“It’s kind of like Chester County’s little secret,” is how board member Ken Klein describes Chester County’s Children, Inc., a charitable organization serving the county’s underprivileged and needy children.
For more than 30 years, and with no paid staff, this under-the-radar charity has funneled income from grants, fundraisers, and donations to families in crisis, and enabled many Chester County children to share the experience of attending summer camp.
CCC, Inc. has enjoyed a long and successful partnership with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the mission of which is to utilize high quality, comprehensive social services that strengthen the family’s ability to provide for the safety and well-being of each child.
When a caseworker for the department sees a need for a family, a formal request is initiated. If the agency is not able to cover the expense, the need is brought to the attention of CCC, Inc., whose 10-member board designates funds to the deserving family to meet the need, whether it is for heating oil, unforeseen medical or dental expenses, a bed for a child, or even a tutor for a student who requires remedial help.
According to Keith Hayes, recently retired Executive Director of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and now President of the Board of CCC, Inc., “There are a lot of terrific organizations in Chester County, and we’re a very small one that fills a specific niche. It’s a partnership with a county department that has worked very well for over three decades now.”
Hayes admits his charity with its all-volunteer board is a very low-key organization.
“People are just quietly doing the work and meeting the needs,” he said. “With no paid staff, if something needs to be done, it’s a board member who does it.”
Other than insurance and nominal postage and printing costs, the majority of the funds received by the charity can go directly to the needy.
“I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has so little overhead,” he said. “About every dollar goes back to those it is intended for.”
A recent example of how CCC, Inc. works to meet a need also highlighted a key goal of the organization: keeping families together by keeping a child out of foster care.
According to Klein, a single mother lost her job and couldn’t pay her PECO bill.
“They were going to shut off her power, and if that happened, her kid would have been brought into foster care,” he said. “The Department of Children, Youth, and Families tried their best to find money to help and couldn’t find it, so they approached us and we voted to give her the funds to get her out of arrears so the family could stay together. It’s another success story.”
Another case where CCC, Inc. stepped in when an expense could not be covered by another agency was for the purchase of a class ring for a high-achieving student who could not afford one like the rest of his classmates.
“One kid graduated pretty high up in his class and really came from nothing,” said Klein. “Just our being able to get him a $100 class ring made him so proud that someone cared.”
A large portion of the yearly budget of CCC, Inc. – about $25,000 – is earmarked to cover the cost of summer camp for the underprivileged who otherwise would not have that opportunity.
“Those were vivid, fun experiences,” Hayes said, reflecting on the times he attended camp as a youth. “It’s the feeling of the board that, ‘Why should a kid be deprived of that experience in their childhood?’”
Depending on the preference of the participating family, camps can include the local YMCA camps, sports camps, church-related camps, any of the camps associated with West Chester University, or even specialized camps for kids with physical or mental challenges.
CCC, Inc. even recently distributed grants to a few local nonprofits. Having been the recipient of a large donation from a woman in Tennessee who requested that the money go toward arts-related programs, CCC, Inc. granted funds to The Bridge of Hope in Coatesville, The Melton Center of West Chester, Chester County Futures, and the Oxford Arts Alliance.
CCC, Inc. relies on donations from individuals, businesses, private companies, and foundations. The organization also conducts fundraisers throughout the year, such as the upcoming Comedy Night on Friday, Jan. 26 at the Quality Inn & Suites in West Chester. The agency will partner with a comedy club, with one of the performers being comedian Paul Lyons. Tickets are $20, and $10 of every ticket sold will go to help fund camps, grants, and scholarships.
Although Chester County is one of the more affluent counties in the country, Klein has seen many kids who fall through the cracks.
“We have a lot of ‘haves’ in this county, but unfortunately we also have a lot of ‘have nots,’” he said. “We at CCC, Inc. are just trying to make the ‘have nots’ have a little bit more.”
Click here to learn more about Chester County’s Children, Inc.