunteers will be needed at a date and time to be determined to help load the furniture into trucks for transportation to New Jersey.
The community has already been an integral part of relief efforts, Coplen said. So far, two tractor-trailers full of relief supplies have been taken to multiple collection and distribution sites in Toms River and Eatontown, N.J.
Coplen said a third and final truck is scheduled to make a delivery on Friday. Donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and baby care items are still welcome but should be made by Wednesday. No clothing items are needed except for coats, gloves and hats.
(c)2012 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.)
Visit The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.) at www.cumberlink.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services NYSE:MAR,