A Mission of the Heart: Southington Vet Looking to Make National Impact

For Southington resident and retired Cheshire officer John DeMello, retirement has offered more opportunity to provide help for veterans in need.

Credit: Submitted.
Credit: Submitted.
The following was published by E. Richard Fortunato in his blog, "Southington Heartbeat" featuring good news efforts throughout the community.

In late December, just before the Christmas holiday, DeMello and his wife left for Washington, D.C. They were going to celebrate Christmas with their son, John DeMello Jr. who is an Air Force Captain stationed at the Pentagon, and his fiancée, Nikki.

But John DeMello Sr. and his wife, Jin DeMello, also had another mission in mind. On past visits to D.C., they had seen many veterans living in clusters on the streets of Washington. 

With a note of sadness and hope in his mind's eye, DeMello told his friends at the American Legion about the homeless vets in our nation’s capital. They encouraged and helped John reach out within the community of Southington for support of a collection of donated new or clean used clothing.

"Seeing homeless Americans in the parks and streets of Washington, is as sad as it gets", John said. 

Since his retirement as a police officer in Cheshire, John DeMello Sr. puts a lot of time and energy into helping his community. He is a veteran of the time of the Vietnam War and a member of the American Legion, Kiltonic Post 72 in Southington, where he is always ready to help veterans in need and those actively serving in the armed forces defending freedom and our country's interests. He often initiates missions of good will, faith and mercy with his wife, Jin, joining in many of his efforts.  

Janet Mellon, Executive Director of Southington Community Services, got wind of DeMello’s project and her team responded immediately with bags of winter clothing donated by the people of Southington for the homeless and threadbare.

With astonishing speed, the generosity of the people of Southington abounded with donated blankets, gloves, coats, gloves, scarves, hats and warm socks and more. Energized by the community's spirit of giving, John and Jin DeMello laboriously sorted and packed large bags of clothing in their home and garage, loading it all into their pickup for the trip to Washington.

On Christmas Day, we received an email from DeMello: “Today was a great day for us, very humbling. Jin and I met so many homeless veterans and other homeless individuals. We don't know how lucky we are. I met a homeless vet named Harrison, he did not want anything. He said his hope is just to be out of the homeless shelter one day and once again lead a productive life. What an outstanding person who you could quickly see was intelligent. Though he had clearly had his share of pain in life, he did not talk about it in specifics.”

“It was deeply moving...sad...to see homeless men and women living in the parks, sleeping on the grass with no place to go but a shelter for the homeless," DeMello said. "The shelters allow individuals to come in at 7 p.m. but they have to be out at 7 a.m.”

“My wife and I are grateful to the American Legion Post#72, Southington Community Services, Janet Mellon, and so many great people of Southington that made this Christmas special for the homeless vets in D.C. None of this would have transpired were it not for all of you. God Bless you all.” 

On his return to Southington, DeMello told me much more about the experience. He could not get the scene out of his mind of the homeless people surrounding the pickup truck for anything that might help them keep warm: a blanket, a hat, a pair of gloves.

Jin DeMello was standing in the truck dispensing clothing as fast as she could to meet the outstretched hands and then began throwing some items out beyond the immediate human circle surrounding the truck to reach others while John DeMello moved among them handing clothing to all he could reach to be sure everyone got something. 

As the crowd grew, John saw a truck parking just in front of theirs on the street. It was a truck with volunteers handing out hot cups of soup to the cold and hungry, many of them clutching their new Christmas gifts of clothing.

When asked about the experience, DeMello thought a while before saying he remembers standing there, wondering how the people of Southington who had gathered and donated these articles of winter clothing would react to the scene - a sea of humans, many of whom have served our country, with outstretched hands, clinging to the hope of a gift of mercy to help them stave off the pain of the bitter cold.

Many of us have been spared the sight of these everyday situations of human suffering. Be sure to view some of the accompanying photos.

For E. Richard Fortunato's original post, click the link provided. Have a story of your own? Simply sign up to blog and post it today!

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