The holiday season has been one of service for several thousand students throughout Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties.
Toy, food, and clothing drives were just the beginning of outreach efforts as school groups also raised money for various charitable causes, collected books for agencies, rang bells for the Salvation Army, performed at charitable events, bagged and delivered supplies, and provided other holiday-related services.
Here, a sampling of outreach activities through the area’s eight school districts.
Alcorn Middle School: Held a Barter and Trade Day with the Word of God Church Ministries as faculty, staff, students and parents donated new or slightly used clothing, furniture and other miscellaneous items to the three local God Cares Thrift Stores. The God Care Thrift Stores, in turn, donated new or slightly used school uniforms to the Alcorn students. The school’s basketball team and Coach Frances Dixon gathered the clothes, and packed and loaded the bus that transported the items.
Bradley Elementary School: Distributed Toys for Tots to students, parents and grandparents.
Brennen Elementary School: The school’s Giving Tree enabled families, parents or teachers to adopt 93 students in need.
Brockman Elementary School: Collected more than 1,300 items for a Harvest Hope food drive; collected more than 400 gently used coats for kids and adults as part of a Warm Coats Drive.
Crayton Middle School: Student council donated 365 pounds of peanut butter and jelly to Harvest Hope; collected unwrapped toys for The Palmetto Health Giving Tree.
Dreher High School: Women’s varsity tennis and soccer teams put together food baskets for needy families to enjoy at Thanksgiving and Christmas; students, faculty and staff donated 950 pounds of food, as well as cash and checks totaling $495.00 to Harvest Hope Food Bank in November for the MLK Food Drive; Families Helping Families program delivered 17 turkeys and food baskets to families for Thanksgiving; school raised and is donating turkeys and gift cards totaling $1,350.00 to more than 20 students’ families for Christmas; boys basketball team sponsored its first “GameCHANGEr MVP Contest.” The contest raised $375 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Eau Claire High School: Performed in Christmas Concert at Benedict College, Families Helping Families program, Shoes that Fit Program, coat donation to Word of God Church and Ministries, Wreath Laying Ceremony with Fort Jackson, Harvest Hope Food Bank donation.
Forest Heights Elementary School: Pre-kindergarten students collected 174 pairs of new children’s mittens and gloves, 25 new scarves and 55 new knit caps for children in the community that may not be able to afford these winter essentials. Some of the donations have been earmarked for a local children’s s home.
Hand Middle School: The school’s annual "Christmas- Adopt -A Family” program provided gifts to families in need; students receiving free or reduced lunch were allowed to shop in the school’s Christmas store; held a coat drive to provide coats, hats, and gloves for any student in need.
Hyatt Park Elementary School: Participated in Angel Tree program for Prison Fellowship; Girls Scouts collected 440 canned goods and non-perishable food items for the Martin Luther King Holiday Food Drive. All collected items were donated to the Harvest Hope Food Bank; received donations from the Omicron Phi Chapter of The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. to provide holiday dinners for 22 of its families.
Lewis Greenview Elementary School: The student council, student body, community, faculty and staff donated $1671.00 to the school’s Families Helping Families project. The student council challenged each grade level to raise $100.00 and most grades exceeded the challenge.
Logan Elementary School: Continued the Sock and Mitten Christmas Tree program, which gives students, staff and parents the opportunity to donate socks and mittens to the Cooperative Ministries.
Olympia Learning Center: Faculty and staff adopted a student's family as they purchased basic household items including furniture, cooking utensils, linens, clothing and toys. Larger items were delivered by Santa’s helpers in a truck, while smaller items were wrapped and will be delivered by Santa.
W.A. Perry Middle School: Joined the Progressive Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to give 25 families gift cards to Bi-Lo for Thanksgiving; referred five families to Families Helping Families for Christmas adoption; PTA held a canned food drive among the home rooms classes. The food will be distributed to four of W. A. Perry’s families before the winter break.
