In keeping with a tradition established 14 years ago, the Lehigh University Police Department made the holidays a little brighter for 30 children -- ages 3 to 16 -- from 15 local families. The LUPD hosted the children and family members at a holiday breakfast, followed up with a trip to a local Walmart for the children to buy presents for their families. At the conclusion of the event, food baskets were distributed to the families. The program was funded by the roughly $10,000 raised by the LUPD over the course of the year.
For the past dozen years, the LUPD officers have been met by a local couple, Frances and Joseph Danko of Saylorsburg, who happened to be shopping when they saw the officers with the local children at one of the first excursions. The couple introduced themselves, asked about the program, and offered to become a regular part of it. Each year, they return to purchase a bike for one of the children.
Lehigh’s Shop with a Cop program is one of several programs sponsored by the Lehigh community every holiday season, including the 18th year of the popular Lehigh athletics department C.O.A.C.H. program, the Community Service Office’s Holiday Hope Chest program, a winter coat drive held by the Office of International Affairs, and several food drives and adopt-a-family programs held on the departmental level. The College of Education also worked with the Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS) Refugee Resettlement Program to provide much needed winter items for refugees arriving in the Lehigh Valley.
Also, in late November, the Lehigh bookstore allowed anyone to purchase a deeply discounted children’s book from a fundraiser table, with proceeds going to the Nurse-Family Partnership. The bookstore also collected canned good for a local food pantry in early December.
The C.O.A.C.H. program began several years ago when softball coach Fran Troyan overheard a cashier and patron talking at a local Wawa about not being able to afford Christmas gifts. Troyan shared the story with Roseann Corsi, partnership representative for Lehigh athletics, and the program was quickly organized.
This year, Lehigh’s student athletes adopted 17 families, with a total of 74 children. Including Lehigh fraternities and sororities and other departments, this year’s effort reached 53 Bethlehem families.
This year’s event was one of the best, raising nearly $30,000, according to Corsi.
“Our Adopt-a-Family event was unbelievable this year,” Corsi said. “It warms my heart to see the appreciation of the families. This event will live in our student athletes’ hearts forever, including my heart, too. We truly make a difference each and every year.”
This was the 12th event sponsored by the C.O.A.C.H. program this fall, with more than 250 student athletes participating in philanthropic activities over the past few months.
This year’s Holiday Hope Chest program sponsored by the Community Service Office (CSO) was another successful effort. Each year, the CSO partners with the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley to provide gift boxes geared to specific ages and needs of the children. More than 185 Holiday Hope Chests were given to local schoolchildren this month, according to CSO Director Carolina Hernandez.
“In general, I think there is a really generous spirit about Lehigh,” she said. “So many people and groups across campus are involved in very meaningful ways throughout the year and those efforts aren’t always visible. But during the holiday season, that sense of generosity is everywhere you turn. It’s a great feeling.”
As was the case last year, the #LehighGives hashtag was used to identify many of these efforts through social media on Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29th).