Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Chester County Family Academy is a local school for 110 students ranging from kindergarten to second grade. This charter school in West Chester is funded with public dollars and has been custom designed to provide a private school environment for learning since 1997. On CCFA’s website, you can find both the vision and mission of the school. The school’s vision is to provide a private school style of education to students with limited resources.

Their mission is to provide a community-based hands-on, hearts-on, heads-on program for young learners and their families struggling with financial challenges. CCFA is staffed with highly qualified teachers who truly enjoy their careers. It is an unbelievable charter school working to sincerely impact all of their students. CCFA has special events for their students throughout the academic year, but a favorite one is this December’s second annual “Shop with a Sheriff.”

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh and the Chester County sheriff’s office host this unforgettable event. On Dec. 5, the 110 students from CCFA will travel to the Wal-Mart in Kennett Square by bus. They will be escorted by deputy sheriff cars and SUVs with flashing lights on and all. While at Wal-Mart, they become partners with a Chester County deputy sheriff and shop for holiday gifts their families wished for. After shopping, they are taken by bus to Providence Church for lunch and activities.

An event like this does not take place without hard work and volunteers, which makes it truly remarkable. Within a week after last year’s Shop with a Sheriff, planning for the second one began. A meeting was held by the sheriff’s department to talk about what needed to be improved for this year’s upcoming event.

In October, wish lists were sent home to each family, where they had the chance to write down what they hope to receive this holiday season. Once the wish lists were returned to CCFA, the teachers typed each list up and gave them to the sheriff’s department.

This is an event where so many people can get involved in one way or another. Whether it be volunteering, donating, seeking local restaurants for food donations, or getting the chance to sponsor a child, it is worthwhile and rewarding. Each $50 donation will be matched by Wal-Mart, and it will supply each CCFA student with a $100 gift card for shopping for his or her family. With the help and generosity of so many, this year’s Shop with a Sheriff is sure to be another great success.

Getting the chance to volunteer at an event like this is truly rewarding. Last year, I was fortunate enough to do so along with a few West Chester University students. We rode the bus with the children to Wal-Mart and we sang, laughed, and colored with them in the Wal-Mart break room while they eagerly awaited their turn to go shopping with a deputy sheriff. We rode the bus back with them to the local Providence Church, where they ate lunch and enjoyed a visit from Santa. At the end of the day, they were picked up by their guardians and walked out with a whole sack of holiday gifts and the biggest smiles on their faces.

One of the CCFA teachers, Anne Guidotti, spoke about the heartwarming event, saying, “The children get excited at school for something like going into the treasure bin for stickers, so the simplicity of what the families write down on their wish list is what makes you realize what a gift this is for them during the holiday season.”

The holiday season is about giving to those less fortunate. It is about being kind and caring to those around you and about doing your part to make the world a happier place. This occasion does just that, as these young children have been looking forward to the second annual Shop with a Sheriff, and they have been waiting for their turn to walk hand-in-hand with a deputy sheriff. Watching the students walk around with a deputy sheriff is so special to see. The children love sharing their lists with them.

Mrs. Guidotti said, “They are engaged in conversation and on a mission to get the best possible gift for their family members. It’s really a nice connection and cute to see the students looking up to the officers.”

Witnessing such a special connection is truly incredible, and the students love every minute of this one-on-one experience. They debate with each other on what color they should get, they love being lifted up to get something on the higher shelves, and both the deputy sheriffs and students laugh and chat with each other. Some students even get to be pushed in the shopping cart.

The excitement and happiness from the students radiates throughout the buses, at Wal-Mart, and at the church.

“Their eyes just light up when we walk into Wal-Mart. It is great seeing each child get the chance to shop with a deputy sheriff. I enjoy meeting the children at the register when they’re checking out: They are excited about their purchases for their family members and sometimes find something special for themselves.”

This is the second year my friends and I will be volunteering at this incredible event and we cannot wait.The day is full of smiles, laughter, high fives, joy, and cheer.

The Chester County Sheriff’s Office shows the town of West Chester, the CCFA staff, volunteers, students, and their families the true joy of helping others.

As the holiday season begins, take time to help those less fortunate, spread love and joy, volunteer, and help make someone’s holiday season one they are sure to never forget.

Aileen Assumma is a second-year student majoring in English literature. She can be reached at

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