YORKTOWN, N.Y. – My Brother Vinny is a Yorktown charity that in six years has touched many lives, providing housewares and furniture to hundreds of once-homeless veterans. Still, despite the breathtaking pace of its assistance, the all-volunteer nonprofit sometimes finds itself with more donated items on hand than it can immediately give away.
That’s where Yorktown Self Storage comes in.
Paula Miritello, the charity’s founder and indispensable sparkplug, rented her first storage unit in 2013.
Then came her second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th units, making My Brother Vinny the storage company’s largest client.
But to the people who work in the sprawling Lexington Avenue facility, particularly its manager, My Brother Vinny has become so much more than a client.
“It’s a family thing,” said Brian Bonifacio, who has worked at Yorktown Self Storage for about 15 years.
Miritello has developed such a fondness for the storage company that she sought to rent an additional unit to use as her office. Instead, Bonifacio intervened, finding her a large space in the main building for My Brother Vinny.
“It’s her headquarters now,” Bonifacio said.
Bonifacio and his sister, Dina, have become active volunteers with My Brother Vinny, joining Miritello on veteran “moves” in Westchester and New York City. Since 2013 it has helped almost 800 ex-servicemen and -women obtain some of the essentials for living.
“She gets a lot of the furniture donated from hotels, residential donations,” Bonifacio said. “When we go out with the vets, most of them are in a dwelling with no bedding, no furniture, no nothing. We just help them get their feet on the ground and get going.”
The connection between Bonifacio and My Brother Vinny is a natural one, given that his father, Robert, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His dad was also a motorcycle cop on U.S. Route 1 in New York.
“We do what we can to help her,” Bonifacio said of Miritello. “She’s been an inspiration for us in helping others. It’s just an amazing organization to be affiliated with.”
In his spare time, Bonifacio enjoys Lego building. As a way to combine his work, his hobby and his volunteer work, Bonifacio constructed a Lego village in the main office of Yorktown Self Storage. He named the miniature community Robertville, in memory of his father, who died last July. In Bonifacio’s Lego version, his dad is chief of the Robertville Police Department.
“Even when I was a kid, [my dad] was a proponent and supporter of my working with the Legos,” Bonifacio said. “A couple of years ago, I got back into it. It’s very therapeutic. I created a little village and, being that he was a supporter, I named it after him.”
And Miritello, whose full-time job is with New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, named her veterans’ lifeline My Brother Vinny after her younger sibling. Afflicted from birth with Cerebral Palsy, Vincent Miritello was 20 when he died in 2000.
Like Yorktown, Robertville runs on its volunteers. The Lego village shows Miritello and her My Brother Vinny helpers delivering furniture to a veteran.
“I have a beautiful display, customers love coming in to see it, they bring their grandkids, they bring their friends,” he said. “When Paula comes in with veterans or volunteers, the first thing they do is check out the Legos.”
Bonifacio, a Walter Panas High School graduate who now lives in Garrison, also volunteers his time with Scouts BSA and Toys for Tots. Yorktown Self Storage, which is part of the Westchester Self Storage Group, said Bonifacio’s Lego creations have become “a staple of our facility.”
“We encourage all our associates to be outstanding patrons to society in their local community,” the company said. “Brian is a prime example of this. His actions speak louder than words.”
In addition to filling the 13 storage units and working in her office space, Miritello parks a My Brother Vinny trailer at Yorktown Self Storage. The company also accepts deliveries of donations on behalf of Miritello when she is not there.
Said Miritello of Bonifacio, “He just automatically embraced us and became a part of our family. My Brother Vinny thrives because of our relationship with Yorktown Self Storage. He’s just part of our family.”