W. G. Sanders Middle School: Fed the homeless and passed out toiletries in Finlay Park; prepared Thanksgiving dinner baskets for 30 families; held a toy drive for the Palmetto Children's Hospital and Freedom of Promise Church; held a canned food drive for Harvest Hope, held Coat drive for the W.G. Sander's community.
J.P. Thomas Elementary School: Students visited veterans and staff at the Bryan Dorn VA Hospital; second-grade students performed the play "The Elves' Impersonator" and fifth-grade strings students played seasonal songs at this annual event.
St. Andrews Middle School: Faculty, staff, and students donated canned goods at several events, including holiday concerts, to benefit Harvest Hope Food Bank; the chorus, cheerleaders, and FCA visited Harbison Hall, a senior citizens facility, to spread some holiday cheer. The FCA held several fundraisers to purchase small gifts for the residents. The Beta Club donated tissue to give to the facility.
Continuing an annual tradition, each of the district’s five high schools hosted student-led, school-wide service projects designed to encourage students to explore, understand and address community needs. Elementary and middle schools across the district partnered with the high schools to collect donations.
The district-wide totals include more than 136,500 non-perishable food items, 2,800 clothing items, 670 stockings, 500 toiletry items, 2,600 toys and 7,100 books; 304 units of blood for the American Red Cross; 61 blankets and 519 pounds of supplies for the Blythewood Animal Hospital and $11,600 in cash donations. Students also sponsored more than 316 families and foster children from the Midlands.
Each school held celebratory pep rallies with their own unique titles: Winter Wishes at Ridge View High School, Holiday Wishes at Blythewood High School, HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) 365 at Richland Northeast High School, Redhawk Holidays – W.O.W. Wishes of Westwood at Westwood High School and Winter Days at Spring Valley High School.
Their charitable giving will benefit numerous organizations including God’s Storehouse, foster children from the S.C. Department of Social Services, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, James R. Clark Sickle Cell Foundation, Palmetto Project’s Families Helping Families, Carolina Children’s Garden, Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter, Transitions, the Richland Two Backpack Program, students from Rwanda, Richland County First Steps, Tricia’s Trunk, Harvest Hope, Toys 4 Tots, Christian Assistance Bridge, Canine Angels and Hannah House.
Here is a breakdown of the items collected at each high school.
Canned goods: More than 22,000 collected and donated to God's Storehouse
Books: More than 4,200 collected and donated to Palmetto Health Children's Hospital
470 stockings stuffed for the James R. Clark Sickle Cell foundation
121 families adopted through Families Helping Families
$2,000 for Gods Storehouse
10,000 cans for Harvest Hope
85 adopted kids
$2,000 for Canine Angels
50,240 food items for backpack program and Christian Assistance Bridge
83 units of blood
628 clothing items for Tricia’s’ Trunk
74 adopted kids
$126 and seven boxes of baby items, toiletries and cleaning supplies for Hannah House
61 blankets, 519 pounds of newspapers for Blythewood Animal Hospital
33,267 food items
109 units of blood
36 Palmetto Place families adopted
476 toys donated to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital
1967 Clothing items donated to Homeless Transition Center
239 pairs of socks
515 toiletry items
$1,000 in gifts and appliances to benefit a staff member who lost his home due to fire
2,968 books for Richland County First Steps
$1,474 to buy shoes for students in Rwanda
Raised more than $5,000 for the Children's Garden
208 stockings for children
1,850 toys for Toys 4 Tots
More than 21,000 food items for local food banks
Donated 112 pints of blood
Oak Grove Elementary made holiday cards for the USO at Columbia Metropolitan Airport for soldiers arriving, flying through, or departing to their next destination, holiday cards for hospitalized veterans at Dorns VA Hospital as part of the 14th Annual Vets Charity Bike Ride and third-graders sponsored a food drive for LICS.
At New Providence Elementary, each grade level collected items to meet the needs of various organizations. Kindergartners collected items for the Lexington County Fire Service, first-graders for Lexington Extended Care, second-graders for the Nancy K Perry Children’s Center, third-graders for Happy Wheels, fourth-graders for the Oliver Gospel Mission and fifth-graders for the Veterans Administration Hospital.
