Small doesn't mean incapable.
You’ll find Abbeville county, population 24,000, nestled in the upstate of South Carolina, stretching from the Savannah River along the Georgia border to the Saluda River across the upstate. Once primarily an agricultural county, times have shifted and manufacturing is now the largest job sector. Though not large by any means, Abbeville county boasts of pristine shorelines and natural resources, making her a hidden gem. In spite of some opportunities, many high school graduates have been opting out of further education and many in our community rely on government assistance to provide for their families. One of our passions and purposes here at Stoll is to invest in our local community by creating sustainable jobs, investing in local commerce, education, and developing resources that benefit our community. A question that has been overheard many times throughout the years as our founders made decisions was “How does this serve the Lord and [and benefit] our community?”
Changing times demand change.
“Since its founding as one of the leading economically flourishing areas of the upstate of South Carolina, Abbeville County has always met each challenge with courage and energy. This has led to a level of vitality that has brought us to today with hope and excitement,” says a local foundation that supports economic development. As they saw the need for students to have access to education they could afford and jobs that would sustainably provide for a family they said, “At this time, we must determine the most effective strategies for achieving quality growth and act decisively to provide a level playing field for all our citizens. Changing times demand change from us — not just little tweaks along the way but transforming changes — if we are to stay relevant in our region’s economy, educational opportunities and quality of life...if we are to positively progress and not become observers, then we must act and act with wisdom and courage.” This demanded positive action for the future of the county. “What should this look like?” concerned citizens like Stoll’s co-founder, Dennis Stoll wondered and dreamed of a day that any young adult could successfully enter an Abbeville county career that would provide for their needs.
Let's stop talking about it and let's do it.
Meetings commenced and ideas were entertained. The proposal was made to establish a pathway to more affordable, high-quality, post-secondary education by funding the cost of an associate’s degree at the local Technical College for all Abbeville County residents who achieved high school diplomas. They would call it the Abbeville Promise. One day, during one of many meetings, Dennis leaned in and said, “Let’s stop talking about it, and let’s do it.” They worked tirelessly to raise funds for the program. Entirely coordinated by local citizens, over $1.2 million was raised in pledges to fund the program from individuals and businesses like Stoll Industries throughout the county. They saw the need and realized by working together, they could fulfill that need. This, right here, is the true community spirit that lies at the heart of our country.
"Similar programs all across the country are preparing their young people to be the workforce of the future, the next generation of productive citizens, and the civic leaders of tomorrow. Dozens of communities have achieved outstanding results in both economic and community development by establishing a Promise program. These communities have seen:
- Reduction in crime rates.
- Better school behavior and grades.
- Improved retention rates in school.
- Higher enrollment in post-secondary education free of debt.
- More educational opportunities and good-paying jobs.
- Greatly improved workforce in numbers, ability, and qualifications.
- More families with an income sufficient to maintain a household without public support.
- Enhancement of tax base.
- Increased property values.
- Attraction of more young families to our county. "
After a community-wide effort to raise enough funds to make the program sustainable, the Abbeville Promise launched with the graduating high school class of 2018. Now in its third year, the impact of the Abbeville Promise continues to be felt.
Mr. Lee Login, one of the founding members of Abbeville Promise says that the main goal is to help people raise a family on the income they have without public assistance. ‘You either rely on that assistance or you go to other, less desirable means to acquire income.’
Unlike similar, graduated percentage programs, the program pays 100% of what the student owes after any qualifying state and federal aid has been received. The Abbeville Promise makes higher education available to every student who is a resident of Abbeville County and graduates high school. Qualification is based on residency in Abbeville county and a commitment to participate in the program.
Full circle: It feels like community.
One benefit we’re experiencing here at Stoll is the quality of craftsmanship and employees this brings to local businesses. Noah is a gifted welder who just joined the team here at Stoll. He was introduced to Stoll through an industry week tour organized by the very same group of citizens that founded Abbeville Promise. Industry week allows students from every high school in the county to visit local businesses, introducing them to job opportunities they may otherwise not be familiar with. Noah came through the Stoll tour fascinated with the craftsmanship and the culture he observed at Stoll. He took part in a 2-year welding program offered at the local high school and applied at Stoll immediately after graduation. This fall, Noah will participate in the Abbeville Promise program while continuing to work at Stoll part-time. We are grateful for the opportunity to bring Noah onto the Stoll team. His enthusiasm and vision are a perfect match for the culture we hope to bring to Abbeville in the coming years. “It doesn’t feel like a workplace,” he says, “It feels like a community.”
Stoll Industries partners with mission organizations across the world to serve those who are underprivileged and disadvantaged. Stoll Cares is our response to Christ’s calling to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Stoll gives. Stoll loves. Stoll cares.