Most of us probably don’t give a second thought to sitting down at our kitchen table or plopping down on our sofa, but for some, that is not routine. John Michael Stagliano had just finished furnishing an apartment in Goose Creek, South Carolina, in 2021 for a veteran through his nonprofit, Home Again, when the veteran texted to thank him. “You saved my life tonight,” he wrote.

“They were perhaps the most powerful words I have ever read,” says Stagliano. “It turns out, his depression had been overwhelming; he believed he was forgotten in this world. He was ready to end his life that very day. An empty apartment was a metaphor for his life. Maybe it was the furniture, or perhaps it was knowing there were people who cared that made the difference that day.

“I see the world through a different prism now,” he adds. “I never knew the impact that a simple couch or kitchen table could have. Furniture can restore the dignity of a family.”

Recalling the story brings a big smile to Stagliano’s face. That’s because this first-year computer science major derives joy from helping others – something he’s been doing for most of his young life. If his last name seems familiar, there’s a chance you’ve read about his sister, Katie Stagliano ’20, the founder of Katie’s Krops. That nonprofit grows vegetables and fruit all around the country as a means of assisting people struggling with hunger. And Stagliano credits his sister with inspiring him toward a path of service, which began at the age of 4.

“She has been a wonderful role model for me,” he says. “And not just in service. It was her time at the College – she graduated in three years – that convinced me to enroll here as well.”

When he’s not in class or studying, Stagliano is managing the myriad duties required to run the nonprofit organization he established in his hometown of Summerville, South Carolina, at the age of 12. With donations and a cadre of volunteers, Home Again assists individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness by providing them with furnishings and housewares for their new places – nearly 600 people now.

But he doesn’t just help people get settled in their new homes. Over the past six years, he’s helped a new women’s shelter open by providing all the mattresses and bedding required. He’s prepared more than 1,000 meals for men at a local homeless shelter. He’s engaged more than 80 local youngsters in service.

“I grew up in a home where service to others was always a part of our lives,” explains Stagliano. “And I give Katie a lot of the credit for that. It was because of her and the amazing support of our parents that I started making meals at our local homeless shelter, which ultimately led to starting Home Again.”

Ten years later, the effect on him has been profound. 

“With every move-in, I have changed,” he says. “I’ve found self-confidence and a realization that we all need to know that someone cares. For people who have lived in their cars, in and out of shelters, in tents in the woods, to be home again is a triumph, a sense of peace and something to be celebrated.”

Featured image by Catie Cleveland