CSO prepares its Holiday Hope Chests for local school children


The Community Service Office is coordinating its annual Holiday Hope Chests Program again this year with the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley to provide the children of South Bethlehem with a memorable holiday experience.

Molly Bankuti, ’18, a student staff coordinator for the CSO, said the office runs homework clubs where Lehigh students tutor after school at J.E. Fritz Elementary, Nativity Elementary and Broughal Middle School.

Many of the children who attend tutoring come from low-income families, and don’t get the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with presents. The program is designed to give gifts to these children through people at Lehigh, as well as through people who are part of the Lehigh Valley community. In total, there are about 60 elementary school kids involved in the homework club.

“Last year was the first year we were able to give three boxes to each kid,” Bankuti said. “This year so far, we’ve gotten enough boxes for each child to have three to four boxes.”

According to the volunteer center, almost 4,400 children at 22 local youth serving organizations were able to receive a gift in 2014 through the program. This includes schools, businesses, civic and religious groups as well as individuals and families.

After the receiving children write their wish lists, the tutors send the information to the appropriate group to purchase the gifts. Generally, the boxes range from $20 to $30 in value.

According to Sydney Glenn, ’17, a program participant, typical gifts are toys such as cars, stuffed animals, school supplies, stickers and video games. Since participants get a description of what kind of gifts their matched child is interested in, Glenn said it isn’t too hard to choose which gifts to get.

The boxes are required to be delivered to the CSO before Thanksgiving break, and participants have to be sure they follow the correct guidelines preparations. Shoe boxes are filled with gender- and age-appropriate gifts, and the top and bottom of the shoe box have to be wrapped separately. Participants also have to make sure that they attach a name tag with the name of their assigned recipient.

“The best part about Holiday Hope Chest is knowing that I made a child’s day with my presents,” Glenn said. “Even though I don’t see their reaction when they receive it, I still know that it’ll put a smile on their faces and make their holiday season even brighter.”

This program allows the Lehigh community to create relationships with local schoolchildren and families. Not only are students involved in putting together gifts for children, but faculty and staff members also take part.

“Holiday Hope Chest is basically just a fun way to give back to the local community,” Bankuti said. “We really want to continue building relationships between Lehigh and the local schools, and this is an easy way to do that and makes a lot of kids happy.”

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