Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Elissa Sanci

More than 250 children living in different shelters in the greater New Haven area were provided holiday gifts because of Phi Sigma Sigma’s Giving Tree. The sorority held their annual Winter Wonderland event to thank all those who made this possible Dec. 5 at the Balcony Banquet Facility in Hamden, Conn.

Phi Sig Fundraising Chair Paula Aulestia and sister Maddie DiPrima standing among the piles of donated gifts  (Photo provided by Paula Aulestia)
Phi Sig Fundraising Chair Paula Aulestia and sister Maddie DiPrima standing among the piles of donated gifts
(Photo provided by Paula Aulestia)

This is Phi Sigma Sigma’s fourth Winter Wonderland; an event that once was held on campus moved off campus due to an increasing amount of attendees last year, and is anticipated to keep growing each year.

Phi Sig alumna Jacqueline Botchman created the Giving Tree in 2011 after she came across Alice Pierce, Christian Community Action director. Phi Sigma Sigma works with CCA to find donors to provide gifts for all the children in four different shelters across New Haven.

Special Events Committee Head Bri Sirota and Fundraising Chair Paula Aulestia worked together to plan the event. Sirota’s main focus was Winter Wonderland, while Aulestia worked with CCA to find sponsors for every family.

“It was awesome to work with Christian Community Action; Alice was so supportive and helpful,” said Aulestia. “She was there through everything and you could tell she has passion and dedication for what she does. We were able to sponsor every child, which came out to 66 families.”

21 campus organizations, along with each sister of Phi Sigma Sigma, sponsored children, and many members of each attended Winter Wonderland as representatives of their organization. Some of these organizations include Up Til Dawn, PRIDE, PIRO, the Black Student Union and a majority of Greek life. More than 250 guests attended the event, which Sirota had been planning since the beginning of the semester.

“It is such a great thing seeing organizations all over campus come together to make someone less fortunate have an amazing holiday season,” Richard Rotella, Undergraduate Student Government Association president said.

Food and decorations donations were made by local community vendors, such as Walmart, Party City and Sodexo, as well as Texas Road House, Chili’s and Bertucci’s.

“I think [Winter Wonderland] helps us gain a better relationship with organizations on campus and in the local community,” said Sirota.

“I think this year’s Winter Wonderland was a great success and all the help we got from the campus and surrounding community to sponsor children was truly amazing,” said Mel Lundin, Phi Sigma Sigma president. “It’s such a great feeling knowing we were able to help make the holiday season less worrisome for the families we were able to support.”

Aulestia adds that she loves the event. “It really shows that this is the season of giving and that sometimes, you have to think of the less fortunate.”

Rotella attended the even as one of the representatives of Sigma Chi fraternity. “Overall, it was a great event and an eye opening experience to be one of the people that helped by donating to people in need,” he said.

“After the event was completed, the venue reached out to me to say how wonderful we are as an organization for what we were able to do for the families,” said Sirota. “They had no idea that there are people like us who do such amazing things in the area.”