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Mel Accetta Smashes Fundraising Goal

Melvin “Mel” Accetta may have exceeded his goal of $7,500 to help build wells in Africa, but he’s still ambitious. His message for potential donors? “It’s not too late, people!” Mel, a resident of the Brooklyn Street neighborhood in North Adams, has so far raised $9,280 for the Sheltering Wings Clean Water Fund. 

The money raised is not only funding the drilling of a new well, but also the refurbishing of two broken well pumps. “Many will rejoice because his determination and compassion will bring water to hundreds of thirsty people,” says Sister Linda Wilk, an Adams resident who taught in Dalton for 30 plus years, before becoming a missionary. 

Sister Linda and Mel connected through a bit of serendipity. As Mary Lou Accetta, Mel’s mother, tells it, Sister Linda reached out to Mel upon reading about the Brooklyn Street community in Dennis G. Pregent’s Born in the Berkshires book. Sister Linda is also featured in the book, which highlights intriguing local personalities in the area. Mary Lou and Mel were reading Sister Linda’s chapter in the book the very day she reached out. A friendship over email between Mel and Sister Linda flourished, and it was from there that Mel was inspired to make sure children in West Africa had access to water. 

“One morning he said {Sister Linda’s}  kids {in West Africa, where she was undertaking missionary work} don’t have water. He went over to the sink, and said ‘We need to get them water,’”  Mary Lou says. “I can’t believe in coincidences. It wasn't a coincidence that she sent him that email the day we were reading about her. To me, that’s pretty remarkable.” In addition to inspiring Mel’s charitable drive, Sister Linda has supported his fundraising efforts throughout the process.

Mary Lou adopted Mel through foster care when he was 11. “I say I chose him, he says he chose me—the truth is, we chose each other,” she says. The two initially lived in Syracuse, New York, before settling permanently in the Brooklyn Street neighborhood. 

Mel has autism, and is quick to point out that that is not the most important thing about him. He shares a home with his shared living caregiver, Eric Lincourt, with Mary Lou close by in her own residence. Mel is a well-known fixture in North Adams and his Brooklyn street community, volunteering at a free lunch program at a local church, picking up litter locally, bringing neighbors’ trash to the dump, and watching the trains at local stations. 

When the Covid19 pandemic hit, Mel was left unable to keep up his normal community contributions which Mary Lou says put him in a serious funk. Instead of giving in, he spearheaded an international project that has to this point far exceeded his expectations. Mel’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: he has gotten so many letters praising his efforts, Mary Lou plans on putting all of them into a book for posterity. To all his supporters, Mel says: “We {did} it, and I say thank you, peoples!”  

Mary Lou isn’t surprised by Mel’s success, having observed his earnest desire to help others from a young age. “Mel’s background {previous to adoption} isn’t the greatest,” Mary Lou says. “He’s always done best  when he knows he’s genuinely helping someone else.”

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