Hospital workers to star in United Way spot



The next time you sit down to another episode of “The Drew Carey Show,” you might see Virgilio Dixon in his television debut.

Dixon, along with eight other Yale-New Haven Hospital employees, appeared in a commercial this month for United Way Day of Caring, a weeklong effort to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and reach out to the greater New Haven community.

In the commercial, Dixon spoke enthusiastically about the school supplies drive held at the hospital during Day of Caring.

“It was important, it was fun and we are going to do it again,” said Dixon, a resident nurse and clinical manager of the Pediatric Primary Care Center at the hospital.

United Way of Greater New Haven organizes Day of Caring annually to encourage people to do community service. Participants volunteer at local agencies, schools and parks, and they spearhead drives for food, clothing and books. Nancy Burke, the volunteer services manager at United Way, estimates that this year’s Day of Caring saw over 165 projects and drives.

The hospital’s school supplies drive was a particular success. Hospital employees contributed 14,000 school items to Vincent E. Mauro Elementary School on Orchard Street and Jepson Elementary School on Quinnipiac Avenue.

The drive rallied busy employees to help the community without contributing much time.

“It empowered people who couldn’t get away [from work] to do something good,” said Dee Melio, program coordinator at the hospital.

Many hospital employees did become further involved in Day of Caring. They volunteered at soup kitchens, neighborhood houses and after-school programs for disadvantaged youths. They ran drives to benefit battered women, homeless people and families of seriously ill children.

Melio said she helped to paint rooms at Farnam Neighborhood House.

“It was a unique experience because I didn’t even know how to put a roller together,” she said.

Burke applauded the hospital employees’ contributions to Day of Caring.

“They brought muscle and heart,” she said.

As one of the event’s major sponsors, the hospital also brought money. Hospital president and CEO Joseph Zaccagnino served as the event’s honorary chairman.

Day of Caring was originally designed to kick off United Way’s capital campaign, but last year it became a tribute to those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. United Way extended Day of Caring to coincide with National Civic Participation Week, which lasts from Sept. 11 to 17. In the past two years, United Way organized candlelight vigils in the 12 communities surrounding New Haven.

“It’s a bittersweet [week],” said Burke. “People, in their own personal way, are reflecting on what [Sept. 11] meant to them.”

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