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With Bells On

With Bells On
December 2013
The small but mighty Charitable Society of Charleston draws thousands to hit the streets for the fundraising Reindeer Run

C  onvincing a group of 20- and 30-somethings to rise for grunt work before dawn on a frosty Saturday morning seems a tough task. But year after year, Charitable Society of Charleston (CSC), the small force behind the popular Reindeer Run 5K, achieves just that, gathering some 35 members to help set up, staff, and break down the jolly holiday event starting at 5 a.m. And despite the early hour, these volunteers set about their tasks with bells on (literally).

So what drives the young philanthropists to annually don elf gear and keep the festivities flowing? Perhaps it’s the knowledge that their organization has donated more than $575,000 to MUSC Children’s Hospital over the event’s lifetime (a record $72,000 last year alone). Or perhaps CSC has tapped into a distinctive spirit of giving among Generation Y. “Most of our members have graduated college and spent a few years getting settled, then realized they want something more,” says group president Meredith Wright.

So for the past two decades, CSC has provided members a channel for investing their time and energy in the community, coordinating weekly volunteer evenings at a smattering of nonprofits. Each month, the club calendar features a pizza and board game gathering at Windwood Farm Home for Children, bingo night at Sweetgrass Village Senior Living Community, meal preparation and service at Crisis Ministries (though that’s on hold while the shelter is under construction), and Big Brothers Big Sisters playtime at Carolina Youth Development Center. In addition, members step up for a quarterly Adopt-a-Highway cleanup, conduct a biannual blood drive, and have assisted Special Olympics of South Carolina in hosting closing ceremonies.

As fledglings in the workforce—the CSC roster includes accountants and teachers, engineers and medical professionals—members can’t usually give much of their personal finances, but that doesn’t stop them from raising funds for those in need. With proceeds from events like the Reindeer Run, an oyster roast, and a harbor cruise, the society donates directly to area nonprofits and maintains an endowment fund to offer grants to deserving groups. Last year, CSC offered up almost $90,000 to Lowcountry charities on top of 220 volunteer hours. “Those numbers make my jaw drop,” says Wright. “We’re young, we’re not big CEOs of companies. For being such a little organization, I’m amazed at what our membership has achieved.”

The Reindeer Run is Saturday, December 7, at 9 a.m., starting and finishing at Southend Brewery, 161 East Bay St. For tickets ($40; $30 ages five-16) and info, visit