Students, faculty and staff at Gateway Community College (GCC) brought Christmas early tonight 10 to 500 adults and 260 children from shelters across greater New Haven by hosting the college’s 10th annual Holiday Dinner for the Less Fortunate.
Attendance was up from 600 last year and 400 in 2008. More than 100 volunteers from the GCC community staffed the celebration, the largest event of its kind in the area. Buses donated by Dattco stopped by each shelter and program and brought the participants to GCC’s Long Wharf campus in shifts.
Guests were served a full gourmet buffet prepared by students and faculty in the college’s culinary program. The event also included toys for the children, as well as festivities with Santa and Mrs. Claus, magicians, face painting and carolers. Every child left with a gift; every adult left with a bag of personal care items. And all participants left with a winter coat, hat, gloves and scarf, including 36 scarves and nine hats knitted by GCC students, faculty and staff.
The event itself got an unexpected gift this year. With the exception of Dattco donating bus service and some smaller donations, the event has been largely funded by the college community through fundraisers. This year, it received a $5,000 donation from an anonymous donor who was impressed after seeing last year’s event.
“We are so grateful for the generous support of the community, particularly the anonymous donor who made a $5,000 contribution to this effort, and everyone in the Gateway community who has given so freely of their time and money,” said Culinary Arts Professor Andrew Randi, who established the holiday dinner 10 years ago. “We needed the help this year more than ever,” he said. “We found there are more overflow shelters this year than last, particularly with churches that have opened their basements to people in need. But if we’ve done our job right, everyone who participated, from the guests to the volunteers, walked away knowing what the holidays are all about.”
GCC President Dr. Dorsey L. Kendrick said the event exemplifies Gateway’s motto of “open doors, open minds.”
“This is what Gateway Community College is all about — serving the community and letting people know they have worth,” Kendrick said.
GCC offers more than 85 associate degree and certificate programs and serves more than 11,000 credit and non-credit students each year. GCC is currently located on two campuses — at 60 Sargent Drive on Long Wharf in New Haven and at 88 Bassett Road in North Haven. Work began in the fall of 2009 on a new state-of-the art campus in downtown New Haven, which is slated to open in 2012 and will be the state’s first public building gold-certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
GCC serves students in 24 towns and cities in the greater New Haven area, including: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Bridgeport, Cheshire, Clinton, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middletown, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Seymour, Shelton, Stratford, Wallingford, West Haven and Woodbridge. For more information, visit www.gwcc.commnet.edu.