Johnston Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bernard DiLullo sat smiling at a conference room table inside the district’s central office, holding a letter-size envelope that was filled with a number of papers.
“There’s a lot of town-wide love here,” DiLullo offered as he removed one item from the envelope. “This is from one of our students.”
It was a handmade, four-sided folded card bearing the words: “Dear Fire Fighter; thank you for all you do.”
While DiLullo has seen quite a bit of support and plenty of generous acts of giving in years past, he was proud of – and admittedly overwhelmed by – what transpired during a recent dress-down day held to help Johnston firefighter Adam Barros and his family. They lost their Glocester home and all of their belongings during a fire two weeks ago. The family also lost their dog to the blaze.
The dress-down day, as DiLullo explained, included participation from each of Johnston’s public schools, the Early Childhood Center and staff at the central office.
“When someone’s facing adversity, Johnston always rises to help out,” the superintendent said. “I’ve seen that on a number occasions, this being the latest example.”
The dress-down day, DiLullo said, collected $2,400 that will be used to help Barros and his family.
“This was a great statement from our students, faculty, staff [and] the entire Johnston School Department,” DiLullo said. “We collected everything from money to gift cards to checks that were written on behalf of some students by their parents.”
One shining example, he said, came through two checks – each made out for $100 – from Costanini Transport, whose owner has a child in two different Johnston schools.
“Look at this,” DiLullo requested, as he removed gift cards to the Cheesecake Factory and Stop & Shop from an envelope. “As I said, this was an extraordinary statement of love and caring from the entire Johnston school community.”
Soon thereafter, DiLullo’s administrative assistant, Angela Brasil, told the superintendent that Barros had arrived.
DiLullo then greeted Barros, who immediately thanked DiLullo.
“My family and I really appreciate all your help,” he said.
Meanwhile, the superintendent introduced Barros to Barbara Beal, who works in the district’s business office.
“She organized a pot-luck lunch here at our central office for dress down day,” he told Barros.
When Barros was asked if he was overwhelmed, the veteran firefighter replied: “Yes, and now, in the face of tragedy, the transition has been easy because of the support, love, caring and generosity the people of Johnston have shown to my family and I.”
After Barros graciously accepted the envelope from DiLullo, he said: “I’m not usually on this end of a charity. I’m blessed to be in the situation we’re in … my family has some great friends.”
Those include members of Johnston IAFF Local 1950, with whom Barros has served since he joined the Johnston Fire Department 12 years ago.
Barros then told DiLullo and Beal how he turned down a part-time job with the Providence Fire Department to join the Johnston department. He said he will be forever thankful for making what has become a great decision for him and his family.