Delivering happy holidays for Hamden’s seniors

December 03, 2021

Ellie Cavallaro drops off gift donations

Quinnipiac, the Hamden Senior Center and the Hamden Chamber of Commerce are coming together to shine light on the holiday season after a particularly difficult year for members of Hamden’s senior community.

In what has become a beloved, decades-long tradition, the three organizations are collecting essential items for the town’s elderly community. For some of the recipients, the gifts will be the only ones they receive this holiday season.

“Nurturing and giving back to the community is a core value of our strategic goals,” said Bethany Zemba, vice president for strategy and community relations.

The items will be given to Hamden senior citizens at an event later this month.

“It’s something they look forward to every year,” said Suzanne Burbage, director of elderly services at the Hamden Senior Center. “It’s our little way of giving them a little holiday light in their lives.”

Each year, more than 100 senior citizens receive a gift through the initiative.

“It continues to grow in terms of the greater community and businesses that are either willing to host a donation box or provide a donation,” said Karla Natale, associate vice president for community partnerships at Quinnipiac.

After all donations are collected, the seniors will receive their gifts at a festive event.

“Like last year because of COVID-19, we are hosting a drive-through event where senior citizens will be able to drive through the senior center parking lot to pick up a gift bag and visit with Santa and his elves."

For Natale, the event is one of the numerous opportunities Quinnipiac is able to give back to the town it has called home for more than a half century.

“We are delighted to be able to provide some holiday cheer for senior citizens as they celebrate the season — and remind them that they are not alone,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging to many senior citizens who have felt isolated or vulnerable, Burbage said.

“We have become their second home, their home away from home,” she said of the senior center. “The elderly population was hit hardest throughout the pandemic — and continues to be.”

Many of the town’s older residents are battling chronic health conditions, which puts them at increased risk from COVID-19, making it more difficult to connect with their loved ones.

“This initiative truly recognizes and embraces our senior population and gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling in their hearts,” Burbage said. “It’s something they have been asking about, making sure we would do it again.”

She said she is grateful for the immense outpouring of support from throughout the community for the Holiday Gift Run — and knows the senior citizens are, as well.

“We would not be able to do this without Quinnipiac students and employees helping,” Burbage said.

Members of the public can drop off items at the Hamden Senior Center or on Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus outside of the bookstore in the Carl Hansen Student Center by December 8.

“It brings me a lot of happiness to know that we are bringing joy to a population that is often overlooked and who do not always have ways to articulate their needs,” Natale said. “We need to bring more kindness and caring to our world — and this is one of the ways we are able to make a positive impact on our local community.”

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