Topic: Fundraising

Protect Your Heart With Agency Programs

When it comes to your physical health, protecting your heart should be a top priority.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is working to help educate residents in its 35-town service area to help prevent heart disease, and to share information about its programs and services that help those living with a heart condition.

Heart disease is a term for any condition that affects the heart’s structure and function. Annually, about 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Women often aren’t diagnosed with heart disease until about 10 years later in life than men, yet it remains the #1 killer of women.

Women often experience symptoms other than the recognizable chest pain, and men and women alike often don’t realize their risk factors for heart disease.

Coronary heart disease – which is commonly understood as clogged arteries – is the most common type of heart disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a smoking habit, being overweight or obese, having diabetes or prediabetes, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet, a family history of heart disease, preeclampsia during pregnancy and, for women, being over age 55.

Women who have gone through early menopause are twice as likely to develop heart disease.

Having just a single risk factor greatly increases the chances of developing heart disease, and the more risk factors a person has, the more serious concern should be. In Connecticut alone, 155,000 people have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, according to the NHLBI.

The good news is that simple steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or to keep the disease from progressing and nearly 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable.

Heart Disease Prevention

Having your blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked and discuss with your health provider what these numbers mean in terms of your risk for heart disease can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Ask the Nurse clinics, currently held by appointment only, at which a registered nurse can check these numbers for you and work with you to set health goals and determine what questions you should ask your doctor. There is no cost for this service. VNACHCH offers cholesterol lipid profile and blood sugar screenings with immediate results and nurse counseling for $35 in our Guilford and Hamden offices. Appointments for these services can be scheduled by calling our Helpline at 866.474.5230.

Individuals who qualify may also benefit from our Self-Monitored Blood Pressure program. Measuring blood pressure at home and sharing the information collected with your doctor has been show to improve blood pressure control. During this two-week program, participants are taught how to measure and track blood pressure while also receiving one-on-one coaching and education from a VNACHCH nurse, a medication review, and teaching to implement lifestyle changes at home. Click here to learn more.

Heart Disease Management

For those on a cardiac health journey, VNACHCH offers its Better Beats Cardiac Care program. Experienced cardiology nurses offer care for many reasons including: after cardiac surgery, when a patient is on a new cardiac medication or a new low fat/low salt diet, when a patient has a new cardiac diagnosis, when a patient has a post myocardial infarction, stent placement or CABV/valve surgery, when a patient has Coronary Artery Disease or if a patient’s treatment plan changes.

As part of its chronic illness support program, VNACHCH nurses are also available for patients with congestive heart failure. Cardiac visiting nurses conduct patient assessments; teach self-care and medication management and monitor patients using telemonitoring. An easy-to-use wireless telemonitor gives nurses daily insight into cardiac health changes. Cardiac nurses update patients’ physicians on condition and treatment plan changes. Patients are able to check weight, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels regularly through the telemonitor to help prevent a trip to the hospital.

End of life care

The hospice team at VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is specially trained in how to assess and treat end-stage cardiac patients to help them achieve their best possible level of comfort and quality of life during the end-of-life phase.

Patients are eligible for hospice once their physicians make a determination that life expectancy is six months or less. Hospice care can help manage the symptoms of end-stage cardiac disease – such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and other decline. Hospice works with families and caregivers to offer the level of care required in a private way that is tailored to individual needs.

Those experiencing increasing symptoms of congestive heart failure while at rest who’ve had recurrent hospitalizations or ER visits, those suffering from other health issues such as renal disease, COPD or dementia, or those who have been told surgery or cardiac devices are no longer an option, may find hospice is the right choice.

To learn more about our hospice program, click here.

Agency staff takes part in Hamden Senior Gift Run


Top photo: The Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce Health & Wellness Council members who organized the Senior Gift Run, including Chairperson Kim Vertrees, a VNACHCH Community Outreach Liaison.

Above photo: Hamden Senior Center Director Suzanne Burbage poses with Santa, played by Dave from the Hamden Parks & Rec department.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice representatives participated Dec. 18 in the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce Health & Wellness Council’s annual Senior Gift Run.

The Council, comprised of community members, Chamber members, and parishioners from Mount Carmel Congregational Church, is chaired by VNACHCH Community Outreach Liaison Kim Vertrees.

For the 11th year in a row, Health & Wellness Council members placed gift boxes at local businesses to collect “gifts of warm” that were then distributed to Hamden senior citizens at a holiday party held at the Miller Senior Center.

