Salvation Army collecting money, toys for Horry County families

Bells will be ringing around Horry County shops starting this weekend.

The Salvation Army kicked off the Red Kettle and Angel Tree programs Friday night.

Bell ringers will be standing at entrances to Coastal Grand mall and most grocery stores collecting cash and loose change from shoppers. Starting on Black Friday, the collection pails will be outside the local Wal-Mart stores, too.

The funds benefit needy families in Horry County, said Bret McElroy, corps officer with the Salvation Army.

“It is restricted to Horry County, so the money is not going to be sent to hurricane victims or something like that,” he said. “The hurricane is a big question that’s been coming up. If people give to the campaign, it’s going to stay local.”

More than 6,000 people were assisted last year when the Red Kettle Campaign raised $147,000. An additional 1,000 people were helped at Christmas. McElroy said the families receive money to help pay for food, utility bills, rent, clothing or basic emergency needs.

Donations received in 2011 were a three-year high, he said, and this year the Salvation Army is hopeful for another increase. Their goal is $155,000.

“I don’t know what to anticipate with the economy the way that it is,” McElroy said of this year’s goal. “But, the needs go on.”

There isn’t a goal for the number of people the organization hopes to aid because that number is a direct result of the funds – the more money received, the more families are helped.

“If everybody could give $5, we would have more than enough to exceed our budget and meet the needs that we are presented with,” McElroy said.

Each family seeking help is interviewed by the Salvation Army to ensure the aid is really a necessity. Families with surplus funds at the end of the month would be turned away, McElroy said.

“We have people that really need it,” McElroy said. “If we help someone that doesn’t really need it we’re taking away from someone that’s desperate.”

The Angel Tree program provides gifts or shoes for children. Toys can be donated or purchased based on a child’s specific wish list. Horry County kids from newborns to teens are listed with their first name, shoe size and three wish items.

Myrtle Beach City Councilman Wayne Gray was at Friday’s kickoff, dropping the first donation into the red kettle while his daughter Sidney selected a name off the Angel Tree.

In a short speech, Gray said this is a chance to make sure every child in Horry County enjoys this Christmas.

The kids on the Angel Tree at Coastal Grand mall asked for toys like Transformers and Barbie dolls. Craft supplies, lockable diaries and teddy bears also made the lists.

To find an Angel Tree location or learn more call the Salvation Army at 488-2769.

Red Kettle donations can also be made online by visiting salvationarmycarolinas.org.