By SHERIDAN ROY
The Southington-Cheshire YMCA celebrated the work of several members of the community who have made their marks as small-town-heroes during their annual meeting on Feb. 6 at the Aqua Turf.
The face of the Southington Veterans Committee, John DeMello Sr., was honored as the YMCA’s Person of the Year for his outstanding service to the veterans of Southington. The committee helps connect veterans and their families to valuable resources and benefits that they have earned through service.
“Your impact on the community, specifically with regard to our veterans, is simply amazing,” said SCCYMCA board of directors member Paul Bedard. “Tonight, John is being honored for his work on behalf of those who have, and are currently, serving our country. John doesn’t just serve—he serves with heart.”
The veterans committee through DeMello has connected veterans to reemployment, education, rehabilitation and adjustment to peacetime living. He has been involved in educating veterans about tax relief, and works to obtain metals for veterans and their families. DeMello has been at the heart of many donation drives, he brought the “wreaths across America” program and quilts of valor to Southington, worked on two House of Heroes homes, and much more.
“If there is a local initiative that involves veterans, John is likely involved at some level,” said Bedard.
DeMello accepted a proclamation from the Town of Southington, along with his award from the YMCA. The veteran advocate thanked his wife, son, and all of his fellow members on the committee.
“Stuff doesn’t happen because of me. It happens because of us,” said DeMello. “We work together. I cannot take the full honors, for there are so many people who give me the drive to work within this community.”
The SCCYMCA also presented awards for youth leadership to Sarah McAuliffe and Caitlin Mulligan; youth development awards for high school programs Best Buddies, Unified Theater and Unified Sports; a healthy living leadership award to the Common Good Garden; and a social responsibility for the Southington community award to Fancy Bagels.
McAuliffe, a junior at St. Paul Catholic High School, said volunteering is a part of who she is, and thanked her parents for instilling in her the ideals of being a part of her community. She has served in many roles already as a member of the government prevention program against substance abuse through the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success, a volunteer for Race for Chase, a Camp Sloper employee, a director of Flanders Elementary drama club, and the Bread for Life “kids who care” organization.
“The YMCA has always been a large part of my life,” she said. “It has given me a place to grow and connect and be part of opportunities I’ve never dreamed of.”
To learn more or to get involved at the SCCYMCA, visit sccymca.org.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by SHERIDAN ROY