More than 1,000 senior care packages have been distributed by Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation in New Milford.

CVHR launched the “Happiness & Health Care Package” program March 16 as a response to the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines deterring seniors from leaving their homes to partake in community senior center programs.

“Response to the program has been terrific,” said Melissa Marici, director of community outreach at CVHR. “Senior centers have requested between 20-75 packages each and senior living facilities and retirement homes have needed more, sometimes up to 150 or 160 each.

The center is still receiving requests for packages.

Local families volunteered to assemble packages when the orders have bee high.

“We were glad to help,” said the Frame family of Brookfield. “We have elderly parents in Pennsylvania and Michigan that we can’t help directly and appreciate the local residents that can help so we feel that we are returning the favor in helping local seniors.”

“We feel that it is important to be active in the community and volunteer,” the family said.

Judy Thomas, senior center assistant at Newtown Senior Center, said seniors are happy with the packages.

“The seniors could not be any happier to see all of the wonderful gifts they have received from Candlewood Valley,” Thomas said. “It is so nice to be able to continue to work with Melissa and CVHR during these difficult times. It truly helps our seniors feel connected.”

Flanders West Housing in Southington is one of the recent centers to receive care packages.

Thank you to all who have donated to this wonderful gift of generosity,” said Diane Albert, Flanders’ resident service coordinator. “All of us at Flanders West in Southington are deeply grateful.”

"The thoughtfulness of these health and happiness packages are just the bit of uplift the New Milford community seniors need right now,” said Jasmin Ducusin-Jara, New Milford Senior Center program coordinator. “We are grateful for the kindness.”

Packages have been filled with various items that have been purchased locally and online.

Items include word games, playing cards, puzzles, coloring books and colored pencils; items to help keep healthy such as soap, hand sanitizer, cough drops, wipes, tissues, vitamin C and household cleansers; items to help seniors feel good such as lipstick, bath salts, face masks and nail polish; and food and beverage items such as hot cocoa packets, tea bags, juice boxes, granola bars, candy, chips, cookies and pretzels.

“What’s more, we’ve been conducting a book drive throughout the community and we now have thousands of books we’ve been sharing,” Marici said. “The donations have been enormous.”

“We pick the books up at individual’s homes and even local bookstores, they are left outside for us,” she said. “We spray them with disinfectant, and we air them out for three days before adding them to our care packages.”

“What’s most endearing about this program is the feedback we’ve been receiving from seniors in our communities,” said David Segal, CVHR administrator.

“They call, they write and they even find us on Facebook to share their excitement, joy and appreciation. That’s how we know the program is working, because that’s what it was meant to do - lift spirits,” Segal said.

The senior centers and senior living facilities and complexes that have a participated in the program include Glen Ayre, Butter Brook Hill Apartments, Chestnut Grove and New Milford Senior Center in New Milford; Roxbury Senior Center; Hilltop Senior Center in Bridgewater; Sherman Senior Center; Woodbury Senior Center; Newtown Senior Center; Templeton Farms and Morning Star Retirement Home in Kent; and Flanders West Housing in Southington,

For more information on the “Happiness & Health Care Program,” contact Melissa Marici, 860-355-0971, ext. 11 or email mmarici@candlewoodvalley.com.