Mullen donates a car to shelter to help area homeless veterans

By Lynn R. Parks

The first car that Dr. Thomas Mullen purchased after setting up his oral surgery practice in Seaford was a cream-colored Mercedes sedan. "This was the car that took our family on vacation," said Mullen. "This was the car that we took to the grocery store, wherever we needed to go."

Mullen started his practice in 1979; the Mercedes was a 280 SE, 1980 model. It had a six-cylinder gasoline engine and brown leather interior.

In 1988, the car survived a devastating house fire in which Mullen's wife, Jill, and children, Erin and Thomas C., were killed. After that, Mullen gave the car to his sister, who lives in Connecticut. Several years later, when she decided that she wanted a different car that she could better handle in the snow, she gave it back.

And now, Mullen has donated the car to the Home of the Brave, a Milford-area shelter for homeless veterans. Brenda Sullivan, executive director of the shelter, plans to give it to one of the residents there.

"I am just so tickled that it is on the road, helping somebody," said Mullen. "It served me and my family so well and what better role is there for it to play than helping a vet, someone who fought to protect our freedoms and our way of life?" "This will turn the vet's life around," said Sullivan.

The veteran, who is 52 and who served during the Vietnam War era, has been at Home of the Brave for two months and has been unable to find a job in the Milford area. Sullivan declined to give his name.

"He has been working around our complex and has some money put away," she said. "With this car, he will be able to go anywhere to look for a job. This will open the door for him to employment, and from there to getting his own place and not having to depend on the shelter."

Mullen became acquainted with Home of the Brave through his business administrator, Ann Sammons. Sammons said that she first learned of the organization when she was trying to help two homeless women who were staying with her and her husband, Randy. Home of the Brave was able to assist the women because one of them was a veteran.

"The organization helps veterans get back on their feet," Sammons said. "It really is a wonderful asset to the community." Sammons said that the Mercedes, which has 133,385 miles on it and has been restored and repainted, has a book value of between $6,900 and $9,300. Before donating it, Mullen had it for sale for $4,000.

The car was kept at Mullen's practice and when employees there needed to run errands, they often used it, Sammons said. "It took speed bumps in our parking lot much better than modern cars take them," she said. "It didn't jolt you at all."

Mullen said that giving away the car is just part of donating to the community, something in which he strongly believes. And knowing that the car is being of service is much better than thinking of it going to a scrap yard or a used-car lot, he added.

Before handing the keys over to Sullivan last week, Mullen took the Mercedes for one last drive. From his office, he steered it down Jet Avenue and back to the office. Jet Avenue is a street that runs near his office; its name is derived from the initials of the first names of his wife and two children who died in the 1988 fire.

"I'm happy to know that the car still has a life and that it's helping somebody," Mullen said. "That's what Jill would want."

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