Pawleys Island nonprofit has kids' backs

Armed with vouchers, shopping lists and a debit card, Anne Floyd and Glenda Taylor descend on the Georgetown Wal-Mart's clothing section.

The pair are volunteers with St. Christopher's Children, a nonprofit group in Pawleys Island that helps children get clothing, dental and vision care.

"We need navy pants, size 12," Taylor says, steering her shopping cart into the boys department.

But her plan hits a snag. The only size 12 pants on the shelf are either "skinny" or "husky."

"Is he a slim boy?" the Wal-Mart employee asks Taylor.

"We don't know," she says, looking worried.

Picking out T-shirts, pants and shoes for the children is as close as most volunteers with the charity get to them.

"We never meet the kids," said organization president Bob Pelletier. "Everything we do is through some partners that we have, like school nurses."

And though Taylor says that can make buying clothes for the children a little bit more difficult, she's glad for the way the charity operates.

"It would be so much harder," she said. "And this way they don't have to feel like they're 'less than' because they need some help."

The organization gets referrals for clothing as well as dental and vision care needs mainly from Georgetown County School District school nurses.

"They're a godsend," said Susan Knowlin, the nurse at McDonald Elementary School. "I really don't know how I did it before they came into our lives."

Knowlin, a nurse at McDonald for more than 20 years, has worked with St. Christopher's since it started about three years ago. She said before the charity began, she would go to local churches and some charities to see if they could help provide kids with clothing they needed.

"It was piecemeal, and sometimes they could help and sometimes they couldn't," she said. "I got grey hair from worrying."

Knowlin said now all she has to do is call parents and ask if they would accept some help.

"If they say yes, we fill out a form and about two to three days later St. Christopher's drops off the clothes," she said.

She said the process is a little different if the child needs to see a dentist or an optometrist, but "they still make it as easy as possible."

Pelletier said he started St. Christopher's when he saw a little girl walking down a road in Pawley's Island in January with no jacket and flip-flops on her feet.

"It sort of struck me that ... there are a lot of kids who really fall between the cracks," he said. "That's where we step in."

A week ago, the charity had its first fundraiser ball and brought in more than $30,000, Pelletier said. That's almost a third of its budget for 2010.

"That's six kids who will be getting orthodontia as a result of that event," he said.

Three of those children are from Georgetown Middle School and the rest are from Andrews High School, Carvers Bay Middle School and Georgetown High School.

In its nearly three years, the charity has helped more than 1,000 children and has expanded from serving only Pawley's Island to the entire county. Pelletier said he hopes to keep growing.

"Maybe next year we'll be in Horry County," he said.