Honors College Students Create 400 Greeting Cards for Local Senior Citizens Who Are Isolated Due to Pandemic

Brianna Belar (left) and Jenna Vitale (right)

Some of the students' handmade creations

Students in the William Paterson University Honors College have always prioritized giving back to the community. When a popular service activity they’ve hosted for 15 years had to be canceled due to COVID-19, those students didn’t take a back seat; they got to work and found another way to help those in need.

Some 100 Honors College students took part this month in a new, socially distanced cause to benefit local assisted living facilities: creating handmade greeting cards for isolated senior citizens. 

The idea originated with sophomore Honors Peer Leaders Jenna Vitale and Brianna Belar, who were looking for a way to give back during the pandemic. Ultimately, the pair came across Glamour Gals, a non-profit that provides programming to senior citizens. Vitale and Belar brought the organization’s “My Dear Friend” card-writing campaign to the attention of Jan Pinkston, Assistant Director of the Honors College, who welcomed the project.

“Having partnered with Passaic Family Head Start on a coat drive for the last 15 years, we were disappointed that they were unable to accept our donations this year,” shared Pinkston. “Jenna and Brianna’s idea of hosting a card‐writing campaign was perfect since it could accommodate a large number of students, whether they were attending classes on campus or remotely during the fall semester.” 

Students got to work, with organizers designing flyers and embarking on a social media campaign to advertise the event and register card makers. Pinkston collaborated with students to plan an elaborate Zoom event, where participants broke out into small groups to show off their creations. Steve Caruso, the executive director of Brookdale Wayne, the recipient assisted living facility roughly two miles from campus, also joined in the festivities. He spoke fondly about the residents and how these cards would positively affect them.

In the two weeks that followed, the Honors College students wrapped up the event by delivering over 400 greeting cards to local senior citizens. The project hit close to home for many students like junior Gimelyn Yray, a chemistry major in the Honors College. “My grandmother is in a nursing home with limited visitors, and I’ve taken care of my bedridden grandfather who keeps going back and forth to the hospital,” said Yray. “I gave it my all.”