Lexington Elementary sponsored a “Howl”iday Service Project for PAALS, an organization that trains animals to assist people with disabilities. All 32 classes stuffed a stocking with dog toys, treats and supplies.
White Knoll Elementary held a Toys for Tots drive.
Pleasant Hill Elementary sponsored a school-wide "Giving Tree" where parents picks gift ideas off the tree, buy the presents and return them to school to help needy families during the holidays.
At Pleasant Hill Elementary second-grade class sent cards to a terminally ill child in Utah who has been on the national news requesting only cards for the holidays.
Rocky Creek Elementary sponsored a canned food drive at Thanksgiving for Harvest Food Bank, partnered with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department and a local church to collect coats for LICS and RCES students, and collected donations for PAWMETTO Lifeline animal shelters. Rocky Creek also adopted 15 RCES families through their "Creek Cares" Christmas tree. Fifth-graders at Rocky Creek collected comfort items, games and toiletries for a holiday service project and delivered them to Agape Senior Center on Leaphart Road.
Gilbert Middle School Chorus sang at Gilbert Elementary, Gilbert Middle, Deepwood Estates, Agape Senior Care (behind Wolf's Gym) and Lexington Extended Care (Caroll Campbell Alzheimer's Unit) as part of their “Five Points Tour.” Student Council representatives visited Gilbert Primary to read stories to all kindergarten and special education classes and GMS ProTeam students adopted a brother and sister in the Gilbert community for holidays They raised $265 among 25 students, shopped and wrapped gifts for both siblings.
Lexington High JROTC held a Thanksgivng food drive and football players collected toys for Tots. Students in Angie Byrd’s classes held a blanket donation drive.
Gilbert Elementary chorus sang for the residents of Lexington Extended Care.
Pelion Middle students put together military care packages and collected food items for P.A.C.E.S. Food Bank.
Gilbert High’s Beta Club sponsored 24 children through GPS Cares. DECA adopted three children through GPS Cares. The Gilbert High School Improvement Council hosted a coat drive and the GHS Clinicals class took poinsettias to residents they cared for at Lexington Medical Center Extended Care. The school’s Key Club adopted a family to provide gifts and the FFA donated collards, fruit and poinsettias to the Gilbert–Summit Senior Center.
Pelion High Honor Choir performed for Pelion Ruritans and at the town of Pelion Tree Lighting. PHS leadership classes collected can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and the art club participated in Holiday Mail for Heroes. Students volunteered at the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5K Run handing out water bottles and the PHS band participated in two holiday parades and the Town of Pelion Tree Lighting. PHS Culinary Arts students offered Gingerbread workshops for the community.
The White Knoll High Women Ambassadors group created four gift baskets for the children of Epworth Children's Home. The school’s National Honors Society rang the bells for the Salvation Army the past two Saturdays and contributed gifts to foster children. The Beta Club collected can goods for Nancy K. Perry Children’s Shelter. Other White Knoll High students made holiday cards for nursing homes and wrote letters to children.
Lexington Middle School sponsored a coat drive and has a school giving tree.
Saxe Gotha Elementary School sponsored a “Giving Tree.”
Pleasant Hill Middle sponsored a “Giving Tree” to provide help to families in need. They also sponsored a talent show and donated proceeds to the families in need. Over 250 gifts were donated. Student Council volunteered at Families Helping Families. Spanish Immersion students brought in gifts to stuff 18 stockings for the Salvation Army. The school’s Fine Arts Department, iCivics classes and the Visual Arts Department held a can food drive collecting over 800 cans of food for LICS and held a soup dinner and raised nearly $500 for Harvest Hope Food Bank. They also performed 300 hours of community service for various organizations in the community.
Gilbert Elementary held its annual food drive and collected 1,616 cans of food. The school donated all of the items to the food pantry at First Calvary Baptist Church in Gilbert, South Carolina. Students gathered and bagged the items and helped church members load the food to be transported to the food pantry.
