Kaylyn Townsend, project director, Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity, and Mission (third from left), and staff from Heart, Love, and Soul (from left) Amira Akpaloo, housing and service coordinator; Roberta Rubin, gateway coordinator; and NU alumna Tracy Schmidt, ’14, Daybreak director, hand out bags prepared for residents at the Spallino Towers in Niagara Falls.

The holiday season will be a little happier—and healthier—for seniors in Niagara Falls, thanks to the outreach efforts of the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity, and Mission at Niagara University, in partnership with the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force.

Staff members from the center and other local organizations distributed 360 bags containing a holiday card, hand sanitizer, a mask, COVID-19 health and safety information, and reminders about local resources and the importance of annual health check-ups, to vulnerable seniors and disabled individuals living at Wrobel and Spallino towers. An additional 40 bags with extra holiday goodies, including hot chocolate, candy, puzzle books, letters, and seasonal crafts, ornaments, and coloring sheets were delivered to those seniors and disabled individuals identified as highly isolated and without the support of extended family members.

“The task force expressed concern for seniors who have been isolated in their apartments since the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Rolanda Ward, director of the Ostapenko Center. “Seniors are a known vulnerable group who can also be at risk for depression. Our aim is to provide seniors with connections to young people and organizations who care about their well-being and provide a little holiday cheer. 

“During this holiday season, the task force would like to encourage residents of Niagara Falls to safely check on seniors,” Ward continued. “While physical contact with senior citizens is limited at this time, a card, a call, or a special treat can lift spirits during a holiday season that is usually marked by family gatherings. Let's work together to keep our seniors healthy and emotionally well.” 

Other community members of the task force involved in this project include Heart, Love, and Soul; YWCA/Carolyn's House; the Niagara Falls Housing Authority; Mount St. Mary's Hospital; and Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope.