By Sarah Parris // Marketing & Communication // 3.6.19
Charleston Southern University students Davis Diel, Kenneth Alfieri, Allison Huggins and Sarah Parris spent a week packing toys for over 1600 families. Over Christmas break they volunteered with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program in Winston Salem, N.C.
“I gave up a week of my break because I have always taken advantage of Christmas and sometimes forget why we celebrate it,” said Diel, a sophomore business major. “I’ve learned that it’s not about receiving gifts but about giving them. I wanted the kids and the parents to see the love of Jesus through a simple act of kindness.”
The volunteer work consisted of nine-hour work days filled with manual labor to get the bags of presents ready for pickup. The last two days of the trip consisted of working with the 1600 families coming to pick up their bags, packing the cars, and making quick adjustments to meet specific families’ needs.
The CSU students worked with Erskine college students in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry program, totaling around 15 college students and five leaders. “Volunteering with the Salvation Army and their Angel Tree program is honestly the best week of the year for me,” said Alfieri, a sophomore biology education major. “Though laborious at times, the payoff of seeing the joy these families felt when receiving gifts that they were not able to provide for their children was all that it took to inspire us to keep going.”
The parents and children who came by to pick up their presents were appreciative and some so thankful that they were moved to tears. “I honestly felt like an elf working in Santa’s workshop, but it was so much more than that. This opportunity allowed us to share a fraction of the joy that Christ brings us to the families of Winston-Salem,” said Alfieri.
All four students felt that giving up part of their break was not a sacrifice but a joy. Huggins, a junior psychology major, said, “I wanted every kid to feel known and loved, and I knew that the personalized gift bags would help them feel that. I couldn’t not go. Jesus told us to be His hands and feet, and that’s really what I felt like I was getting to live out.”
Starting winter break off with volunteer work was a great way to refocus on the true meaning of Christmas. “This trip was important because it reminded me that life is too short to take; we should live to give instead,” said Diel.
The CSU group was assigned the daunting task of organizing, assigning and loading over 1000 bikes during the week. At times the end goal was easy to forget, while the logistics and manual labor of moving each bike was easy to get caught up in. However, the team found it helpful to be intentional about remembering the big picture and what each bike and bag of toys truly represented.
“I remember looking over the hundreds of bikes we were preparing to hand out, and I imagined in place of the bike the child that would ride it and love it. The enormity of the impact that each bike would make left me feeling overjoyed,” said Huggins.
The trip to Winston-Salem taught the students to think of others and sacrifice time for those in need. The outcome was joy and humility for all the college students involved. Their volunteer work blessed over 1600 families in the Winston-Salem community as well as their own lives.
Picture provided: (left to right) Kenneth Alfieri, Sarah Parris, Allison Huggins, Davis Diel.