Families Helping Families donation from longtime volunteers’ kids makes major impact in LR5 community

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Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 7:02 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 7:18 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As the bikes, toys, and clothes are collected and dropped off at the Families Helping Families Warehouse this year, there are two very noticeable absences on the volunteer sheet.

The loss of two longtime volunteers, Stuart and Wanda Stout, leaves a hole in the heart of the organization and an even bigger void in the lives of their adult kids. Dayton, Morgan, and Blaine are coping with the losses of their parents this holiday season.

“He really was Santa to so many people,” said Dayton Velarde.

Velarde is the oldest of the three Stout children. She told WIS that over countless holiday seasons, her Mom and Dad, Stuart, and Wanda shepherded thousands of giving South Carolinians to adopted families through the annual WIS Families Helping Families Phone Bank. Many times, the Stout kids tagged along for Thanksgiving nights surrounded by phones.

“If we worked 80 hours a week he was there 81 hours a week. He was always there, always helping,” said Nell Killoy with Families Helping Families and the Palmetto Project.

Blaine Stout said his parents also supported hundreds of children through the Snack Pack weekend food program at Lexington-Richland School District Five.

“He got a lot of stuff done I think he improved a lot of programs,” Blaine said.

But life threw Stuart Stout the ultimate curveball: cancer. He passed away in June 2020 after battling leukemia. Just eight months later, his wife of 44 years succumbed to COVID-19 complications.

“Devastatingly,” Killoy said through emotion. “He’s missed enormously.”

The loss is the kind of pain the Stout kids don’t wish on anyone. To lose both parents within a year is unimaginable. But in the void of loss, the spirit of giving is very much alive.

“The legacy they’ve left is that people will get up and do and act to better the community, Velarde said.

It’s a legacy that starts with them.  This year, Dayton, Blaine, and Morgan are donating $10,000 to support 10 families in the LR5 school district in honor of their parents.

We tagged along with them to the Academy Sports on Harbison Boulevard to pick up a set of bikes.

“We’re here to pick out gifts between bikes clothes, food, different items for 50 different individuals,” Morgan said.

According to Families Helping Families, every kid in the 10 family LR5 group who asked for a bike is getting one. Clothes, toys, and shoes will be under the tree for almost a dozen LR5 families this year.

“I don’t think that there’s anything more that they would’ve wanted outside of this,” Blaine said.

For some, it may be hard to imagine how these three adult children, having lost their parents so close and so suddenly, are able to think of others this holiday season.

What we learned by meeting them for a brief few minutes at a sporting goods store during the holiday season, is that it’s just the way the Stout team operates.

“Being able to do and provide is really what Christmas should be all about,” said Dayton.

There are still families left to be adopted this holiday season. Go to the 10 Days of Giving tab for more information.

Drop-off started  Wednesday, Dec.1, and runs through Saturday, Dec. 11. The warehouse at 9810 Two Notch Road is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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