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Local Health Care, Assisted Living Organizations Commemorate Nurses Week

Most years, Nurses Week and National Nurses Day might not be counted among the holidays that most people celebrate or even know about. But in 2020, the importance of these front-line health care workers is now apparent to nearly everyone, and communities are finding ways to mark the occasion however they can.

With any sort of big event or celebration impossible due to the pandemic, people and organizations are trying to do little things and are thinking outside the box for ways to recognize nurses during the week, which runs through Tuesday, May 12.

Artis Senior Living in Branford put together a motorcade for May 6 (after press time) that was scheduled to visit eight different nursing, assisted living, or other health care facilities in Guilford, Madison, and Branford, according to Artis Senior Director of Community Relations Sharelle Thorton.

“It’s the only way we can connect now, and support them at this time. We can’t even send food anymore inside some of these places,” Thorton said.

As culmination of a two-week long campaign meant to elevate spirits and support nurses, the parade was part of a larger effort by her and Artis to bring positive attention to the hard work and good attitude nurses have put in throughout this crisis, even as everyone is struggling with stress and social distancing.

Thorton said often there isn’t as much visibility for the kind of nursing that takes place at these facilities, or nurses who work home-care—a sentiment other local health organizations shared.

“We work with the frailest of the community, and we’re in it together, basically,” she said.

Another local health organization that is hoping to shine a light on local nurses is Guilford-based VNA Community and Healthcare and Hospice, a non-profit that runs hospice, nursing, and other home medical services in Guilford, Madison, and Branford.

VNA Marketing and Development Manager Abigail Storiale said home nurses have to navigate a brand new set of complex and important protocols as well as wear extra protective gear, which can be especially troublesome as they try to maintain a relaxed and calm atmosphere for people at home.

“Our nurses are getting up every day, going out into people’s homes despite the risk, still doing their jobs, still committed to caring for these patients,” Storiale said.

Internally, VNA has been distributing gift cards, putting up banners, sending cards, and recently filmed a video in honor of Nurses Week, which included thank you messages from other employees around the company, according to Storiale.

One of VNA’s nurses, Claudia Cozzi, just this past week received statewide recognition as a Florence Nightingale Excellence in Nursing Award honoree, according to Storiale.

Storiale said VNA is also aware that the strain of the pandemic can be a huge burden on front-line workers like nurses, and has offered mental health services and support groups to help guide them through the crisis.

In Madison, one of the scheduled motorcade stops was at Watrous Nursing Center, which is in lockdown during the pandemic. Director of Nursing Toni Spada said they have spent all week having little events—pizza nights, donuts, or special non-alcoholic mocktails served at the center.

The focus remains on the people that the nurses are caring for, however—the elderly or immunocompromised people at these facilities, according to Spada.

“I really think that nurses feel, if possible, even more responsible for these residents because there’s no one to come in” and visit, Spada said. “They feel dedicated...They know they have to show up and be here. It’s heartwarming, really.”

Spada said she expected the parade to be a very nice moment for the center, with all the staff walking to the end of the driveway to be cheered.

Asked what the average person could do to help, Spada said the pandemic made it very difficult to reach out, but that sending simple little tokens out to these nursing facilities during Nurses Week—just a card, even—could greatly lift the spirits of the nurses.

“Anything to make this [week] feel like it’s different,” she said.

Many nursing facilities are having to weather the financial turbulence of the pandemic as well. Storiale said that VNA has seen a large increase in expenses related to the coronavirus, including the need to purchase personal protective equipment and other more specialized tools like no-touch thermometers.

VNA launched a fundraising campaign about a month ago with the goal of raising $50,000, according to Storiale. Normally, VNA would be holding one of its largest fundraisers right now in honor of Nurses Week, she said, though that had to be canceled. Corporate sponsors of the event still honored their commitments to VNA, according to Storiale.

VNA also received $5,000 grants from both the Guilford Foundation and Branford Foundation, according to Storiale, who said the money that will allow VNA to hopefully hang on through the immediate financial downturn of the pandemic.

“The grants have been tremendous to help us with the immediate need,” Storiale said. “Now we just need to look at being able to sustain operations going forward.”

Donations to VNA can be made at For more information about Artis Senior Living, visit

Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Jesse at

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