More Than 550 Chester County Families in Need Receive Support From CCIU Students, Staff and Community Agencies

Child and Career Development Center (CCDC) volunteersChild and Career Development Center (CCDC) volunteers getting ready for the Holiday Hope Chest event at the CCDC. (Submitted Images)

DOWNINGTOWN, PA  — The holidays were a little brighter for Chester County families thanks to the students and staff from all three Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) Technical College High School (TCHS) campuses, the Child and Career Development Center (CCDC) and the Holiday Hope Chest program.

The Holiday Hope Chest is a charity event that provides a free day of shopping for Chester County residents who are in need. The event was held at each of the following four locations: TCHS Brandywine, TCHS Pennock’s Bridge, TCHS Pickering and the CCDC. More than 550 families benefited from the event and the value of all donated goods and money raised totaled over $50,000.

Throughout the month of December, hundreds of CCIU volunteers devoted their time to set up the event, assist the shoppers and wrap presents for the families. Students made up most of the volunteers and played a significant role in fundraising, bringing in donations and working the event to make sure it ran smoothly and was enjoyable for participating families.

Holiday Hope Chest
Holiday Hope Chest items that were available at TCHS Brandywine for Chester County families in need.

“The Holiday Hope Chest began in 2003, during a time of increasing unemployment, and was founded by Duane and Patty Knecht and their friends. It was created to provide an opportunity for community members and/or entities to enhance the lives of families in financial need by facilitating the collection and distribution of new and gently used items during the holiday season. Over the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed unemployment and financial need to families in our community and has shown the need for the Holiday Hope Chest program now more than ever,” said Brian Hughes, principal of the TCHS Pennock’s Bridge campus.

Families in need are referred to the Holiday Hope Chest by community organizations and are then given a voucher to shop at the store, which consists of new and gently used items such as clothing, accessories, toys, electronics and books.

Founders Patty Knecht, former director of the CCIU’s Practical Nursing Program, and her husband Duane have seen how the event has impacted both recipients and volunteers. “We see the Holiday Hope Chest program as the community helping the community and we all receive gifts from the event. Families are attending to take a physical gift, but we’re getting the emotional gift of being able to participate and interact with them. We also love the synergy and great opportunity the event provides for high school students. They actually embrace it and there were so many students who made comments about how they really enjoyed being a personal shopper and connecting with the family they were working with,” said Patty Knecht.

Patty added, “We would not be able to hold this event without the great support from the Chester County Intermediate Unit and the four buildings, which host the Holiday Hope Chest events.”

The Holiday Hope Chest was held on December 4, at TCHS Pennock’s Bridge and assisted over 200 families. On December 10, CCDC supported approximately 300 families while on December 11, TCHS Brandywine supported approximately 250 families. TCHS Pickering, which held its event on December 18, supported over 100 families.

To learn more about the Holiday Hope Chest, visit https://theholidayhopechest.org.

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