April 17, 2014

Lancaster Teen Raises Money for Refugees

Brynn Hackett, a member First Presbyteran Church of Lancaster and founder of TAK(E) CHARGE, supports runners raising money to assist resettled refugees. Photo: Melissa Engle Photography

Brynn Hackett started raising money to help refugees resettling in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area when she was in 7th grade.  She set a lofty goal for herself: raise $50,000 by the time she graduates from high school.  Four years later, Brynn is a junior in high school and expanding her efforts.  With the support of the community and a few inspired individuals, she just might reach her goal.

“When I started raising money, all I knew is that I wanted to help in general. I really didn’t know what cause I wanted to support."

Brynn’s father, the Rev. Dr. Don Hackett, serves as Associate Minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster. The church is a long-standing partner of CWS Lancaster, hosting cultural orientation classes and volunteering with newly arrived refugee families.

“Our church was sponsoring a refugee family at the time, so my dad suggested I raise money to support them and other families like them,” says Brynn.

Since then, Brynn has become increasingly involved with refugee work and has founded TAK(E) CHARGE, which stands for Teens, Adults, Everybody Can Help a Refugee Get Established. The organization raises money to support families arriving to the area through CWS Lancaster.

“We really try to bring the community together to support a local cause,” says Brynn. Fundraising events have included dances and concerts, including a recent swing dance that raised more than $500.

Brynn’s commitment to refugees has deepened since she initially began fundraising. “Understanding that refugees don’t come here with much, it’s our responsibility to welcome them and bring them in. They didn’t have a choice to leave. This is their second chance…we can definitely do something to help.”

To date, Brynn has raised about $15,000, more than $10,000 of which came from Rick Lucchese and his one-man 1,050-mile run, which he called Run For A Refugee (Run FAR). Inspired by the work of Brynn and her fundraising effort, Rick ran the last leg of his six-month effort on Saturday, February 1st.

Sheila Mastropietro, Director of CWS Lancaster, cannot imagine resettling refugees without the engagement of the community.  “It’s really special for us to have this kind of support. It is especially remarkable that Brynn is so committed to refugees and that she has done such remarkable things at such a young age.”