Person of the Week
Angelo Appi Ready to Lead a Team in Veterans Day Project on Nov. 13
Angelo Appi leads the largest team of volunteers in the Veterans Day Project, an event Paulette DeMaio organizes in which volunteers do fall cleanups for veterans. (Photo courtesy of Angelo Appi)
When Angelo Appi found out that volunteers were needed for The Veterans Day Project, he jumped at the opportunity. The event was started by Paulette DeMaio in 2014 with a goal of helping veterans in North Haven with fall yard cleanups.
Angelo first learned about the event from DeMaio’s husband as the pair attended school together. From the very first year, Angelo has been involved in the project and now, seven years later, he is a team leader, overseeing a large team of volunteers.
“I know a lot of people, I know how to network, and I like to give back and help the veterans, especially with this as many are limited in their capabilities of what they could do,” says Angelo. “My father is a Marine Corps veteran and retired from the New Haven Police Department and National Guard after serving 20 years.”
This year’s Veterans Day Project will be held on Saturday, Nov. 13, rain or shine. Volunteers will meet at the North Haven Green near the gazebo. The volunteers then head out with their team or are assigned a team if they don’t have one. Middle school and high school students can earn community service hours, though non-driving children should be accompanied by an adult.
“Anyone looking to volunteer or if you know veterans who need help, you can reach out,” says Angelo. “Just bring a rake or blower if you have one, meet up on the green, and be assigned to a team. It feels good to get out and help people.”
The Veterans Day Project has certainly helped many people over the years. When it first started, about a dozen volunteers cleaned up the yards at five houses. Now, just seven years later, there are more than 200 volunteers servicing nearly 40 homes.
“Over the years, as we got more overwhelmed with more properties, I started networking,” says Angelo, who owned a car detailing business in town for 19 years. “It’s grown so much and it’s a nice program. I don’t think she expected it to get this big.”
The volunteers include individual local residents, as well as groups from churches, boy scouts, girl scouts, sports teams, sororities and fraternities from Quinnipiac University, and more. There are also four local landscaping companies that volunteer their time and equipment for the day: Iovanna Property Maintenance, Meadow View Lawn Care, Town Line Lawn Care, and DiTullio Landscaping.
Angelo’s team includes about 60 people and will do fall clean-ups at 21 homes, traveling 20 miles throughout town, taking car of a half-million square feet of veterans’ property. He notes that “when we show up with about 30 cars, rakers, and blowers, it’s a pretty impressive scene.” With such a big team working on each property, Angelo’s team is usually done by 2 p.m.
Several people have been with Angelo’s team since the event began, including Dave Yaccarino, his daughter Gianna, and her friends Marchella Bailey and Alysa Carangelo. The latter trio has been a part of Angelo’s team since the beginning, starting when they were just 12 years old.
“They’re three good rakers,” says Angelo. “I’ve tried to teach my daughter what my parents and grandparents taught me: Respect your elders and these veterans fought for our country and they are why we have the freedoms we have today so we give back to them.”
This is not the only way that Angelo supports the community. Angelo holds a toy drive for WPLR, that has collected $30,000 in toy donations. It started 11 years ago when Angelo delivered one donated toy to Sports Haven. Now donations are not only dropped off at Angelo’s house, but he receives Amazon packages from people as well.
“It started with one toy and now we’re coming with 30-foot car trailers and a police escort,” says Angelo. “ The day after Thanksgiving, I start networking, then before you know it, I have stuff coming in all over.”
As part of Operation Homefront, Angelo collects toys and school supplies for Gold Star families. In the early days, Angelo first collected 50 backpacks, though his latest personal best is 300 backpacks.
For now, Angelo is looking forward to serving through the Veterans Day Project. This year he is looking forward to the event even more as they’ll again be able to interact with each other. Last year due to COVID, volunteers still participated in the cleanups, but could only see the veterans through the window, offering a wave or a salute.
Normally when the group visits, the veteran or their widow often comes out to visit. Over the years, Angelo has heard stories, seen pictures, and been shown Purple Hearts or other medals and one of Angelo’s favorite things about participating is the bond that he has formed with many veterans throughout town.
Now several of the veterans or the widows of veterans stay in touch throughout the year or call when they need a hand. Angelo has helped them with other needs such as having a driveway plowed in the winter or the need for a plumber.
“Seven years at the same home, you get to know people and it goes beyond leaves. Now, if they need something, they’ll reach out,” says Angelo. “I’ve become friends with many of them, they invite me over for coffee, or we have phone calls. If we do something for them, they think they owe us, but we owe them. Giving back to them feels good and is very rewarding. They think they owe us for what we do, but we’re saying, ‘Thank you.’”
For information, see “The Veterans Day Project” on Facebook or contact Paulette DeMaio at 203-824-6707 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .