South Congaree, SC (Mechelle Mabry) – The Columbia Classic Chevy Club held their annual Christmas Toy Drive on Saturday, December 10 at Woodberry Plaza on August Road at the intersection of Woodberry Road in the city of West Columbia. Each year, they collect toys to donate to worthwhile programs that then distribute them to children of need across the county.
The town of South Congaree’s Christmas program, Ella’s Stuff a Stocking, has been blessed to be the beneficiary of the club’s efforts for the past seven years. Each year, the men and women of the club collect dozens of toys, and many of them go to the South Congaree program. The children who receive toys from the South Congaree program are nominated by the guidance department, teachers, and staff of the Congaree Elementary School.
The remainder of the toys from the drive are donated to LICS for distribution across the county. These dedicated club members and their Christmas efforts provide Christmas morning toys and joy for children who would often go unnoticed and toyless without the efforts of the club.
Over the past ten years, Mark Fernell, a member of the club and a reserve captain with the South Congaree Police Department, has taken part in the toy collection and distribution efforts. He has wrapped gifts, a task many men would shy away from, and even delivered toys to families who had no transportation to come and get the donated gifts.
Captain Fernell’s involvement in the community helps to give him a better understanding of the dynamics of the community. It also allows him to forge relationships with its citizen and to form a special bond with the children of the town. He lives the mantra, “police officers are our friends,” daily. Captain Fernell shows a kinder, gentler side of law enforcement to children who otherwise might see an officer as the enemy because of family situations that have forced officers to intervene in a negative way with some of the adults in a child’s life.
The Town of South Congaree’s program, Stuff a Stocking, was created in 2001 by former town administrator Melisha Shumpert. In 2012, the town’s council officially changed the name of the program to Ella’s Stuff a Stocking in memory of Gabriella Shumate. Gabriella was a child who lived in the area and was killed in a DUI related crash on Ramblin Road.
At the time of the renaming of the project, the program was revamped and its leadership was given to Mechelle Vining Mabry, a native of the town who is currently serving on the town council. Mabry and the volunteers who work with the program annually, have literally helped hundreds of children and families who are in need at Christmas.
In a recent interview, Mabry said, “The members of the Classic Chevy Club, Captain Fernell, and the other volunteers are invaluable in our efforts to brighten Christmas for children who might not receive a toy if it weren’t for the stuff a stocking program. I know I reflect the attitude of the town’s leaders and its citizens when I say we sincerely appreciate the hard work and dedication to others that the club and the volunteers provide each year.”
To find out more about how you can get involved in the town’s programs in the future, call the town hall at (803) 755-2760.