Bullying experience leads Hemingway teen to give back
HEMINGWAY, S.C. – In May 2017, Domenico Pugliese was beaten with a metal dog chain by another child while attending Hemingway M.B. Lee Middle School. Pugliese was in the sixth grade at the time and said he was beaten 18 times because of the color of his skin.
“And I didn’t go back until the next year and I got enough courage to go back,” Domenico said. “And then I got threatened with a nine-millimeter. So then I didn’t go back. I don’t know if I’m ever going back. I don’t feel comfortable.”
Domenico , 14, is now enrolled at the Cyber Academy of South Carolina, an online public charter school. Being able to take all of his classes online has given him the opportunity to volunteer several hours a week at the Caring & Sharing Food Pantry in Hemingway.
Volunteering has given Pugliese the opportunity to help many of the children who bullied him while he attended the public schools in Hemingway.
Caring & Sharing is a nonprofit organization that provides food, medicine, utilities and other services to more than 800 families per week in Williamsburg, Georgetown and Florence counties. During abnormal circumstances, the organization serves beyond those areas.
“Last year, I was able to do all my classes. And I would sit here (in the Caring & Sharing warehouse) with a little portable hot spot, and I would sit here and do my schoolwork,” Domenico said. “I would eat something while I was doing my schoolwork, because that was kind of my lunch break. And then I would go back to working.”
At Caring & Sharing, Pugliese packs boxes, moves pallets, helps with restocking and whatever else he can do. He said he is devoted to Caring & Sharing.
“My plan is to run this one day and then put more out there. Expand,” Domenico said while sitting in the organization’s warehouse.
He has volunteered at Caring & Sharing for a little more than a year.
“What made me want to get involved is one day we (his family) came in here,” Domenico said. “We’ve been here multiple times, but we came in here one time and I wanted to repay. So I came here and started working here, and God called me here. And I also came here because it made me feel strong. And I feel like everybody’s family here.”
Some of the children who bullied Domenico go to Caring & Sharing with their families to receive boxes of food and other assistance.
“It makes me feel good that I’m serving them, because I know that I’m helping them,” Domenico said. “I know at the same time I’m learning why they did it (bullied him), too. I think the reason behind it is that they didn’t feel good about themselves, so they turn on other people like me.”
While Domenico packs food boxes, loads vehicles and other tasks, he wears a black leather vest covered in military patches. He is passionate about ensuring that veterans get the recognition they deserve.
The Pugliese family created the vest Domenico wears for an Army veteran, Joseph Louise Fazio, of California. Fazio became part of the Pugliese family over the years. He died of shrapnel before the family could give him the vest.
Domenico ’s mother, Jessica Pugliese, said Fazio was a Huey helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
“He was shot down four times,” Jessica Pugliese said about Fazio. “And he had shrapnel all in him that they couldn’t get out. And he had PTSD and all the common things that come with being in war.”
Domenico grew close to Fazio and learned lots of stories about his military service. The vest includes Fazio’s call number, a Huey helicopter patch and several other patches that local veterans have given Domenico over the years.
Although he does not know if Nikki Haley still has the power, Domenico said his plan was to write a letter to the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to see if she could assist with getting the names of Vietnam veterans who died as a result of the war, years later, up on a wall.
Jessica Pugliese said she is proud of her son for the work her does at Caring & Sharing and for helping and honoring veterans.
“That kid will work nonstop without a break, unless it’s for school or beef jerky,” Jessica Pugliese said.
Carl Harmon has operated Caring & Sharing for 21½ years. He said Domenico is a fast learner and has volunteered at the organization long enough that he can do anything he asks him to do.
“The Lord has blessed us,” Harmon said. “He’s got a way of doing things. He ( Domenico ) crossed our path when we needed help, they needed help, and that’s a wonderful combination when those two cross and can help each other, because that’s what it’s all about; helping each other.”