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Stockings tied with care

It’s heartwarming to imagine the joy on a child’s face when they see the tree, presents, and stockings on Christmas morning. Sadly, there are over 18,000 children in South Carolina who don’t get to experience this kind of holiday cheer due to neglect.

Lowcountry Orphan Relief (LOR) and Midlands Orphan Relief (MOR), a 2023 Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation grant recipient, aim to provide aid and support services to children in South Carolina identified as at-risk or suffering from abuse, abandonment, or neglect. They believe no child should live without the necessities in life, no matter their current situation.

The nonprofits have held an annual Stocking Drive since 2020 to combat this issue. The initiative begins in November and ends in December, providing Care Kits, one to two weeks of seasonal attire and clothing essentials, shoes, books, stuffed animals, and toiletries to children in need.

“Many of these children have never received anything new in their lives,” said Kate Long, MOR volunteer and social media coordinator. “I grew up with a single mom, without new shoes for years. My goal is for these children to feel the same joy I felt when I received my first pair of new Converses.”

New clothes and shoes increase a child’s confidence. School becomes less scary when kids can focus on their education instead of what they wear.

“I will never forget the look on a little girl’s face who received a winter coat with butterflies on it,” said Allie Whitmer, a program assistant at LOR. 

“This one jacket had the little girl in tears, and we were told she wore it constantly.”

November through January are the busiest months for LOR and MOR, as children need winter coats and clothing for the new year. “It requires extra efforts from our team and volunteers to ensure these children receive Care Kits quickly while also running the Stocking Drive,” said Long.

The Stocking Drive and all other initiatives are entirely community driven. Community members donate every distribution item and package every Care Kit.

“At MOR, we have designated ‘neighborhood captains’ that make all the difference. They are the ones who promote our needs more than any social media post can and consistently show up to volunteer when we need it the most,” said Long.

The Stocking Drive is LOR and MOR’s most significant initiative, with donations filling months of Care Kits for around a thousand children in the Lowcountry and hundreds in the Midlands.

“We can go into the upcoming year without stress because our shelves are stocked from everyone’s generosity,” said Whitmer.