The event was held this year as a drive thru due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 40 senior citizens braved the cold and snow to pick up their gift bags containing toiletry items such as lotion, toothpaste, lip balm, hand sanitizer and masks, as well as activity books, snacks and a gift card to a local grocery store or pharmacy. The bags were handed out by Santa and his elves in the Senior Center’s decorated parking lot while carols played.

The town of Hamden Senior Services Department will distribute the left over gift bags to senior citizens in town who missed the event.

Annual Report 2020

For VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, 2020 was a year of resilience. We are proud of or team that puts forth heroic effort in the face of COVID-19 and always.

In our latest annual report we share the stories of how our clinicians in the field, our Health Promotions staff and our many other team members devoted to helping our patients and caregivers came together in persistent devotion to our mission despite the challenges of the last several months. Our report is complete with statistics about the care we provide and number of individuals we help on a yearly basis.

Our community programs and caregiver support were moved into the virtual space so our engagement with the hundreds of clients we serve through wellness programs could continue. Our staff remained in the homes of our patients, despite the risks of the pandemic, to keep them safe at home. Our hospice volunteers went above and beyond to provide comfort, companionship and a helping hand to patients and their loved ones – even from a distance.

Within this report, as always, we thank our many donors who support our nonprofit efforts to help individuals facing a healthcare crisis remain at home, and to improve the health and wellness of the community at large.

Our team is comprised of healthcare workers who are educators – ready and organized when it comes to providing care. They are innovators and caregivers who are up to any challenge. That’s how we define heroic.

To view the annual report, click here: VNA_AR_2020

To learn more about ways to give to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, click here. 

Hospice patient’s wish granted

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice patient Jan Frew sits with her dog and VNA social worker Jennifer McMahon in a golf cart given at a reduced cost to the family by Torello Motorized Carts. VNACHCH paid for the cart using donations made to support the agency hospice wish program to grant Jan’s wish to be able to visit the beach nearby her home daily this summer.


Every person deserves the chance to live life to the fullest.

That is why VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, a century-old nonprofit devoted to helping its home healthcare patients and all members of the 35 communities it serves to achieve their best quality of life, launched a program to grant the wishes of its hospice patients.

Although hospice is a service engaged by those who have a terminal diagnosis of 6 months or less, hospice is focused on living – not on dying. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers a holistic plan of care comprised of symptom management rather than curative treatment. It includes personal and medical care enhanced by therapies to address all needs ranging from those of the body to those of the spirit and mind.

While the VNACHCH team of registered nurses, a hospice physician, home health aides, social workers, volunteers, bereavement counselors and spiritual counselors has always provided high-quality care since the agency began its hospice program three years ago, the agency decided to increase its commitment by utilizing donation dollars to grant the wishes of hospice patients.

These wishes range from simple but powerful – such as a candlelit, white glove service dinner at home for a husband and wife – to more complex requests.

The care team for Guilford hospice patient Jan Frew recently brought forward a wish to help Jan and her husband continue their daily walks to the beach by their home. Due to her diagnosis, Jan now uses an oxygen tank and is unable to make the walk unassisted.

With the help of Torello Motorized Carts owner Sherry Purvis-Torello, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice was able to give Jan a way to enjoy this summer fully. The business provided a two-month rental of a two-seat electric golf cart to the Frew family for a significantly reduced rate, which VNACHCH paid for using the generous gifts donors have made to the hospice wish program.

Purvis-Torello then offered to donate the cart at the end of the contract, free of charge.

“Sherry has a long-standing history with VNACHCH and, when she heard what we were trying to accomplish, she had a golf cart detailed and ready for delivery within hours,” explained VNACHCH Development Coordinator Kassandra Hernandez. “They were such a joy to work with. They delivered the cart directly to Jan’s house and were so thoughtful in their use and care instructions. We are so grateful to Torello Motorized Carts and to all the generous individuals in the community who support our efforts to help improve the lives of our hospice patients.”

With the help of a $5,000 grant from the Branford Community Foundation, the wish program launched as a pilot program in 2019 to benefit VNACHCH Branford patients. As the agency is now expanding the program throughout its territory, it will be reliant on donations to continue granting wishes, and providing other comfort items that are not covered by Medicare and other insurances for hospice patients.

For her part, Jan was tremendously grateful for the difference this wish granting made on her quality of life. She said being able to go to the beach to see and smell the ocean has made a significant impact on her mental and emotional health.

“I am so overwhelmed that the VNA did this for me,” Jan said. “We are so grateful they made this happen. Our neighbor’s are so tickled that the Torello’s did this – it was so generous of them. They are a wonderful family and everyone in the cove loves them. This freed me from being stuck inside one room in my house. I never thought I would be able to make it down to the beach again, but this made it possible.”

