NEWPORT — While the works of service performed by the students and young adults of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Rhode Island’s Next Gen program may be known locally, the group of volunteers is about to receive national, and even global recognition of its efforts.
The Eternal Word Television Network will air the first of two segments featuring the Rhode Island chapter on Wednesday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m. In Rhode Island, EWTN is located on Cox channel 22 and Verizon FIOS channel 285.
The July 26 episode of EWTN’s “Our Faith in Action: Today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” will be the precursor to a season-long series scheduled for this fall that will air a longer segment which will again feature the Next Gen group.
The “Our Faith in Action” series will follow SVDP members from coast-to-coast on their spiritual growth journey through service to people and families in need. From the Society’s traditional home visits, food pantries and assistance with rent and utilities, to innovative health care, financial and mentoring programs, the Society’s Vincentians see the face of Christ in the people they encounter.
“It’s an honor for SVDP Rhode Island to be among the first local organizations profiled in the new EWTN series,” says SVDP Rhode Island Council President, Mark Gordon.
“Our 700 volunteer members and associates work very hard, often at significant personal cost, to bring material aid and the love of Christ to the needy in Rhode Island,” he added. “Through service and example, our youth group, SVDP Next Gen, is introducing the works of mercy to millennials in the state. I am grateful to EWTN for showcasing the amazing work being done by amazing people here in Rhode Island.”
SVDP Rhode Island is planning a viewing party for the opening night of the show on July 26 at the Vasco DaGama Portuguese Society Hall, 15 Fenner Avenue, Newport. Anyone wishing to join the group in celebrating its television debut is encouraged to purchase a $15 ticket to the event, which will include an Italian buffet dinner featuring salad, lasagna, bread and dessert, along with a cash bar, raffle and fellowship. Tickets may be purchased online at www.svdpri.org, or through their office by calling 401-490-0822 ext. 113. The deadline to purchase tickets is Monday, July 24.
Last August an EWTN crew came to Newport to film the Next Gen group as they distributed the “Necessities for Neighbors” toiletry bags they had prepared to assist patrons of the food pantry and soup kitchen at St. Joseph Church, which was marking the 100th anniversary of its affiliation with SVDP RI.
The network then filmed the group as they met later in the day at Jesus Savior Church for an inside look at the young Vincentians’ faith that inspires their heartfelt actions to serve others.
Trace Trylko, the first-ever executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Orlando, serves as the host for the series. A former TV news reporter and anchor in Florida and Alabama, Trylko interviewed the students and some of the clients served by their efforts through the St. Joseph Parish food pantry.
Renee Brissette, administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Society Rhode Island, has worked closely with the Next Gen group since its inception about two years ago when a number of local young Vincentians expressed a strong interest in taking a more active role in community service.
“They came to me and said ‘Why can’t we be the youth who do more than just move boxes?’” Brissette recalled of the moment that the group of young people who volunteered to help SVDP in its mission expressed an interest in serving as a catalyst for change in their communities.
From then on, the young people, who range in age from seventh-graders to college seniors, began meeting regularly with Brissette and planning service projects to help the less fortunate.
Securing a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, the Next Gen group a year ago purchased 5,000 drawstring bags and began collecting toiletry supplies through drives in local parishes.
On days such as this past Sunday, the group gathers at SVDP RI headquarters, a space currently rented from the St. Mark Parish Center in Cranston, to fill the toiletry bags and create cards with caring messages designed to bring hope to the homeless and less fortunate. Next Gen will distribute both the bags and cards in the coming weeks at parishes and soup kitchens across the diocese through their Necessities for Neighbors initiative.
“They want to grow this,” Brissette said. “Their goal is to get the word out so they can receive more support and more donations of toiletry and other supplies so that eventually they can make family boxes available and even some special boxes for homeless youth,” that would include books, toys and other items.
Next Gen will continue to distribute the bags to those in need at SVDP RI’s 19 food pantries and seven meal sites across the state.
“We’re running out of shirts and toilet paper,” Brendan Prestage, a rising junior at Bishop Hendricken who is one of the “pioneers” of Next Gen, said Sunday as the group worked with assembly line efficiency to fill several dozen bags for distribution in the near future.
During a break from his volunteer work Prestage said he and his peers were very excited to see the results of the filming that was done last summer.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what was done with it and how they explain it,” he says of Next Gen, a concept and name decided by the young people themselves.
“It’s great to see it go from a small group brainstorming to a full-scale operation,” he said.
Kat Brissette, a Next Gen member and rising senior in fine arts at Rhode Island College who uses her graphic talents to help promote the group, said she hopes that having the story of their volunteer work appear on a national and international stage will encourage more young people to give of themselves in service to others.
“I’m really excited. I think it’s great that someone is paying attention to the things that young people are doing. It’s really great that we have so many kids who want to come here and make a difference,” she said.
“I think it’s important that people are aware there are other young adults and youth who are looking to help people, and this may get more kids who want to help.”
For more information on ways to assist Next Gen in its mission by donating supplies or organizing drives in your parish or school, please visit