Twenty-three years ago after Hurricane Hugo struck coastal South Carolina, three women “went out to do a little volunteer work and found such a need,” Help4Kids founder Barb Mains recalls. In 1989, Mains was with her sister Aileen Page, also still involved with Help4Kids, and a friend, Lee Dougherty, who has moved to Alabama.
More than two decades later, Backpack Buddies snacks are distributed at 23 Horry County schools during the school year – 2,400 every week. The weekend snacks are distributed on Fridays to the backpacks of children who otherwise might not have much to eat over the weekend. The bags of snacks include little cans of Vienna sausages, a favorite of many youngsters from all economic levels.
Last school year, a shortfall in funding resulted in no Vienna sausage cans the last few weeks of school. To prevent such a problem this year, the nonprofit mounted a summer sausage campaign to collect enough to last all year. Thanks to the efforts of untold numbers of Horry County churches, civic groups and individuals, Help4Kids has 40,000 cans of Vienna sausages and enough cash donations to buy the remainder of the 75,000 cans needed for the school year.
The Horry Georgetown Homebuilders Association Home Improvement Show in September “helped us out a ton,” says Cindy Taylor, volunteer director of marketing and public relations. Through the sale of booths, a talent show and auction, many donated prizes which were sold (via raffle tickets) to showgoers and individual donations, the show netted over $17,000. “It was hugely successful for us. I can’t express how grateful we are to the people of Horry County. We are so incredibly grateful.”
Displayed at the show was a church building made of over 1,600 Vienna sausage cans. It was built by George Hudgins of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in North Myrtle Beach as members in the Kids Hope USA ministry collected cans. It was dismantled and rebuilt at the Convention Center. “Help also came from people donating a couple of cans,” Taylor says, showing the widespread appeal and support of the sausage campaign. “So many churches asked parishioners to bring in a couple of cans.”
Over the summer, Help4Kids delivered meals to locations in the county. In a “thank you” to volunteers who made sandwiches and other food, Mains says “I was hoping for 200 each week … but with your generosity we delivered over 600 sandwiches, hot dogs, Kool-Aid and sweets each week.” Churches, individuals and groups bought back-to-school supplies. “It was amazing – we sent over 400 children back to school in style.”
Currently, Mains is seeking hygienic products, socks and underwear for children. Mains says more homeless children are in elementary schools “than any time in the 23 years I have been doing this. We get a lot of requests for shoes and clothes, sleeping bags and hygiene products from the school nurses and teachers.”
At the Help4Kids building in Garden City Beach, volunteers are packing more efficiently in a new room, thanks to United Way of Horry County volunteers on the Day of Caring. “They built us a whole new packing room. They did a wonderful job – I was blown away.”