College of Charleston students donate toys for two high-poverty Charleston schools

As a high school senior last year, Emily Hoisington organized students in grades 9-11 to adopt two classrooms at Charleston Progressive Academy at Christmas, donating wrapped gifts. This year, as a freshman at College of Charleston, she gathered enough help to adopt two entire schools. Buy this photo

Brad and Tami Hoisington of Goose Creek modeled the kind of behavior they wanted to teach their three daughters.

To help

Anyone interested in donating gifts or money for gifts for needy elementary school students can do so in two ways:

Drop off unwrapped presents at the U-Haul at King and Columbus streets from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Checks made out to “Charleston Hope” can be mailed to Emily Hoisington, 285 College of Charleston Complex, Charleston, S.C. 29424.

For more information, go to face or email

They raised them in the church, and they acted on their faith by organizing gently used clothing drives for the needy.

Given that, Brad and Tami weren’t surprised when their youngest, Emily, last year organized a Christmas-present drive for two classes at Charleston Progressive Academy.

Emily wanted to do more this year, and the College of Charleston freshman sought the help of her peers on campus.

She’s gotten so much support that college students have adopted two entire Charleston schools, or 46 classrooms with about 900 students.

“I just remember the experience and the kids and how happy they were,” she said. “God really laid it on my heart that we could do more.”

About 200 college students will gather to wrap the gifts next week, and some will go to Burns Elementary and Charleston Progressive Academy, two high-poverty schools in North Charleston, to cook lunch and give out presents.

Wanda Wright-Sheats, principal of Charleston Progressive, said community groups sometimes help individual students or families, but this is the first time the entire school has been adopted.

“It adds that partnership element that we really have been seeking,” she said. “We hope there will be more avenues to work with (college) students and not just at Christmas.”

The idea for the toy drive was sparked by a conversation with Emily’s oldest sister, Brittany Ahl, who teaches at Charleston Progressive. Ahl told Emily about how some of her students had never gotten a Christmas present.

Emily, then a senior at Northwood Academy in North Charleston, was floored and determined to change that. She asked the school’s ninth- through 11th-grade students whether they would help two classrooms, and they did.

This year, she wrote an email to every campus group she could to see whether they would chip in to reach more students. So many people have responded that she and two other students have filed paperwork to start a formal non-profit, Charleston Hope, that will continue helping schools throughout the year. They plan to buy teachers’ supplies and equipment and give students uniforms.

Emily’s mother, Tami, said she’s amazed by what her daughter has accomplished. She’s never liked to be idle, even as a baby, she said.

“She just had that spirit about her,” she said. “I always knew she had a heart for people and for the community.”

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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