Seton Hall alumna Kerry McCann ’18 said she helps run the nonprofit organization, “Coats from Cullen,” to honor her late brother’s humanitarian efforts.
McCann said that the main purpose of “Coats from Cullen” is to provide warm clothing to those in need. She said that it was something her brother, Cullen, often did on his own when living in both New York City and Aspen, Colorado.
McCann described her brother as having deep empathy for the homeless.
She said he would take his own clothing or shoes off to give to them, bring food to them and even stop to have a conversation with people in his neighborhood. She also said that serving food at local soup kitchens in Newark had become a regular activity before holiday gatherings for their family.
McCann added that Cullen had also created paintings to express how deeply he was moved by homelessness. She described him as a lover of nature, community and service.
She even shared Cullen’s impact on raising her son, especially when he was just 14 years old.
“Helping teach my son life lessons was important, and he did so through modeling positivity,” McCann said. “Despite having his share of life difficulties, he always believed in the best in people and that life was truly good.”
Cullen, 41, died the day before Thanksgiving in 2018. McCann said that the idea of creating a nonprofit was sparked through conversation between McCann’s sister, Desireé D’Antonio, and one of Cullen’s best friends. She said they wanted to carry on his message of helping others and paying good fortune forward.
McCann said that as a family, they worked to make the organization happen, even receiving support from her cousin Michael McCann ‘90 in Florida.
She said she keeps her brother’s efforts going by working behind-the-scenes due to her busy schedule working three jobs. This involves promoting the organization, seeking donations, collecting coats and clothing and developing collaborations with agencies McCann explained.
McCann added that her 5-year-old nephew and 1-year-old niece learn about giving from their uncle, even though it is done so posthumously.
“It is incredible to see my brother’s name on each coat we donate and the smiles or letters my sister shares on the organization Facebook or Instagram pages,” McCann said. “We hope to continue building this organization and continue getting support from the communities we are helping to serve.”
“When you lose someone so incredibly special you try your best to keep a part of them alive with you,” D’Antonio said. “When Cullen passed, the calls kept coming in, and in every one of them, his kind and giving spirit came up. Cullen treated friends and strangers alike; with an open heart and open mind.
“What better way to remember someone we love then by continuing in their kind and giving spirit,” D’Antonio continued. “I always wanted to be more like my brother. I am honored that he has left this legacy for us to all follow.”
McCann said that any help is warmly welcomed. She said she encourages donations of coats, warm clothing and shoes, as well as monetary donations to help alleviate the cost of cleaning all items before distribution and to store items throughout the warmer months.
In addition, the organization is collecting prom dresses for prom season for less fortunate young ladies to participate in prom and have the opportunity to feel beautiful.
Michelle Peterson, the director of the Division of Volunteer Efforts, said via email, “Kerry was an active volunteer during her time as a student and has kept in touch since. We would welcome any opportunity to partner with her and to honor her brother’s memory.”
“Coats from Cullen” can be found on Facebook and Instagram, both at @coatsfromcullen.
Kristel Domingo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.