After six years of providing aid to New Haven schoolchildren and the city’s homeless population, Yale’s Science Park Outreach Committee is closing up shop.
Founded in 2009 after large numbers of Yale’s information technology and administrative staff relocated from Yale’s central campus to offices in the Newhallville neighborhood, the committee was formed to bridge the gap between Yale and city residents nearby, as employees were concerned that locals might negatively view the influx of outside workers. Since the committee’s founding, members stationed at 344 Winchester Ave. or at 25 Science Park have helped wrap gifts and raise money for the New Haven community. But now, with Yale continuing to keep a close eye on its spending, employees at Science Park are finding themselves burdened with more work and less time for community outreach. Without sufficient volunteers to plan annual raffles, gift-giving and fundraising for the communities surrounding Science Park, the committee has no choice but to cease its services after this holiday season, according to committee leadership.
“People are working through lunches,” said Stacey Smart, a business analyst at Yale’s Shared Services division at Science Park who has co-chaired the committee every year since its inception. “Due to some of our staff retiring and recent layoffs and restructuring, our staff are expected to do more with less and are pressed for time so are unable to volunteer.”
Smart said she has sent repeated emails over the last few months to the Science Park community asking for volunteers, but to no avail. Smart, who will retire this year, said she no longer has time to fulfill the responsibilities of chairing the committee.
Smart attributed the decrease in committee volunteers to a gradual change in the “culture” of Science Park. Smart said that in past years, all departmental branches at Science Park took the day off to hold the annual raffle event, but now, only some departments give employees the day off. She added that working on the Committee requires between 40 and 120 extra hours of work each year — hours that have become harder to find as the University restricts the growth of administrative staff.
This year, in a final gesture, the committee will give a holiday present to each child at Wexler-Grant Community School in the Dixwell neighborhood, as well as Christmas gift bags for homeless families from the school, Smart said. Any leftover toys will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides support to families whose children are being treated at nearby hospitals.
Wexler-Grant has been the primary recipient of the committee’s support over the years. Along with hosting a holiday party for the schoolchildren each year, the committee has gifted students warm-weather accessories and toys.
Wexler-Grant principal Sabrina Breland said the committee’s services have boosted morale in the school, providing students with a positive outlook during the holiday season.
“We’re going to have to reach out to other agencies that may be able to help support us,” Breland said. “But I don’t think we’re going to be able to replace the generosity and hard work that Science Park did.”
In the past, the committee has also raised funds to purchase laptops, headphones and other resources for New Haven Reads, a nonprofit aimed at improving community literacy. NH Reads assistant director Fiona Bradford said the committee has been very supportive of the nonprofit’s tutoring program. Additionally, the committee has donated winter clothing, food vouchers and personal hygiene items to over 300 members of New Haven’s homeless population.
Stocky Clark, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, said the loss of the committee’s support will negatively impact his organization’s work, which depends on the time and money of volunteers.
“It hurts to lose people,” Clark said.
Science Park sits on 80 acres of land to the north of central campus and was established in 1982.