Eight Lexington 2 schools participated in the Cayce Cares project collecting non-perishable food items for God's Helping Hands Crisis Ministry Center: Brookland-Cayce High School, Busbee Creative Arts Academy, Pine Ridge Middle School, Northside Middle, Pineview Elementary, Saluda River Academy for the Arts, Davis Early Childhood School for Technology and Claude A. Taylor Elementary School.
Airport High School: Nehemiah Project-delivered Food Baskets to families in the community; JROTC wrapped gifts and packed vehicles for the Families Helping Families program; participated in the Cayce Cares' Food Drive through the Cayce Fire Dept. Community Competition to benefit God's Helping Hands; participated in the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes; responded to letters written to Santa by students from a first grade class at Congaree-Wood Early Childhood Center; took baked goods and visited a nursing home.
Brookland-Cayce High School: Visited Jenni-Lynn Assisted Living to perform for the residents; choir members sang at Park Street Baptist for their Christmas dinner; started the started the “Adopt-a-Bearcat” program, where staff members adopt a student in need and provide gifts for them at Christmas; raised more than $7,000 to help with the cost of a student’s medical bills after she was diagnosed with a specific type of cancer.
Northside Middle School: Created Christmas Cards for Soldiers, and donated over 200 pounds of canned goods to God's Helping Hands through the Cayce Cares project.
Pine Ridge Middle School: Took part in a government sponsored Toy Drive and raised 71 toys for eight families at the Senior Center; visited with some of the families assisted.
Congaree Elementary: Collected canned goods and other non-perishables for local food agency; make fleece knot blankets and donated to the Ronald McDonald House, Hannah House, and Agape.
Congaree-Wood Early Childhood Center: Collected toiletries, personal care items, treats, jewelry, books, and games for local senior citizens, many of which have disabilities and need around the clock care. Items were collected and made into gift baskets. As a result students got to experience what it's like to think of the needs of others, practice kindness, and give selflessly.
Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology: Made Christmas cards for the armed forces, collected canned goods for Harvest Hope, and collected canned goods for Cayce Cares Project for God's Helping Hands, the Show Choir performed for veterans at the Dorn VA Hospital.
Pineview Elementary: Created and sent 150 holiday cards for the Veteran's at the VA Dorn hospital; sent cards to local firefighters in Lexington county thanking them for the service to our community; collected more than 1,100 food items were collected for the Cayce Cares food drive and was donated to God’s Helping Hands Agency.
Saluda River Academy for the Arts: Chorus presented excerpts from their Christmas concert, “Holiday Lights” for the Holiday Market sponsored by the Junior League of Columbia at the State Fairgrounds; performed songs at the Corley’s Pre-Parade Charity Event that supported families of our S.C. National Guard.
Springdale Elementary: A forth grade class raised more than $1,000 for the Luekemia Foundation.
District: Presented two boxes of toys to Sgt. Ira Mcinnis and Bob Lewis, representatives from the Marine Corps League sponsors of the local Toys for Tots campaign.
Batesburg-Leesville Primary School: Provided canned food times for Christian Ministry Center and collected and delivered items for care packages for member of military. Afterschool program made over 100 Christmas cards for veterans at VA Hospital.
Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School: After-school program students made Christmas cards for veterans in VA Hospital. Beta Club students sponsored a canned food drive and collected over 500 items. Administrative assistants organized the adoption of 29 children and their families who will receive gifts because of the generosity of others. Fourth graders raised money to purchase $400 worth of movie tickets, gift cards, winter hats and patriotic hats for residents at Dorn VAMC in Columbia. Girls on the Run collected sundry items for local families in need. PTOcollected gently used clothing, coats, shoes and blankets and gave these items to families in need in the community.
Batesburg-Leesville Middle School: Student Council sponsored a canned food drive and collected 945 canned goods that were donated to Wittenberg Lutheran Church. Students donated scarves, hats, socks, and gloves for “Bundled with Love” program. Beta Club collected detergent, dish washing soap, paper towels, and toilet paper to donate to families needing these types of items. Collected Christmas cards that are being sent to local hospital.
