Hope Chest Helps Low-Income Families During Holidays - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Hope Chest Helps Low-Income Families During Holidays

Posted: Updated: Dec 22, 2012 11:34 PM EST

Hundreds of low-income families in Charlottesville will have some warm clothes and toys to put under the tree this Christmas thanks to the Hope Chest Giveaway.

The 'Mama's Kitchen Club' from St. Anne's - Belfield School, and the Hope Community Center hosted Saturday's event. The groups have spent weeks collecting items for needy families and they finally got to spread their holiday cheer. Students collected coats, hats, gloves, baby items, toys and household items for the event.

"We have collected donated items, gently used items, household items, clothing, toys," Debbie Lyle of the Hope Chest said.

A thousand people lined up in front of Venable Elementary School to go shopping Saturday morning. Hot coffee and bagels kept people warm while they waited.  Once shoppers made their way inside, they had 25 minutes to take as many items as they needed - for free. The school's gym was packed tight with clothes. Hundreds of stuffed animals sat inside the auditorium.

"It was great here, we had lots of stuff and I found a great movie for me and my dad," Emquezada Romero, a shopper, said.

Student volunteers from the St. Anne's- Belfield 'Mama's Kitchen Club' group helped shoppers find items to meet their specific needs.  Frances Washington needed a warm coat and boots for the winter.

"I'm glad to be here and really excited a lot of stuff that I needed, hopefully I can be able to get it from here," said Washington.

Shoppers weren't the only ones leaving with a happy face. Student volunteers say the gift giveaway has taught them to appreciate what they have.

"A lot of us didn't know a lot of the things we've learned in ‘Mama's Kitchen' about like the different numbers in poverty and stuff like that so when we learned it, it's kind of like astonishing, the things that we learned," said student volunteer Elizabeth Neil.

Over the past two years the number of people served by the Hope Chest event has increased by 25 percent.

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