Sumter's Next Generation, presented by CCTC: Wilson Hall grad Durham to embark on global mission of holiday cheer


In the covert world of charitable missions, a special agent stands out: Sarah Emily Durham.

Having completed her latest mission, codenamed "Operation Christmas Child," this special agent by night, college junior by day majoring in honors biology and medical lab science at Charleston Southern University, is about to embark on a not-so-top-secret mission that transcends country borders and brings joy to children in need.

Sarah, a Wilson Hall graduate, is no stranger to giving back. With her life's goal being to better the lives of others through her charity, her faith and hopefully one day medicine, she's been involved with charitable programs like Operation Christmas Child since she was a child, her parents being avid supporters of Samaritan's Purse. In Sumter, she divided her time between community service and nurturing her creative passion, hence her 19 years of experience in dance. Once at Charleston Southern, she started devoting her free time to being an instrumental part of the college's record-breaking five-year streak of packing the most shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child - and it's paid off.

Through meticulous planning and strategic coordination since May, Sarah, with the help of family, friends and Sumter community members, was able to secure necessary supplies - hygiene products, pens, pencils, coloring pages, little toys and handwritten notes. On Nov. 4, her network of helpers gathered at her grandmother's house in Sumter for a packing party. After multiple restocks and a long day's work, she filled a whopping 1,513 shoe boxes.

"That journey was definitely a long and crazy one," Sarah said with a laugh.

But she has seen firsthand how these small boxes can make a big difference locally, as students at Charleston Southern have received such boxes. The support garnered from the college and her family was the fuel she needed to see this mission through until the end - but her mission doesn't end there. At the top of 2024, she will be given the honor of personally delivering these shoeboxes to children in Granada, Spain, turning her mission into a heartwarming reality.

"[It's] absolutely amazing," she said, beaming about the opportunity. "I'm really looking forward to it because it's gonna be so rewarding to get to see them open up the shoe boxes and see the reward of all of the weeks' and months' worth of packing."

Sarah, the special agent of holiday cheer, encourages her fellow Gen-Zers to join a cause for good of their own as she demonstrates that even in a world filled with challenges, one person can make a significant impact - locally and globally - through compassion, dedication and the power of community.