YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Four years ago, Paula Miritello narrowed the focus of her charity organization, My Brother Vinny, which now helps previously homeless military veterans sleep more comfortably at night.
Since June 23, 2013, she and her army of volunteers have filled 462 empty apartments with furniture and supplies. At a pace of more than 100 veterans assisted per year, the Yorktown native shows no signs of slowing down because, she said, there would be no organizations to fill the void.
“Nobody’s doing what we’re doing,” Miritello said. “I google it all the time. Like, [I search] is anyone doing this in Oklahoma? Nobody’s doing it.”
Miritello, who works full-time with the Department of Environmental Conservation, has received countless honors for her service. For example, the Yorktown Lions, the Yorktown Rotary and the Yorktown Elks Lodge have all, at some point, named Miritello their volunteer of the year.
State Sen. Terrence Murphy, a Yorktown resident, is the latest to recognize Miritello. The senator annually names “Women of Distinction” from each municipality in his Senate District. Miritello, however, was Murphy’s pick as a statewide Woman of Distinction. In May, he invited Miritello to join him in Albany, where she was honored at a ceremony.
“My Brother Vinny has done an incredible job in helping veterans restart their lives,” Murphy said in a press release. “There are men and women who fought for this country, left [Veterans Administration] hospitals or were discharged from the service and have found themselves without a bed to sleep in or pots to cook with until Paula came along. When it comes to giving, Paula is in a class by herself. She works full-time, then donates her time to bring furniture and supplies to veterans who may have little for themselves, other than an empty apartment. Her generosity has helped turn a lot of lives around.”
Miritello’s dedication is only one reason for her organization’s success. The kindness and humanity she shows the veterans she assists has resulted in those same veterans joining the My Brother Vinny cause, assisting Miritello on future furniture deliveries.
“I’m very appreciative of all the accolades, but the main part is the beauty of our work,” Miritello said.
The seeds of My Brother Vinny were planted in 2006, when she formed a team to walk in the first ever “Special Olympics Miles for Medals Walk.” The team was named for her younger brother Vincent, who had cerebral palsy and died on Oct. 25, 2000. In 2011, the walk was renamed the Vincent Miritello Special Olympics NY Miles for Medals Walk.
On top of donating to the Special Olympics, My Brother Vinny soon began raising money to assist veterans and animals. Eventually, Miritello said, she decided to narrow the focus of her organization to just veterans, even though she’s always had “an affinity for [people] with mental health issues.”
My Brother Vinny fills a void left by the federal government, social services and others. All of the veterans it assists come from many different branches of military service with varying degrees of disabilities and hardships.
“I feel fortunate to have the support of a dedicated group of volunteers who are always willing to go the extra mile so a vet can have a bed to sleep in or a lamp to read by,” Miritello said. “Seeing the smile on a vet’s face when our van pulls up makes it all worthwhile.”
Much of the furniture she and her crews deliver comes from hotels undergoing renovations or movie sets. All of the items donated to My Brother Vinny are in pristine condition and are stored in weatherproof units until they are ready to be delivered.
Last week, Miritello attended the 40th Senate District Women of Distinction awards ceremony in Mount Kisco, where 14 other women were recognized. Miritello was tasked with introducing three of the women.
As Miritello continues to assist veterans in need, the awards are likely to keep piling up. Miritello, though, is not about to rest on her laurels.
“I’m looking forward to the future of our work,” she said.