How IC Families Supported Holiday Spirit on South Hill for Impacted Students

By By Helen Legato, Parent '24, February 4, 2022
Read more about how two IC parents inspired miraculous gift-giving for students in quarantine...

When Ithaca College Family Council members, Ed Alpern '78 and his wife Marlene (Parents of IC students in the Class of 2016 and Class of 2022) drove to Ithaca in December to move their youngest son out of his apartment for the last time, they were extremely emotional. In addition to having a graduating senior this May, their son will be spending his final semester in Los Angeles.

While helping pack up his son’s boxes, Ed learned that 29 students were quarantined in Emerson Hall after testing positive for COVID-19. Although they were allowed to leave the campus, many of them remained in quarantine because they either would have to take public transportation to get home or their family members were elderly and/or immunocompromised.

When the Alperns found out that many of the students would remain in quarantine through Christmas, they jumped into action. “The morning of December 16, Marlene and I went to Trader Joe’s and Dollar Tree in Ithaca and put together 30 snack bags and dropped them off at Emerson Suites,” explains Ed. “While we were driving home, the fact that kids wouldn’t be going home for Chirstmas really gnawed at us. We wondered what they would they do for food after the food services shut down.”

The Alperns decided they needed to do something more and wanted to give these students a little holiday cheer. After contacting Kristin Van Ormer, Associate Director, Alumni and Family Engagement, who contacted Samm Swarts, Assistant Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Samantha (Sam) Wheelwright, Wrap Around Care Manager/Testing Coordinator at Ithaca. A plan was set in motion. “We ultimately decided to collect gift cards for meals,” Ed notes. “We explained our idea to members of the Ithaca Family Council and everyone agreed. Once we posted the initiative on the Ithaca College Parents Facebook page, the response from families was overwhelming.”

The gift cards began to arrive within minutes and after a few hours, Sam Wheelwright had enough cards for every student in quarantine, both on and off campus. Then Sam started distributing the gift cards via email with a note telling the students that they were in the hearts and minds of the IC Family Council and parent community. In just two days more than 150 gift cards were dontated. The positive impact Ithaca Families had on the IC community was tremendous and students ultimately received as many as three gift cards.

“Our thanks to the families and Ithaca staff for not only stepping up, but for hitting it out of the park,” says Ed. “The IC Family Council is all about getting involved in the parent community, and I can say from this experience that the warmth generated during the last week of December 2021 should be enough to keep us all cozy until the sun returns to Ithaca (sometime in April, hopefully).”

The Ithaca College Family Council is one of many ways IC families can have a positive impact on the Ithaca College community. To learn more, visit our website at