When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Bedford, the number of families needing help from the Salvation Army skyrocketed, according to Major Michael Jung. Today, the situation has stabilized but with a different wrinkle – a great number of new-found people needing help.

Subsequently, on September 16, the New Bedford Salvation Army started its "100 Days Before Christmas" sign up appeal, hoping those in need will sign up for assistance, now through December 17.

Speaking of 100, this year also marks a century of partnership the Salvation Army has teamed up with the Standard-Times, as the Neediest Families Fund continues to play a vital part of the local holiday season giving.

"We want our community to know that they may come by and sign up with a proper photo ID, proof of income, proof of address and original birth certificates for all the children 16 and under," Jung said. "This year will be much easier because we'll be offering one-stop shopping, for safety's sake. We're going to verify everything on the spot, so once the toy store opens up, they can go right in and pick out their gifts for the children."

This year's theme, "Hope Marches On," is gospel truth for Jung and Stacie Hallal, the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. "The theme reflects our belief that hope is still here in New Bedford, where we can continue to help families," Hallal said.

The pair said they've seen children who received support grow up to become board members. "Yes, we have exciting stories from local people, who've worked to become the president of their company, and who now sit on the board as members," she said.

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"This Saturday, September 25, is the annual Serve-a-thon, where volunteers will be serving the community in various ways, at the Fairhaven Veteran's Park, Gifts to Give in Acushnet, the mayor's project at Buttonwood Park where they'll be painting all the light posts throughout the park and helping the Dartmouth YMCA harvest their fresh vegetables to be distributed to anyone in need," Hallal said.

Two of the most popular events return with the Soup Bowl fundraiser on November 13 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Rt. 6 in Mattapoisett, and Kristen Lancaster's Prize-A-Palooza, December 5 at Ryan's Sports Pub & Billiards at the Whaler Inn and Suites, located at 500 Hathaway Road in New Bedford.

This year, the New Bedford Salvation Army is accepting credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay. They could also use volunteers, and for as little as two hours a month. With Christmas coming, perhaps you and some friends would like to ring the bells for a couple of hours?

When asked why he chose to join the Salvation Army, Major Jung said, "That's a hard one to answer, but I believe this was a calling. I believe I was called to be a minister, and I was called to be with the Salvation Army, where I found love and hope, and that hope continues to march in me still."

For information, call (508) 997-6561.

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