She said to VNACHCH and the Torello family, “You are angels on earth taking care of me and I don’t have enough words to say thank you.”

To make a donation to support the work of VNACHCH, click here.

Claudia Cozzi awarded for Excellence in Nursing

Claudia Cozzi is, above all, a strong advocate for her patients.

As a result of her devotion to the people she serves, the 16-year VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice primary care nurse was recently chosen as a recipient of this year’s Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing. The ceremony usually held in May has been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 is recognized nationally as the Year of the Nurse, among other reasons to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing – which was May 12.

During her career, Cozzi has always gone above and beyond for patients and coworkers alike, according to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Nursing Karen Naccarato.

“Claudia is a positive representation of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice who has a natural gift to maker her patients laugh, smile and feel better,” Naccarato said. “Her ability extends to her coworkers as well who greatly appreciate all her kindness and support.”

Naccarato praised Cozzi for her extensive home care knowledge, professionalism, “true compassion and exceptional care.”

One patient said of Cozzi, “We honestly don’t know what we would have done without her during my husband’s long convalescence. She cared for him with extreme patience, professionalism and warmth.”

Another said, “Claudia’s honesty and great care went well beyond what any visiting nurse would be required to do and for that reason I say thank you.”

The Nightingale Awards program was developed in 2001 to celebrate and elevate the nursing profession. The program honors nurses from all health care settings and all Registered Nurses and LPNs involved in clinical practice, leadership or education may be considered.

Nurses can only be nominated once in their lifetime for the award. Nominations are made by the health care organization with which the nurse is affiliated. Award winners are selected based on criteria that examines what set the sets the nurse apart from others, how they impacted patient care and the profession, how they’ve shown commitment to the community and whether or not they’ve achieved a life-long legacy in a particular arena.

For information on supporting our healthcare heroes like Claudia, click here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising campaign We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice.

Think of mom and dad but think twice about visiting

This season can make it difficult to stick to social distancing measures – but now is the time to hold the line and resist the urge to relax restrictions.

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away followed soon after by Father’s Day. These holidays, of course, are ones best celebrated in person with the people we love. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many states are at the very least in discussions to begin reopening, ending social distancing to see mom or dad is not in their best interest in the long run.

Even as businesses and public spaces open up again, it will still be important – particularly for the aging and chronically ill who are at high-risk for severe complications of COVID-19 – to remain at home as much as possible, to stay 6 feet away from others in public, to wear a mask in public and to avoid close contact with those who do not live with you in your home, including other family members.

There is potential for subsequent waves of this virus and until a vaccine is available there is a still a risk for infection, so the best gift you can give your parents right now is the gift of good health.

Here are some ideas for special ways to say “I love you” this spring:

Virtual performances can be a great way to lift the spirits of grandparents who are struggling with the need to stay distant from the young ones in their lives. Organize a Zoom hangout with all the grandchildren and have them learn a new song and perhaps some choreography that can be performed together for grandma or grandpa. This can be a fun bonding activity for siblings and cousins that is sure to brighten up their grandparent’s day.

Another fun activity for children that is sure to bring out smiles from the recipient is an outdoor display. One idea is to have the kids collect and paint small rocks with messages of love that can be set up in their grandparent’s garden or along a front walkway as a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day rock garden surprise.

Of course, special deliveries of cards, flowers, gift baskets or a meal are always appreciated at any time. Throughout this crisis, in particular, consider supporting local, small businesses when ordering these things for delivery. Make sure mom or dad remembers to sanitize anything coming into their home.

If you do want to see each other face to face, remember that masks are critical but also not a guarantee of full protection, so its best to see each other briefly through a closed, glass door.

We all look forward to the day when hugs and hand holding are no longer replaced with on-screen hangouts and hellos from afar, but for now it’s important to put thought into what will make your parents and grandparents feel well loved this season, but think twice about visiting.

Support our team through COVID-19


As a result of the significant financial impact we’re seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have launched a $50,000 comprehensive campaign, We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. To learn more about this campaign and to make a donation, click here.


VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has a long history of serving members of the community in their homes to help them maintain independence and stay out of the hospital. This remains our focus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is true for all members of the medical community, this outbreak poses risks to our nurses and other staff members that are only exacerbated by a shortage of protective equipment as well as cleaning and sanitation supplies.

Our staff members are entering the homes of patients to care for complex medical needs, taking every precaution to protect the patient and themselves from COVID-19, which can be transmitted by even asymptomatic people. They are also caring for recovering COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from area hospitals into homecare to make space for those who are actively ill.

