Help4Kids starts annual Vienna sausage drive for Myrtle Beach area youngsters

Help 4 Kids, the all-volunteer nonprofit approaching its 25th year, has launched its third summertime drive to collect cans of Vienna sausages for the Back Pack Buddies food program in 28 Horry County schools.

Throughout the school year, volunteers pack bags of snacks that are placed in the backpacks of over 3,000 children qualified for free breakfasts and lunches. The little cans of sausages provide some protein in the weekend bags that include individual servings of grain, fruit and juice snacks. The Vienna sausages are a favorite of the kids. Last year, individuals, businesses, churches and civic organizations donated 90,000 cans of Vienna Sausage.

Barbara Mains founded Help 4 Kids in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo and she continues as the director of the nonprofit, a community partner of the United Way of Horry County. Help 4 Kids is dedicated to helping children in need “feel good about themselves,” as Mains says, by providing new shoes, book bags and school supplies. Backpack Buddies is perhaps the most visible program, and the summer drives for the little cans of sausages surely have expanded public awareness.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, for example, on Monday home games offer half-off the price of admission for a non-perishable food item for Backpack Buddies.

Volunteer Diane MacPherson of Surfside Beach says 3,105 children need the weekend snack bags "and that number may increase as it does annually. We are looking to the community to join us again this year by contributing one can or several cases [of Vienna sausages]." She estimates BackPack Buddies used a total of 111,000 cans of sausages over 37 weeks.

MacPherson, who moved to the area seven years ago to be a part of her grandchildren’s lives, was looking for a charity dedicated to helping children in need when she saw Help 4 Kids volunteers handing food lists to shoppers at an area Walmart. "This is the charity I’ve been looking for,” she recalls. "This is very dear to my heart — as a way to honor my late mother."

MacPherson has been a Help 4 Kids volunteer for about a year, answering the telephone on Fridays. "There are all kinds of things to do, such as checking the dates on donated food." MacPherson is retired after 34 years as an administrative assistant to the public works director in the town of Herndon, Va.

Her work experience no doubt came into play when she tracked down a manufacturer of new containers for delivery of the Backpack Buddies food. Donated vacuum cleaner boxes are falling apart. MacPherson has secured an excellent price (more than 50 percent off) on 200 sturdy new containers. The total cost is $2,000 and MacPherson and other volunteers are seeking financial help designated to the containers.

Meanwhile, the third annual Vienna Sausage campaign is on. Collecting cans would be a meaningful summertime project for a family or a neighborhood, vacation Bible schools or Sunday School classes, businesses throughout the area, clubs and civic groups.