The Daily Gamecock

Carolina Cares drive hopes to bring community together for holiday season

For the 50th anniversary of the Carolina Cares Holiday Drive, the Carolina Service Council is partnering with The Salvation Army of the Midlands to give back to the community during the holiday season.

Participants of the drive check out stockings to be filled with small toys or supplies for local children in need.  Stockings are filled for boys and girls with the age ranges of 1-2 years old, 3-6 years old and 7-12 years old. Some participants donate money for drive volunteers to use for stocking stuffers.

Scarlett Clemons, a second-year psychology student, is the director of Carolina Cares. She set up the partnership with the Salvation Army in early October and collaborated with the organization to put the drive together.

“The goal mainly is just to fill as many as we can to make sure that it gets to the kids, especially knowing that it’s local children,” Clemons said. “We’re really trying to make sure it making a difference right here. Our big goal is 500 stockings.” 

Clemons' favorite part of the drive is seeing the filled stockings come in and talking with those who filled them.

“We get to see all of the toys and everything that they fill in there," Clemons said. "It’s just really cute to see how excited the people get over it.” 

Venkat Kothandaraman, a fourth-year biology student, serves as the co-president of the Carolina Cares council and assisted Clemons in setting up the drive. His goal for the drive is to bring the Carolina community together to help the local children in need. 

“I think it’d be a great idea to give something of yourself to help children in need, because sometimes that situation can’t be helped and you don’t even have to buy anything, even old toys, that alone can help as well,” Kothandaraman said. “You don’t have to be expensive about it, anything can help these kids.” 

The drive first began as the result of a shooting that took place almost 50 years ago at Kent State University. Students were shot by the National Guard for protesting the Vietnam War, which sparked protests at the University of South Carolina. The Carolina Cares drive became a symbol of peace between the students and the governor of Columbia. 

“Obviously it’s not like that now, there’s not that tense relationship, but it’s still a good symbol of the Carolina community and sort of what we should do as a community for the people of Columbia,” Kothandaraman said. 

The holiday drive began on Nov. 1 and will continue every weekday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Dec. 3. 

A table is set up on the second floor lobby of the Russell House where participants can check out and return stockings. The stockings will then be given to the Salvation Army which will distribute them to the kids in need around Columbia. 

“I hope that it will make more people get involved who usually don’t partake in service as much because it’s showing that there’s more ways to give back than just some of the more traditional service opportunities,” Clemons said. “This is something fun and it’s something that’s in the holiday spirit.”