In the days leading up to Christmas, students across the Midlands showed their giving spirit by collecting thousands of canned goods for area food banks, wrapping presents for needy families, donating blood and participating in dozens of service projects for local charities.
From Richland to Lexington to Kershaw counties, students could be counted on to aid Midlands charities with big hearts and enthusiastic fundraising. Organization that will benefit include God’s Storehouse, foster children with the S.C. Department of Social Services, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, the Palmetto Project’s Families Helping Families, Toys for Tots, and animal shelters, among dozens of others.
“I think it is really student-led,” said Mary Anne Byrd, spokeswoman for Kershaw County schools. “The administrators may introduce the concept and offer suggestions but the students jump on and make it their own. I think that is what really makes it special – it is something they can get passionate about.”
In her district, one high school, Lugoff-Elgin High, took on a variety of projects through classes and clubs for its Holiday Hopes outreach. Included among the giving, the Beta Club contributed $1,300 in donations to the Make-A-Wish foundation and individual classes raised funds for Project Angel Tree and adopted foster children for Christmas.
The district’s two other high schools participated in Toys for Tots and other projects, and the district as a whole joined forces with the Camden Walmart and United Way of Kershaw County to collect toys and coats for children in need in Walmart’s Fill-the-Truck effort.
In Richland 2, students collected more than 187,500 nonperishable food items to ease hunger, donated 4,600 toys and 9,000 books to make Christmas brighter for children and donated 140 pints of blood to the American Red Cross, among other outreach.
The district’s high school holiday assemblies are annual tributes to the power of giving, and the zeal among student leaders this year generated higher and higher donations, officials said.
Westwood High School collected the most cans of food at 77,466; Richland Northeast High School collected 44,162 cans; Blythewood High School collected 26,265 cans; Spring Valley 26,000 cans and Ridge View, 13,668. The high schools get a big boost and help from middle school partners.
God’s Storehouse, a faith-based charitable organization on Risley Road that supplies food to needy families, will be the recipient of much of the holiday generosity.
Lexington 1 highlighted its giving spirit in a video that featured such generosity as first-grader Seth Hendley at Lake Murray Elementary School who led a drive to collect more than 200 coats for needy children. Gilbert Middle School collected 300 toys for Happy Wheels while Pleasant Hill Middle donated 200 gifts for the Giving Tree, amid dozens of other projects. Midway Elementary Character Club sponsored a food drive that raised more than 850 pounds of food.
Among private schools, the lower school at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School provided gifts and essentials to 38 children at the Epworth Children’s Home while the upper school sponsored 18 families for the Families Helping Families community project and filled 115 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse project. The intermediate and middle school collected clothing, toys, bicycles, appliances and other used items for the Oliver Gospel Thrift Store.
The lower school at Hammond School raised $9,000 by doing chores and making donations to help provide gifts for 12 families through Families Helping Families. The school’s third-grade classes prepared care baskets and made holiday wreaths for veterans at the VA Hospital and performed a choral concert for the patients. Upper school students participated in Families Helping Families and Project Angel Tree, rang the kettle bell for the Salvation Army and worked with students at Jubilee Academy to make crafts and read and sing with them.