If Target wishes to be the Grinch this Christmas, then how would we classify Wal-Mart?

Breaking news late Thursday: Wal-Mart announced that it will nationally match dollar for dollar the proceeds of all Salvation Army red kettles beginning Thursday through Christmas Eve.

Wal-Mart has allocated the Salvation Army the greatest number of kettle locations nationally for the last number of years. Target was formerly No. 2 on that list.

This year, Target prefers to be a big zero when it comes to public relations. They evidenced this by their change in policy to no longer allow the Salvation Army to collect at their locations.

We have led the charge to raise awareness of this in the New York area by pounding Target daily for the past month. Target has turned stiffly away from any calls to allow the bell-ringers of good will to return to the red bull’s-eye’s doorsteps.

But the cry for help has not gone unnoticed. On Wednesday, the tiny little GLY bookshop in Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y., decided to have its own drive to help the Salvation Army. The shop which is more famously known for being able to find any rare book that is asked for, entertained bell-ringers with snacks while community residents came with donations to the kettles set up at both entrances. At the end of the day, the tiny little shop added its own $1,000 donation.

And while mom-and-pop shops have sprouted up all across the nation to try to help, the need stilled loomed larger than ever.

Last year, the Salvation Army collected roughly $9 million nationally from Target store kettles.

Still, spirits at Salvation Army offices – particularly in the hard hit Northeastern part of the United States – were high on Thursday.

Maj. Charles Kelly, the Newark area services coordinator, broke the news on the “Kevin McCullough Show” (first in the nation):

“Kevin I am excited to be able to tell you about this first – Wal-Mart has truly stepped up to the plate,” his voice nearly quivering with excitement as he relayed the message to my audience. “They will match all funds donated to Salvation Army Red Kettles for the next nine days – up to 1 million dollars.”

National Commander of the Salvation Army W. Todd Bassett put it this way:

At a time when it was needed most, Wal-Mart has extended its hand to support the 104-year-old tradition that benefits many thousands of people in communities throughout the United States. Every dollar put into our Red Kettles is used locally, and Wal-Mart’s generosity by matching those dollars will extend our local services to many more needy individuals requiring our assistance far beyond the holiday season.

The Salvation Army has kettles at better than 3,600 local Wal-Mart associated retailers.

“The Red Kettles are an enduring symbol of the holiday season and represent people helping people,” said Betsy Reithmeyer, vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. “We hope our customers join us in donating what they can to benefit an organization that does so much in our communities to serve families in need. The Salvation Army red kettles and the bell ringers are truly a holiday tradition worth keeping.”

So while Target has done all it can to become the Grinch that hates Christmas this year, Wal-Mart has made a bold move to do otherwise.

In the days left between now and Christmas Eve, it becomes imperative that Americans at large do their part to assist the Salvation Army in its plight.

In order for your red-kettle donation to count toward Wal-Mart’s million-dollar match, it needs to be given to a red kettle outside a Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, SuperCenters, or Neighborhood Markets. But take a challenge from me and try to give – every single time you spot a red kettle.

Target has chosen unwisely to allow itself to be morphed into the Grinch this holiday season. Wal-Mart is taking a bold – and, I believe, advantageous – move by filling in one or two gaps that Target may have left behind. The real impact of both companies may not play out for some time yet.

Over time, you get a feel for people you trust, like and appreciate – and those you don’t. The score has changed considerably, in my thinking, on the part of both companies.

I just pray that Wal-Mart’s “save” comes with enough time on the clock for people like you and I to make it count.

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