A Son Shows His Gratitude

Jim Melillo and Stella Melillo

Jim Melillo has achieved the American dream. With hard-working, but far from wealthy parents as his role models, Jim has persevered in earning two Master’s degrees from Columbia University and has held positions as CFO and board chairman for several major companies.

For the past decade, Jim has been “speaking for a living” to executives around the world, and is now co-owner and director of Priam Vineyards, an award-winning Connecticut winery.

Jim has demonstrated that he knows something about smart decision-making, a skill that led him to make a generous five-year cash pledge to Braille Institute through a foundation named in memory of his parents, James and Stella — a gift of heart and mind alike.When macular degeneration began eroding his mother’s eyesight, it was Braille Institute that gave her life new purpose.

Our technology and computer classes enabled her to continue reading the newspaper, following the stock market, and paying bills. Discussion groups on current events and history fostered social interactions. She also participated in courses as diverse as cooking and exercise. “The breadth of the offerings gave her the ability to keep trying new things, while integrating with the community and gaining new skills,” Jim says.

When Stella died in 2013, Jim wanted to recognize Braille Institute’s impact on her final years. He enumerated four reasons behind his decision to make his five-year pledge. “First, my mother was a direct recipient of Braille Institute’s kindness and generosity. Second, more and more of our aging population will face a world with less eyesight, and Braille Institute provides the resources they need, completely free of charge.”

His third reason is the high-caliber professional staff at Braille Institute, which confirms that the organization is doing the right thing. Finally, he cites “the position Braille Institute occupies in our community, providing a wide range of services to people of all ages.”

As Jim avows, “Without Braille Institute’s help, the world would have been a difficult and lonely place for my mother.”