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Charleston 'hope' found in one CofC student with desire to spread cheer

Jefferson Award December_ Emily Hoisington and Charleston Hope-00031.jpg

Emily Hoisington has a simple goal. She wants to spread hope and holiday cheer all year long to those who need it to most.

It's something she's doing as she works through grief and her own loss.

To walk just one step in Hoisington's shoes would be to experience both the best and worst of times.

"I feel first hand how short life is, how you have to chase your dream. You dont know when your time is," she said.

The College of Charleston senior has been providing hope to underserved kids for the past five years.

"That's crazy to think that these kids are 10 minutes down the road from me, and when I think of missions I think of far away -- global missions when really it's right down the road from us," she said.

Her mission is her passion, a committment formed through faith. Hoisington adopted a classroom her senior year in high school -- and hasn't let go since.

"It's amazing! Five years ago, I was wrapping presents myself," she said.

Since then, Charleston Hope has grown incredibly. Forty kids turned into 2,800 in five Charleston County schools. She coordinates presents for each one.

And they're all wrapped by an army of Cougar volunteers.

"It's grown tremendously. This year we had 275 volunteers," Hoisington said. "To see that, to see students who want to give back to something bigger than themselves..."

Under the wire, Hoisington and her maroon-clad volunteers scramble to wrap all the presents as they deal with their own finals and elementary school students who are ready to head home for the break.

They meet their delivery date, meaning Christmas came early at Mitchell Elementary.

Hoisington's adopt-a-classroom initiative led to the creation of her nonprofit, Charleston Hope.

"I wanted to get in the schools more. I didn't want it to be dropped off gifts and leave. I wanted, then and now, to let schools, students, and teachers know that a community cares for them year round," she said.

This past year was an extremely difficult one. Hoisington's boyfriend, College of Charleston basketball player Chad Cooke passed away while playing a pick-up game in Chicago. But a piece of Cooke carries forward in Charleston Hope.

"Part of his dream for me and for us was that Charleston Hope would expand," Hoisington said.

Charleston Hope now includes "The Chad Effect."

"It's not random acts of kindness, but intentional acts of kindness like getting to know someone's story, or sitting with a student in your class that no one really knows," Hoisington said.

"We've really developed the intentional aspect of Charleston Hope, and the stories we've heard of people doing these acts of kindness in honor of Chad and in rememberance of him -- it's really carried me."

Her heart of gold is still broken but on the mend. Hoisington's spirit of giving though is stronger than ever. So is Charleston Hope.

This year, the nonprofit spread to two more cities, Spartanburg and Akron, Ohio. Now Charleston Hope serves 4,000 underserved students.

That's why Emily Hoisington and Charleston Hope is this month's Jefferson Awards nominee from ABC News 4. The Jefferson Awards Foundation honors public and community volunteerism, and spotlights the people going above and beyond in their efforts to serve others.

ABC News 4 has committed to profile people in the Lowcountry who go above and beyond by giving their time and talents to help the people around them. It's all part of our partnership with the Jefferson Awards, a national organization dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who serve and lead.

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