Vietnam War veteran gets unexpected help from Berwyn community after calling crisis hotline

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Vietnam War veteran got help from an unexpected source when he needed it the most.

With little more than the clothes on his back, James Nicoletti called a hotline for help after moving back to his hometown in suburban Berwyn last week.

Police officers in Berwyn responded to his call, which started a series events that have changed his life.

"I had a hundred dollars in my hand when I arrived here in Chicago," said Nicoletti, a U.S. Army vet.

He hadn't eaten for days and was trying his best to hold on to the last bit of cash he had.

"I had to sleep in a bathtub. That's where I slept," he said. "I put blankets there on the bottom so I don't get cold."

He said his life was going down the drain, and that's when he decided to call a veteran crisis hotline looking for help.

"I thought, 'It's over. You know what? They're going to put me away,'" Nicoletti said to himself when Berwyn police officers showed up at this door.

That fear was quickly replaced by hope after responding Officer Ed Tovar and his colleagues embraced the veteran. They pooled together their own money to get Nicoletti a few groceries and toiletries.

But their generosity didn't stop there.

"It just didn't sit right with me, so I went home and gathered some toiletries and some other items that I wasn't using, gave them to Mr. Nicoletti," Officer Tover said. "And that's when I decided to start a Facebook campaign."

Two weeks later, that campaign drew hundreds of dollars in donations from the Berwyn community and all over the country.

On Thursday, those donations were formally presented to the 66-year-old veteran, as Berwyn police officers and firefighters carted them up to Nicoletti's once empty apartment.

The sight brought tears to the eyes of a man who once fought for our country.

Nicoletti said he no longer feels alone.

"These gentlemen helped. They gave more in an hour than Hines gave in 15 years, 26 years of my life," Nicoletti said.

He now calls these officers and firefighters, and all who helped, part of his new family.

"All I know is mom and dad, you're looking at this and see this. They came to take care of your son, not to hurt me no more," Nicoletti said. "They came to take care of me."

In addition to all the donations, the nonprofit group Home-To-Home is expected to fill Mr. Nicoletti's apartment with all brand new furniture on Sunday.
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