Phoenixville >> Claudia Hellebush, president and CEO of the United Way of Chester County, is the newest member of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s Business Hall of Fame.

The award is presented annually to recognize an individual’s achievements within Chester County.

Hellebush was presented with the award Thursday during the council’s Hall of Fame dinner, held at the Phoenixville Foundry.

“It’s our honor to publicly recognize Claudia Hellebush. Her extraordinary leadership has inspired the Chester County corporate and civic community into philanthropic giving,” Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council told the crowd Thursday. “She has transformed this organization into an organization that really cares about the social part of economic development in Chester County and has done some remarkable things and created opportunities for others.”

Calling her a “trailblazer,” Chester County Economic Development Council board chairman Ed Breiner said Hellebush has a “passion for the county, a passion for people.”

“It’s a privilege being in this county and part of such a high energy, kind, benevolent, forward thinking county and people like Claudia are what help make it happen,” he said.

Hellebush became president and CEO of the United Way of Chester County in 2003, after serving for eight years as the organization’s vice president of operations.

Under her leadership, the United Way of Chester County has transitioned from its traditional role as a fundraising operation to a full service, community development organization, according to Breiner.

During her tenure as CEO, the United Way of Chester County has raised more than $75 million for the community.

In accepting the award, Hellebush reflected on what has positioned her to do the work she does. She told the group she has been lucky enough to be on a “level playing field.”

“I had a caring and supportive family growing up and I have a wonderful family now. I was afforded the opportunity to get an education and was supported in my journey through life,” she said. “I think that’s why I chose work that led me to a place where I can get others to a level playing field.”

Hellebush thanked everyone in the room for their efforts to make a difference in Chester County, but added there is more to do.

“We don’t all live in the same Chester County. So while we quietly rejoice in the fact that we are the healthiest, wealthiest and best educated county in the state, I would like to say some day we’re also the most equitable,” she said. “I’ve been to too many houses without electricity, know too many families that struggle with food insecurity and know too many who make trade-offs on basic needs just to pay their rent.”

Breiner said the Hall of Fame Award goes beyond just leadership and honors community impact, versatility and a willingness to go the extra mile.

“It honors those that have made lasting impacts and impressions in Chester County by forging new working relationships with public and private officials, within the county to create and maintain economic health and dominance,” he said.

Several elected officials were on hand for the event including: State Rep. Harry Lewis (R-74th Dist.), Carolyn Comitta (D-156th Dist.) and Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline (chairwoman), Kathi Cozzone (vice chairwoman) and Commissioner Terence Farrell.

Cozzone is a member of the board of the United Way of Chester County. She singled out the United Way’s Financial Stability Center and Hellebush’s efforts to make the center a reality.

“It has positioned us to do so much more for the unemployed and underemployed,” she said. Cozzone told the crowd that the county was able to bring its Platform to Employment program into the county because of the Financial Stability Center.

Hellebush previously served as the Executive Director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Chester County for 15 years and was vice president of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters State Association during her time with the organization.

In 2009 she received the March of Dimes’ Woman of Achievement Award for Public Service. Hellebush holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Science in administration — both from West Chester University.

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