We are in need of the following items:

  • Lysol spray
  • Lysol wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

All items should be unopened. A donation box is located inside the front door of our building, the back building in Concept Park located at 753 Boston Post Road in Guilford.


Other ways to show your support:

If you want to show the community that you stand beside our healthcare providers who are serving those in need each day in the face of tremendous challenges, make a statement on social media.

Tag us in photos and posts so our staff, and all healthcare workers, know you appreciate the work that they do.

Right click on our custom profile picture badge below and update your profile photo to show support for our team:

Be part of the #socialdistancing movement, both on social media and in practice, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and let us know with your posts who you are staying home for by using the #IStayHomeFor hashtag, a campaign launched by actor Kevin Bacon.

We’re proud to do this work and we are always grateful for your support.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice honors community partners at annual breakfast

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jo Ann Begley, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice President & CEO Janine Fay, Hospice volunteer Kathleen Bonvicini, Florence Griswold Museum Executive Director Rebekah Beaulieu and Florence Griswold Museum Director of Marketing Tammi Flynn.


When Kathleen Bonvicini lost her brother to cancer, she found a way to channel her grief and love for him into helping others.

“I saw how hospice helped my brother and I knew I would be a hospice volunteer one day,” Bonvicini told the crowd of more than 130 people gathered at The Woodwinds in Branford Tuesday, May 7 for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s annual Breakfast in Bloom fundraiser.

Guilford Savings Bank and Smith Brothers Financial were the platinum sponsors of the event.

Bonvicini was one of three Community Partner Award recipients, along with the Florence Griswold Museum and VNACHCH’s own Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jo Ann Begley.

“You’re thanking me, but I should be thanking all of you for allowing me to do this work,” Bonvicini said during her award acceptance speech.

An active philanthropist and community advocate, Kathleen is the Chief Executive Officer at the Institute for Healthcare Communication.

“Kathleen is committed to giving and making our world a better place. With a full time career that involves travel and volunteering in other parts of the world, she still makes time to help our patients and their families. And, often uses her work day lunch break to do it,” explained Begley.

She noted one instance when a family of a hospice patient was struggling, and so Kathleen responded to a last minute request to sit with the patient and hold her hand into the night, allowing social work and spiritual care to focus support on the family.

She met with a patient weekly for meditation sessions, always bringing him his favorite ice cream, and helped a patient finish writing a book and submit it for publishing before he died, which was his wish.

“She embodies the true spirit and the intent of our hospice program, which is to help
individuals make the most of the time they have left,” Begley said.

The Florence Griswold Museum, located in Old Lyme, was recognized this year for collaborating with VNACHCH in support of its mission.

A nonprofit itself, museum officials graciously offered the site and its collections as the structural backbone for the agency’s annual report, which featured an artistic theme – one that was carried through to the event.

The museum and 12-acre site is known as the home of American Impressionism. It served as the birthplace of the Lyme Art Colony that flourished at the site in the early 1900s as artists from up and down the seaboard flocked there to paint the scenery.

VNACHCH brought caregivers, volunteers and staff members who provided testimonials for its 2018 annual report to the museum to select artwork that spoke to them of their idea of a life well lived. Images of them standing alongside their chosen pieces were used to highlight their thoughts in the report of how the agency has made a difference in their lives.

Florence Griswold Museum Director Rebekah Beaulieu and Director of Marketing Tammi Flynn attended the breakfast to accept the award.

Begley’s recognition was a surprise to her and the entire crowd at the event.

Like Bonvicini, she expressed gratitude to the people in the room for supporting VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice and allowing her to do the work she is dedicated to on behalf of patients and families.

VNACHCH President & CEO Janine Fay praised Begley for her efforts to help caregivers on their loved one’s healthcare journey so entire families can achieve their best quality of life.

“When we talk about community partners, we often mean members of the community who support our mission to be beside patients at every turn. This year, however, we also felt it important to recognize a member of our staff who serves as one of our links to the community itself and who has touched the lives of so many people in our service area,” Fay said. “She works tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of others and empowers our proud and gentle army of volunteers to go out into our patients’ homes and provide them with care and compassion to help them find comfort and joy through the difficult moments.”

Begley will celebrate 15 years with the agency this summer, and Fay noted that so many of the success stories shared by grateful patients and caregivers include Begley in the narrative.

“In a quiet and thoughtful way, she graciously tackles every need that comes across her desk and she devotes herself to ensuring every patient and caregiver receives every possible resource and service available, every time,” Fay said.

The breakfast included instrumental music by the group Giving Bach of Daniel Hand High School in Madison and a visit from one of VNACHCH’s therapy dogs.

