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Vinnie Borzillo, known as “Mr. Vinnie” to the students at Momauguin Elementary School where he serves as custodian, loves his job and giving back to the community. (Photo courtesy of Vinnie Borzillo )
Vinnie Borzillo had worked as a substitute custodian a few years back and when a full-time custodian retired from Momauguin Elementary School, he jumped at the opportunity. He enjoyed the atmosphere and interacting with the staff and students, who affectionately call him “Mr. Vinnie.”
“I felt at home here right away and love my job because it’s fun being around the kids and the staff,” says Vinnie. “Everybody here is so focused on the kids with fun and learning and they include me in a lot of things.”
Vinnie notes that the principal is sure to include him in school-wide events such as assemblies and he has nominated kids for student of the month when he sees positive behavior demonstrated. He has also learned to expect a surprise when he’s called by the gym teacher as the students are often waiting to attack with dodgeballs.
The students and the community have made such an impact on Vinnie that when he hears of a student in need, he has been quick to find a way to help. In 2019, Trenton O’Brien, a student at Momauguin, was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, an aggressive and fatal brain tumor.
Vinnie reached out to his longtime friend, Ricky Signor, who owns Fat Man Inc. Clothing in Derby, with an idea for a T-shirt fundraiser. Signor was on board and Vinnie ran a fundraiser for the O’Brien family selling “Hope for Trenton” T-shirts, raising hundreds of dollars for the family before the boy passed in January 2020.
“Ricky’s a great guy with kids of his own and it was about feeling what the family is feeling and wanting to do something to help,” says Vinnie. “It was a perfect thing to do with [Signor] with his business. Any time I need a hand, he’s there. It’s about the gratification and knowing you can do something to help and I wanted to find a way to help the family alleviate stress and financial burden.”
Early on in the pandemic, Vinnie saw the financial impact that COVID was having on the community. Vinnie again teamed up with Signor, this time for a fundraiser for the East Haven Food Pantry, creating “East Haven Strong” T-shirts and lawn signs.
As the 2019-’20 school year progressed and students remained in a remote learning environment, Laura Lynn, principal of the middle school, was looking for ways to celebrate the 8th-grade graduates. Vinnie heard about the idea, again working with Signor, as well as others.
“I got Joe Zullo and Paul Cicarella to pitch in and we donated signs to help them,” says Vinnie. “I’m an East Havener and like to do what I can to help the community. With COVID and being a father, I know how tough it can be for families so I try to do what I can to help.”
Because of COVID, Vinnie’s job has changed in more ways than one. He can no longer high five the students in the hallways, but he’s still sure to wave or call a greetings.
He and the custodial staff throughout all of East Haven Public Schools have had added duties, including longer hours.
“Most nights we are here until 9. We wipe every chair, every desk, every counter, every handle, and every high-touch surface and spray every room,” says Vinnie. “We are doing what we can to help the superintendent keep us in school and keep kids safe. Sometimes my kids are sleeping when I get home, but this is something that needs to be done to keep things running smoothly and safely.”
Even with the added duties, Vinnie and the others on the custodial, maintenance, and security staffs wanted to do more. The group worked together to donate Thanksgiving meals to families in need in the district.
Vinnie is grateful for the support of his wife, Erica, who has been “a trooper” with Vinnie’s extra hours. Erica is able to work from home three days a week, which allows her a flexible schedule with their five children, Gianna, Allie, Natalia, Vinnie Jr., and Madalena.
“My wife has been 100 percent supportive and it makes me feel good that she understands it’s part of my job,” says Vinnie. “It’s something that wasn’t expected to happen, but she supports me and has been amazing with everything she has to do at home.
“I’m really hoping everything ends and we can go back to normal as soon as possible,” he adds. “The kids aren’t getting the same experience as usual and on a personal level, I haven’t seen my 98-year-old grandmother in months and miss family functions.”
Vinnie has lived in East Haven since 1996. He grew up in New Haven where he went to school when he was young before attending high school in East Haven, graduating in 1999.
Since moving to town, he has seen the way the community comes together when others are in need. From the time he and Erica moved into their home across the street from Tuttle School, he has experienced the kindness from neighbors.
He has not only seen the community come together to support the fundraisers he has run, but any time there is a need, most recently noting how many people helped the victims of a fire at the condominiums.
“I’ve always loved this town and our neighbors are the nicest people and welcomed us when we moved in,” says Vinnie. “When anything happens, people get together and want to help. They want to lift everybody up and I’m the same kind of person. I love being in my school, I love my community, and I want to do everything I can to help my community, whether in or out of school.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .