Letters to the Editor

Red Cross Gains New Sponsors

Not every day does someone go to a nonprofit organization and ask how he can help, but that's how Bill Roehl became the presenting sponsor of the upcoming Wal-Mart Hurricane Classic fundraiser of the Coastal S.C. Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross. The 16th annual event will be Aug. 7 at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island.

The importance of the event has increased as the Red Cross chapter, like all area nonprofit organizations, strives to maintain vital services as financial support falls in tough economic times. The Red Cross has another $10,000 reduction in its allocation from the United Way of Horry County. The United Way allocations committee reduced funding for nine agencies. The Salvation Army also took a $10,000 cut. For the Red Cross, the latest allocation followed a $10,000 reduction in 2009. The two cuts are a 23 percent reduction in United Way funding, according to Nanci Conley, director of public support.

So it's not difficult to imagine that Roehl's offer to help was more than welcome. "He came to us and asked what he could do to help the local Red Cross. He asked if he could be involved. He's brought in [hole] sponsors. He's rolled up his sleeves," Conley says. With help like Roehl's and Wal-Mart becoming the title sponsor for the first time, the fundraiser has grown in importance, Conley says. Typically the Hurricane Classic has raised $20,000, and this year she expects it to bring in $30,000. Sponsors and players are up from last year's event, Conley says.

Roehl, who says he is "a South Carolina boy," growing up in the Spartanburg area and moving here with his parents when they retired, owns Servpro, a fire and water damage restoration firm. His franchise operates in the same three counties the Red Cross chapter serves, Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg. "I was trying to find something we could add our name to - something we could be involved in that added value to people's lives." Volunteers for the Wal-Mart Hurricane Classic include Roehl, his wife and three employees.

Conley points out that the need for services doesn't change. Only 26 days into the new fiscal year, "we've already helped 54 people who lost their homes" in fires in the three counties, providing $10,867 in food, clothing and shelter. In the previous 12 months, the chapter assisted more than 550 victims of fires, providing nearly $90,000 in assistance. Chapter volunteers also responded when a plane crashed recently after takeoff in North Myrtle Beach. Volunteers teach first aid and CPR and work to prepare residents for disasters such as hurricanes. The Red Cross provides certification for lifeguards and water safety instructors. And daily, the chapter provides emergency messaging for families and members of the armed forces. The emergency message service was the primary reason for founding the Red Cross, Conley says. The chapter also has a Christmas dinner, started after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and last year served 4,300 meals. Bi-Lo, the major sponsor for the dinner, is also on board for the classic.

Red Cross blood services, providing 51 percent of the nation's blood supply, are separate from the disaster preparedness and other functions of the area chapter.