All proceeds from the event will support the nonprofit agency’s vital services, including home healthcare, community wellness programs and its Family Caregiver Support Network.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century-old nonprofit agency with expertly trained staff who help individuals recover and regain independence quickly and easily. When a cure is no longer an option, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice provides individuals and families with choices, control and comfort in their final months. As a leader in healthcare at home and the self-care movement, the agency proudly serves 35 towns in southern Connecticut.

Breakfast in Bloom 2019

Matilda Browne, Peonies, ca. 1907. Oil on wood. Courtesy of the Florence Griswold Museum


Annual event will honor community partners, celebrate quality of life programs

Raphael Erwin McManus said, “A life well lived is the most exquisite work of art.”

This year, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is inviting members of the community to help build a masterpiece as it seeks to help patients, caregivers and all individuals in its 35-town service area live their best lives.

The nonprofit agency will hold its annual Breakfast in Bloom fundraiser at Woodwinds in Branford Tuesday, May 7 at 7:30 a.m. The morning will include a buffet breakfast, a raffle and a silent auction. All proceeds from the event will support the nonprofit visiting nurses agency’s vital services, including home healthcare, community wellness programs and its Family Caregiver Support Network.

The breakfast will also provide an overview of the myriad programs run by the agency to help clients be well so they can live well.

“Some individuals we serve are recovering from surgery and working hard to get back to their normal routine, while others are living with a chronic illness and seeking support as they work to achieve their best possible quality of life,” explained VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice CEO Janine Fay. “In addition to our patients, we reach thousands of caregivers and community program participants each year and seek to provide them with the best resources so they can live in good health and make the most of every day.”

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century-old nonprofit agency that employs expertly trained staff to help individuals recover and regain independence quickly and easily. When a cure is no longer an option, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice provides individuals and families with choices, control and comfort in their final months. As a leader in healthcare at home and the self-care movement, the agency proudly serves 35 towns in southern Connecticut.

As it has annually, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice will present Community Partner Awards to three people for 2019.

“We cannot have VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice without the word ‘community,’ and likewise we cannot have success without that critical component,” Fay said. “It is a special moment each year when we have the opportunity to thank our valued partners for all they do to help us realize our goals of promoting and preserving the health, safety, dignity and independence of individuals and families.”

Tickets for the breakfast are $40 each. Tables of 10 are available for $350. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here or call 203-458-4277.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Platinum sponsors:


Diamond sponsors:



Gold sponsors:



Ruby sponsors:


      John Watts Associates  



Table sponsor:

M.J. Petretto Foundation makes donation to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice

$6,000 gift to benefit Parkinson’s disease exercise programs and support groups

GUILFORD – VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is the grateful recipient of a donation from the M.J. Petretto Foundation for the eighth consecutive year.
Foundation representatives Linda Remington and M.J. Petretto recently visited the wellness center at the Guilford headquarters of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice – a nonprofit home healthcare agency serving Middlesex and New Haven Counties – to present a $6,000 check.

The Foundation is itself a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established nearly a decade ago as part of Retirement Planning Group’s desire to give back to organizations that support education, health and quality of life in Connecticut communities. Each year the Foundation’s signature event, the M.J. Petretto Foundation Golf Classic proceeds are divided among multiple beneficiaries, including the Gaylord Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Program, the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Parkinson’s programs, and other charities such as the Shoreline Arts Alliance and Make a Wish Connecticut.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice provides twice-weekly Parkinson’s exercise classes at its Guilford wellness center, as well as monthly support groups for Parkinson’s family caregivers and those living with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. The agency has a variety of resource materials available for Parkinson’s patients and their family members and seeks to foster an environment of camaraderie. These community offerings augment the agency’s expertise in providing therapy in the home for Parkinson’s patients.

Linda Remington has a personal connection to the VNACHCH program as her father, Ray Pzygocki, lived with Parkinson’s and benefitted from its offerings.

“We’re proud to support the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Parkinson’s program and comforted to know that programs like this exist to help patients and families until such time a cure for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases is found,” Linda said.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice CEO Janine Fay thanked Linda and MJ for the Foundation’s ongoing support during the pairs visit to a meeting of the Parkinson’s exercise group.

“This program is an important part of our mission to help individuals in the communities we serve live their best lives. We appreciate the opportunity to help Parkinson’s disease patients maintain their best quality of life possible and to support them and their family caregivers on their journey,” Fay said.

The 2019 M.J. Petretto Foundation Annual Golf Classic will be held Monday, June 10 at the Clinton Country Club. This year’s event marks the 10th anniversary of the golf outing. For more information visit

To learn more about VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice visit