How to celebrate the holidays at Carolina

When Anjali Amalean started school at Carolina in 2014, the biochemistry and molecular biology student began looking for opportunities to volunteer in Columbia. Growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, she had been heavily involved in community service through Girl Scouts and wanted to continue to give back during college.

Amalean joined the Carolina Service Council, which connected her with opportunities to serve her new community. This year, the Honors College senior wanted to take on more responsibility and decided to lead CSC’s annual Carolina Cares Donation Drive as director. 

“It’s my first time directing a charity drive so it has been a learning curve, but it’s so rewarding seeing how USC can come together,” Amalean says. “It’s really awesome to get to know our university and community better through directing this drive, and it feels good to do something for the holidays.”

The Carolina Cares Donation Drive is a tradition that was started by students in 1969. This year marks Carolina Care’s 48th donation drive and 63rd treelighting ceremony.

The donation drive partners with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army of the Midlands and Families Helping Families to distribute donations to the people who need them. Students, faculty, staff and members of the community can contribute to the drive by writing cards to military heroes, stuffing stockings for children or donating a Thanksgiving meal for families. 

“Instead of those kids having to go without, they get to wake up and have a present to open and a stocking and really get to experience that special Christmas.”

Sarah Newcomb, public relations and volunteer services director, Salvation Army of the Midlands

The treelighting ceremony serves as the culmination of the donation drive where the donation totals are announced. Traditionally, the ceremony involves remarks from the university president, the student body president and Salvation Army representatives. Then the holiday tree on the Horseshoe is lit for the entire community to enjoy.

Throughout its history, the Carolina Cares Donation Drive has served as a major contributor to the organizations it partners with. Last year, the drive provided 800 of the 3,100 stockings that were given out through the Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance program.

Sarah Newcomb, director of public relations and volunteer services at the Salvation Army of the Midlands, says Carolina’s support is invaluable to the organization’s initiatives.

“That’s just such a huge help, I mean it’s such a huge chunk of stockings we definitely wouldn’t be able to provide without that partnership,” Newcomb says. “Christmas morning is such a big thing, and it’s a really stressful time for parents to not only have to worry about the bills they always are worried about paying, but also having to worry about making Christmas special.

“Instead of those kids having to go without, they get to wake up and have a present to open and a stocking and really get to experience that special Christmas.”

In addition to volunteer work, there are several other ways to celebrate the holidays at Carolina.

This year marks the 51st year of the USC Concert Choir Christmas Concert. Alicia W. Walker, associate director of choral studies, will direct this year’s concerts. In addition to Christmas carols and canticles, the choir will perform Morten Lauridsen’s “Mid-Winter Songs,” and a set of pieces dedicated to the victims of recent mass shootings.

Holiday enthusiasts are in for a treat with a recurring exhibit sponsored by the South Carolina Political Collections. One of Thomas Cooper Library’s most popular exhibits, “Christmas on the Potomac” showcases holiday cards that donors receive from politicians, dignitaries and organizations across the nation and the world. The first exhibit was located in the South Caroliniana Library in the 1980s and was such a success that it became an annual holiday event.

The South Carolina Political Collections include hundreds of cards with new ones coming in each year. Some of the special finds include unique cards sent by President Clinton, President Eisenhower and political adviser and financier Bernard Baruch. This year, collections director Herbert J. Hartsook has chosen visually interesting cards that reflect a cross-section of America.

Get Involved

Stop by the Carolina Service Council table on the 2nd floor of Russell House between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Nov. 2 through Dec. 1. You can check out supplies or drop off donations. Contact Carolina Cares director Anjali Amalean,, with questions. 

Donation Options

  • Fill A Stocking
    • Donate goods to give back to the children of Columbia
    • Stockings distributed by the Salvation Army of the Midlands
  • Adopt a family
    • Donate a Thanksgiving meal to a family
    • Boxes of food due by Nov. 20
    • Food distributed by Families Helping Families
  • Holiday Mail for Heroes
    • Write a holiday card to a military hero
    • Notes distributed by the American Red Cross

Treelighting Ceremony

Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. on the Horseshoe

USC Concert Choir Christmas Concert

7:30-9 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 1, 2017

Presbyterian Church (1314 Marion St.)


7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017

Shandon United Methodist Church (3407 Devine St.)


“Christmas on the Potomac” Exhibit

Dec. 1–22

Front entrance exhibit area of Thomas Cooper Library

Check library hours for times.

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