You’ll have to forgive elementary school children around Charleston if they identify junior Emily Hoisington with Santa Claus. Though the early childhood education major looks nothing like Old St. Nick, she’s been delivering holiday presents and good cheer to students at local schools for the past three years. And this year, her generosity will touch the lives of nearly 2,500 students. For some of them, this is the only source of gifts they know.
Hoisington started her holiday outreach as a high school senior in nearby Goose Creek, S.C. The motivation came after her sister, who teaches at a Charleston elementary school, shared that some of her students wouldn’t be receiving presents due to their families’ economic circumstances. Almost immediately, the younger Hoisington rallied her peers and sought donations of toys and other gifts. She and her high school classmates dubbed their initiative Adopt a Classroom and arranged to work with two classes at her sister’s school. They gathered 40 presents, wrapped them and then threw a Christmas party for all those students, complete with a hot meal provided by a local restaurant.
“We just wanted these students to know that the community cares about them,” Hoisington said at the time. “We wanted to bring them a glimmer of hope this holiday season.”
Since then, she has continued the initiative each year, and that glimmer has grown to shine brightly. Charleston Hope, the aptly named nonprofit that Hoisington founded to organize this work, will be making a tremendous difference for students in five Title I schools around Charleston this holiday season.
“It’s amazing how much our project has grown,” she said. “We have around 100 students from the College helping this year, and The Citadel has joined in as well. We’ve added two new schools for 2014, so we’re up to a total of five now.”
Hoisington is also the chair of the Community Outreach Committee for the College’s Student Government Association. After graduation, she hopes to teach in a Title I school. “My heart and passion is with Title I schools. I see a need and feel a call to do something about it.”
Under her direction, Charleston Hope gathers the resources of over 40 different businesses, churches and campus organizations – not to mention hundreds of volunteers – in order to maximize the impact of this initiative. Somehow, Hoisington manages to balance all of that with the demands of college life. On top of that, her organization hosts another outreach event in the spring. Still, she says she draws important inspiration from her work with Charleston Hope. “For me and everyone else involved, this isn’t just about giving gifts. It’s about seeing the community come together.”