But Sunday, the quiet was broken by more than a dozen carolers from two New Haven area Jewish groups, singing Christmas carols and handing out presents. The groups, Horeb Lodge of B’nai B’rith International and youth group BBYO, are carrying on a tradition that began back during the Korean War.
“A lot of these people don’t have anyone to come and visit them,” said Harold Miller, president of the local B’nai B’rith International chapter, said.
Miller said a variety of area business donate gifts to give to the patients.
“Foxwoods gives me decks of cards for each patient and this year (there are) caps as well,” Miller said. “BIC Pen gives me pens and I’m able to get various other items which are donated such as toothbrushes, crossword puzzle books, wallets and water bottles.”
A candy store in Wallingford donated chocolates, which Miller said the group left at all the nurses stations.
By the time the visit was over, Miller said the group expected to visit more than 100 patients. Clifton Holloman was one of the lucky ones.
The Middletown man, who is an Army veteran, was being visited by his wife, son and granddaughter when the carolers came by. But Holloman said his spirits were buoyed by the visit.
“I was feeling a little down, but seeing them really made my day,” Holloman said of the carolers.
“This is really wonderful,” Holloman’s wife Marcella said.
Among the Christmas Eve revelers who visited patients at the hospital was Mike Romeo of West Haven, who has played Santa Claus during the visits for the past decade. Romeo served in the Navy for 30 years and said he considers the visits as a way “to pay back my brothers and sisters.”
“They stood by me and mine,” Romeo said. “There’s no way I can repay what they have done for me.”
Romeo and his wife, Faith, also give back to area veterans in other ways. The couple provides meals for homeless veterans on Thanksgiving.
Ryan Lurie is head of the Connecticut Valley chapter of BBYO. Lurie said he is happy to be a part of the B’Nai B’rith holiday tradition “because it brings such joy to the patients here.”
“It’s not like I’m really doing anything on Christmas Eve and the patients really brighten up when they see us singing,” Lurie said.