Bobcats help spread the love with Hamden Senior Holiday Gift Run

December 11, 2023

A senior citizen takes a selfie with another partygoer

Providing gifts of warmth, Quinnipiac joined the Hamden community in the spirit of the season for the Hamden Senior Holiday Gift Run and luncheon.

A collaboration between Quinnipiac, the Hamden Chamber of Commerce Health & Wellness Council and the Town of Hamden, the effort brings joy and provides community to 100 local senior citizens each year.

“It’s a great way for us to live out the third pillar of Quinnipiac’s strategic plan, which is nurturing internal and external communities,” said Bethany Zemba, vice president of strategy and community relations and chief of staff.

Weeks in advance, Quinnipiac students joined a community-wide collection effort to gather hundreds of useful items, snacks, games and winter sundries for the seniors. Quinnipiac also contributed the event’s collection boxes for organizations throughout Hamden. All gifts gathered across the community were used to stock 100 holiday gift bags filled by the Quinnipiac University events team.

“The seniors’ holiday gift bags also included some special items from the Bobcat family,” said Zemba. “This year, we were able to donate Quinnipiac ‘Q’ hats and gloves to spread the love of the Bobcats to the community, and to keep our seniors warm in Hamden.”

Karla Natale, associate vice president for university events and community partnerships, represents Quinnipiac on the Health & Wellness Council.  

“This is a collaboration we look forward to every year, and it’s an event the seniors look forward to attending every year,” said Natale.

In addition to Zemba, Natale and five Quinnipiac event staff “elves” helped serve 100 Hamden seniors a festive holiday luncheon and distribute the gift bags on December 8 at Hamden’s Thornton Wilder Hall.

Hamden Senior Services coordinator Kim Craft welcomed Quinnipiac’s volunteers among those staffing the huge event. Craft said the Senior Holiday Gift Run may provide the only holiday gifts some seniors will receive, and the luncheon may be the only holiday gathering some seniors will experience. 

“Especially after COVID, it’s been so important for them to bond and see each other and reconnect with their friends,” said Craft. “Many of our seniors live independently, so this sense of community for them is invaluable.”  

Hamden senior citizen Paul Schmermond was enjoying the camaraderie of the holiday luncheon a week before his birthday, when he will turn 83.   

“I live alone, so it’s nice to get out with other people to have a nice meal,” said Schmermond. 

Husband and wife Darin and Amy Lee said they enjoy participating in Hamden’s senior community events and always look forward to attending the holiday luncheon.

"We go every year, and our favorite part is everything - everybody here, the music, the food, everything,” said Amy Lee. 

Hamden's Anna Mulvey, 95, said one of the best parts of the luncheon is singing along to the live musical entertainment with her friends. In addition to being treasured by her Hamden community for her philanthropic support of police, fire and senior services, Mulvey and her late husband, Joseph, also give back to Quinnipiac through scholarships established in their names.

“I love coming to this every year. It’s a special event,” said Mulvey.  

Chamber president Nancy Dudchik said the Senior Holiday Gift Run and luncheon is the biggest event organized by the chamber’s Health & Wellness Council, in coordination with Hamden Senior Services. Dudchik said Quinnipiac always plays a significant supporting role in chamber events, including this one. 

“Quinnipiac is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and Karla Natale is one of my great liaisons. They have an affinity for the seniors. They have a love for the seniors,” said Dudchik. 

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett said Quinnipiac’s community presence and participation is always appreciated. 

“I think Quinnipiac does a really great job of trying to reach all the different populations in Hamden, and this is an important one to us. The senior citizens love this event, and they love getting together, and so it’s really great that the town is able to put this on for the seniors. And the partnerships that we have, especially with Quinnipiac, are invaluable to us,” said Garrett.  

Hamden Fire Chief Jeffrey Naples said Quinnipiac’s support of the Hamden community extends to many areas.  

“Quinnipiac University is just such a huge partner here, with not just us as a fire service and fire department, but also here at an event like today’s,” said Naples. “It’s wonderful to see them out within our community to give back. These are the partnerships that we look to continue to build. The entire Quinnipiac staff and faculty has been wonderful with all of these events, and we couldn’t thank them enough.”  

Helping to deliver the annual Hamden Senior Holiday Gift Run and luncheon is one of many collaborations supporting Quinnipiac’s important connection with the Town of Hamden, said Zemba.  

“It’s a really nice collaboration between the university and the leadership of the town, the senior center, and the Chamber. It’s great opportunity for us to come together to support community members,” Zemba said. 

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