Volunteer Center Of The Lehigh Valley’s Holiday Hope Chests

Volunteer Center Of The Lehigh Valley’s Holiday Hope Chests

For the past 15 years, the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley has helped to ensure every child receives a special gift during the holiday season. Through their Holiday Hope Chest program, they collect and distribute more than 4,000 gift boxes to at-risk or underprivileged youth in the Lehigh Valley.

“The way it works is simple,” explained Phyllis Walsh, Holiday Hope Chest chairperson. “Donors take an empty shoebox, wrap the top and bottom separately, and then fill it with gifts for a child of a particular age and gender.” Split between boys and girls, the donation categories are divided into 2-3 year olds, 4-5 year olds, 6-8 year olds, 9-10 year olds, and 11-14 year olds.

Once the boxes are wrapped, packed and labeled, the donors bring them to the UGI Auditorium on City Line Road in Bethlehem. There, Holiday Hope Chest volunteers sort the boxes and prepare them for pick-up by a number of the Lehigh Valley’s nonprofit organizations.

Last year, more than 4,000 Holiday Hope Chests were collected and distributed.

“We work with about 25 different youth-serving agencies,” said Walsh. “They let us know how many gift boxes they need, and we work to fill the orders as the donations come in.” Some of the groups that receive the gift boxes include the Allentown YMCA-YWCA, the Boys & Girls Club of Bethlehem, Family Connection of Easton, Catholic Charities, Valley Youth House and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. “We also have a great partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car,” Walsh added. “So if an agency isn’t able to pick up their boxes, volunteers from Enterprise will deliver them to the appropriate location.”

Last year, more than 4,000 Holiday Hope Chests were collected and distributed. Walsh estimates that the need will be similar again this year. “Years ago, when the program started, we collected and distributed just a few hundred gift boxes,” said Walsh. “So we have grown exponentially since then. But, what makes me most happy is the fact that for the past several years we have been able to meet the requests of every agency. There was a time when that wasn’t always the case, so we are incredibly grateful to our donors for helping us achieve this.”

In addition to individual donors, many of the Holiday Hope Chests are provided through the collective work of Lehigh Valley businesses, church groups and other organizations. According to Walsh, seven groups each donated more than 100 boxes last year. The top two donor groups were the Northampton County Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division, which provided 570 boxes, and Northampton County Community College, which donated 487 gift boxes.

“Often times, our most difficult age group to fill is the 11 to 14 year olds, because that’s the hardest group to find affordable, small items items for,” explained Walsh. “So one of the wonderful things that our major donors do is provide a lot of boxes for this group. The Young Lawyer Division, for example, did fifty boxes for boys age 11 to 14 last year. They did a shopping trip together to pick out the items, and had a really great time sort of ‘reliving’ their younger years.”

Donations also aren’t limited to just Holiday Hope Chests. In past years, some donors have given cash or gift cards, which are used to purchase items as needed. This allows Holiday Hope Chest volunteers to make additional boxes when necessary, or help fill out a particular age group. “We also accept gift items that are too large to fit in the shoeboxes,” added Walsh. “Basketballs, footballs, etc., are all welcome.” Those gifts are passed along to the various agencies, which then distribute them to the children throughout the year.

The Holiday Hope Chest program begins accepting donations the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. By the following Wednesday, they have everything ready for distribution – completing the entire 4,000+ box process in a little over a week.

“We have a tremendous group of volunteers who all come together to make this happen,” said Walsh. “It’s a real team effort and we look forward to continuing it in the future.”

About the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley

The Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley is a nonprofit organization that helps match volunteers to opportunities in the Greater Lehigh Valley area. Each year they recruit, train and match more than 20,000 volunteers. They are nationally affiliated with the Points of Light Institute, HandsOn Network, and the Corporation for National & Community Service.

For more information on how to get involved in the Holiday Hope Chest program, or to find out about any of the Center’s other volunteer opportunities, please visit volunteerlv.org or call 610.807.0336.

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