Batesburg-Leesville High School: Students participated in Meals on Wheels program and gave special Christmas cards and a snowflake ornaments made by students to the MOW recipients. Student Council collected canned good donations for local charity. Interact Club collected clothing items for families in need.
The district office sponsored a Toys for Tots donation box that was filled with toys.
Sandhills Primary School: Several classrooms participated in Operation Christmas Child, sending a shoebox of items overseas to children in need; participated in a Clemson vs. Carolina food drive and donated those items to the local food bank; started a supply closet at the school for students in need; two students held a community clothing drive to collect warm winter clothes for students in need.
Sandhills Elementary School: Held district wide food drive for JAG Food Bank at Swansea High School
Frances Mack Intermediate School: Held district Wide Food Drive
Sandhills Middle School: Jr. BETA club sponsored a Toy Drive and delivered toys to children at the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
Swansea High School and Swansea High Freshman Academy: JROTC adopted a local woman who legally adopted her grandchildren after the mother was killed in a car wreck to keep the children from being split apart; JROTC visited the Swansea Senior Center to serve lunch and sing carols with the seniors; Transition to Independence students prepared a huge Thanksgiving feast and hosted the Myers’ nursing home for Thanksgiving dinner; Jobs for America’s Graduates students sponsored a food bank at the school and served approximately 60 families. The group collected over 3500 items from a district wide food drive. Student Council held Toys for Tots drive during December; students from various groups made cards for veterans at Dorn VA Medical Center for the holidays; JAG, JROTC, and HOSA students adopted families for the Families Helping Families Project; JAG students worked at the Families Helping Families Warehouse, made cards for a child with a terminal illness and made a care package for deployed soldiers.
The Center for Advance Technical Studies Law Enforcement Program collected more than 3,400 pounds of food and 2,800 food items as part of Operation Santa, a program sponsored by Lexington County Sheriff’s Department and District Five to provide gifts and food.
Chapin High School and Spring Hill High School planned giving events for Dec. 17. At Chapin High School’s Giving Assembly, students and staff planned a $3,000 check presentation to Honor Flight, a program that funds World War II and other war veterans’ trips to the nation’s capital. The school also gave donations to cancer patients.
Irmo Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade students held a competition to see which grade level could collect the most during the school’s Operation Santa annual food drive. As a reward for their effort, students duct taped Irmo Middle Assistant Principal Danielle Major-Murphy to a wall in the cafeteria.
H. E. Corley Elementary School fifth grade students participated in a local toy and food drive and donated nearly 500 toys and food items. The school’s PTO also hosted a Holiday Swap on Dec. 13 to collect gently-used clothes, shoes, toys and books for students and community members in need.
Elementary schools throughout the district also led holiday giving projects, collecting a variety of items for charities, individuals and groups.
Baron DeKalb Elementary: The Beta Club sponsored the Angel Tree Project to families in the school and community; the Student Council sponsored a food drive to benefit Food for the Soul and others in need.
Camden Middle School: Seventh and eighth grade bands played Christmas carols for residents of the Karesh Wing at Kershaw Health.
Doby’s Mill Elementary: Held a canned Food Drive and collected nearly 250 canned goods to be distributed to families in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; took part in the Angel Tree project; Student Council and chorus visited Morningside Senior Living Community for what has become an annual tradition. Each class created a wreath with an accompanying collection of stories written by the students. As they delivered the wreaths to the residents, the chorus sang holiday carols.
Lugoff-Elgin High School: Continued Holiday Hopes program; joined students from three elementary schools for the Teddy Bear Parade to donate stuffed animals to the children's hospitals and service centers in the area; supported the Kershaw County Angel Tree and the Lugoff First Baptist Angel Tree, Shelter from the Storm (a Men's Shelter), Pathway (an after school children's outreach), the Hermitage Food Pantry, Operation Christmas Child, the Midlands Women's Center, the Christian Ministries Canned Food Drive, and the Karesh Wing.
North Central High: The Beta Club sponsored the Toys for Tots drive and collected 204 toys in less than a week.