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Have a romantic Valentine's dinner in a tree house and help support people with special needs

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Posted at 7:11 AM, Feb 08, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A romantic Valentine's dinner, prepared by a French chef, all in a luxury...tree house?

It can all be yours for $150, all of which helps support people with special needs.

Patti Howell runs coffee house Hickory Trading Company and The Hitching Post Educational Center out of a single location on Johnstown Road in Chesapeake's Great Bridge area.

The cafe helps support The Hitching Post, which is an organization that advocates for and helps people with special needs.

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Pictures of students with special needs who have worked at Hickory Trading Company decorate the wall of the coffee shop.

"We're two businesses with one vision," said Howell, a former teacher, who began the effort four years ago. "We use the coffee shop as a real-life venue in order to job coach, teach life skills, communication skills."

She says the shop and interactions with people with special needs also changes the perspective of customers who come in.

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It's an effort that depends on profits from the coffee shop as well as donations. Howell says with the COVID-19 pandemic, less money is coming in and so she had to get creative.

"In my backyard, my husband built this amazing tree house. It has heat and air conditioning, with a suspension bridge and Anderson windows that wrap around," said Howell. "We are doing dinners right now in the tree house and we put together a really special Valentine's Day menu."

For $150 per couple, four couples will get to enjoy a romantic meal inside Howell's tree house on Saturday and Sunday of Valentine's Day weekend. The meal will be prepared by Hickory Trading Company's French chef.

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All of the money raised will go to The Hitching Post and its efforts to help the special needs community.

By Monday morning, all of the 6 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. timeslots for Valentine's Day and the surrounding days were sold out, Howell tells News 3.

She's working on creating additional times, but says the tree house is always open for people to book dinners and events with all proceeds going to The Hitching Post.

For more information, call (757) 606-0756.