A non-profit organization is recycling for a good cause that’s about even more than just the environment.
The Step By Step Foundation, created by a 22-year-old and his brother, is collecting thousands of bottles and cans. Those are being used to carry out good deeds all around Waterbury.
“Bottles and cans is our bread and butter,” Michael Keating, Step By Step president, said.
There is a mountain of bottles and cans, that you might expect to see at a recycling center, but it is all on the back porch of a house in Waterbury.
“This is all the bottles and cans that we usually get a month, probably around like 10 to 12,000 bottles and cans back here,” Keating said. “We still got some room, we still got some room up to the ceilings!”
Even so, there is overflow in a backyard shed.
“We have to sort these, between bottles and cans with a lot of our volunteers overnight,” Keating said. “Then we actually partner with someone that will help bring that to Stratford for us, and then help give us the money so that we can give back to people in need.”
Step By Step started back in 2019 by Keating, who was then in college, and his younger brother Matthew.
“We just wanted to give food back to local food shelter, because we saw how huge of a need it was in Waterbury,” Keating said. “Then we just started running out of money. So we needed some way to get the fun started. So we started asking our close family and friends to give us bottles and cans, and then before you know it, everyone started to give it to us. Then we're like, 'oh, maybe we have something here.'”
It may not seem like a single can would go far, but it adds up. Step By Step has collected nearly 350,000 bottles and cans.
“It may seem like a lot, but that helps us so much giving money to so many organizations,” Keating said.
They have raised $45,000 over the past two years through the recycling program and monetary and clothing donations.
Those funds are used to buy supplies stored in the home’s basement. There are toys, warm coats, a bike, and supplies for the homeless.
“We have boots, we have comforters. We have sleeping bags, especially during this time, a lot of them are cold,” Keating said.
Many college students and high schoolers are getting involved with the non-profit as volunteers.
“It's a really, really great thing to be a part of, just because I have been looking for something to do that would help people,” Julia Mehlin, a Step By Step board member and volunteer, said.
She said giving back is an important part of her high school experience.
“I think it's so important for us to be involved, because a lot of us don't realize that we do have so much, and that there are people surrounding us that don't have as much as we have, but deserve the same,” Mehlin said.
In Waterbury, Step By Step is seen as a friend, especially to people like Joseph Wrigley.
“I met Mike and Matt at the food pantry on East Main, and he said if you ever need help, we're here to help you,” Wrigley said.
That meeting formed a life-changing friendship.
“He helped my family, my nieces, my nephews,” Wrigley said. “He got me a couple of jackets for me and my nephews. Sneakers. For my birthday he gave me a $25 gift card.”
It is why Keating feels passion for Step By Step’s mission.
“Everyone thinks they need to do something big to make a difference, but from bottles and cans, you know, we're able to make such a big difference. So it's the small things in life,” he said.
Small gestures, but the impact is huge.
“He’s been, to me, part of my family,” Wrigley said. “He’s like a brother to me. I have a lot of brothers, but he’s like a brother to me.”
The Step By Step Foundation is always looking for donations and volunteers.