Hamden and QU communities give back to the elderly before the holidays

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Copy Editor

Quinnipiac University community members joined the Hamden community in making holiday gift bags for local senior citizens that will be given out at a holiday celebration Dec. 9.

The university along with the Miller Senior Center and the Health and Wellness Council of the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsor the event and various locations throughout Hamden have bins where people can drop off items such as hand lotion, mittens, tissues, blankets, socks with grips or hot chocolate that will be given to any local senior citizen that wants to participate that is over 60 years old.

Illustration by Amanda Riha

Suzanne Burbage, the Hamden elderly services coordinator and municipal agent for the town, said that the event began in 2009 and the purpose was to “give a little holiday cheer,” to Hamden senior residents.

Karla Natale, associate vice president of community partnerships at Quinnipiac, said that gift bags are given out at a holiday lunch on Dec. 9, at Thornton Wilder Hall in the building of the Hamden Senior Center and Hamden Public Library and that there are around 100 senior citizens in attendance.

At the holiday party there will be food, music and a visit from Santa.

“For a lot of them, it might be the only gift that they get for the holiday season and the only celebration they get to do so it’s a fun and special event,” Natale said.

Burbage wrote in an email to the Chronicle that to make a reservation residents can call the café at the Hamden Senior Center at 203-287-0057 Monday through Wednesday and they must also fill out the required state and federal Form 5 to participate. In addition, the center is asking for a $3 donation for the lunch.

Natale said that some of the bins are placed at Benchmark Senior Living and Mountain View Wellness, both in Hamden, but Quinnipiac students and faculty can drop off items at Alumni House on Mount Carmel campus or to email Natale and she can pick them up. She will be accepting donations until Dec. 7.

Natale said that the senior citizens can benefit from this because a lot of them can’t get out due to the pandemic, especially if they are immunocompromised. To make up for not being able to go to the store, Natale said that the senior citizens will receive a reusable bag full of “goodies.”

“They get quite a bit that can hold them through hopefully most of the winter for most of them,” Natale said. “Then they benefit too just from the companionship there and enjoying a nice lunch that’s served to them and they don’t have to do anything they just enjoy.”

Over the last two years the event was an “outdoor drive through event,” but this year it will go back to a fully indoor event, Natale said.

Burbage said that residents can reserve bags so that everyone who attends the lunch on Dec. 9, gets a gift bag. She said the senior citizens are “very appreciative” and for some of them this will be their holiday if they don’t have families or are away from them.

“It brings a total joyfulness among the crowd,” Burbage said. “They look forward to it every year.”

There are volunteers at the event from a health committee at The Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce who help to serve and give out gift bags at the event.

“It is a time of just plain happiness and joyfulness,” Burbage said. “It’s been a rough year and continues to be a rough year so we want a respite in between.”

Charity Kuchyt, associate director of university events at Quinnipiac has donated items to the drive in the past and has attended the holiday lunch. She said that we (Quinnipiac) want to be “good stewards” of the local community and to support it in any way possible.

“You want to help in every way that you can and it’s really nice to be able to connect with them (the seniors) in that way and show them that they are important to us, that we’re thinking of them and that we want to be able to support them and help bring some holiday cheer,” Kuchyt said.