Salvation Army offering Christmas assistance

Published 9:27 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

NILES — Though autumn leaves are only just now beginning to fall in southwest Michigan, one area organization will be turning its attention to Christmas starting next week.

The Niles Salvation Army, which serves Cass and southeastern Berrien counties, is again offering assistance to families in need this Christmas season. To prepare, Christmas assistance sign-ups will be taking place starting next week. Families can sign up from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 25-29 or Nov. 1-5.

To sign up, families should:

  • Visit the Salvation Army parking lot at 424 N. 15th St., Niles
  • Retrieve an application out of the boxes by the backstairs
  • Fill the application out or take it home to return later
  • Bring an ID and proof of children (birth certificates, social security cards or heath cards)

Once an application is received, Salvation Army staff will provide applicants with a time to pick up toys and a gift card for food.

The Salvation Army will be again hosting its toy shop this year but will have COVID-19 precautions in place. Participants will be required to wear masks, which will be provided upon arrival.

“We provide toys for children from the ages of 0 to 16, and we also provide a gift card for some food to buy a Christmas turkey,” said Salvation Army Major Jodi Montgomery. “Once [parents] sign up, they will get an appointment time, and when they come back for their appointment, they will be able to go through what we call a toy shop. It’s like they are at a store shopping for their children for Christmas — and, of course, they don’t pay for it.”

Last year, the Salvation Army saw a slight dip in Christmas assistance participation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery said. This year, staff are anticipating an increase, expecting to serve between 250 to 275 families.

“Even over the summer, we were getting calls about presents,” she said. “I have a feeling that with money tightening up and the government pulling back funds, our turnout will be much greater.”

Though the start of the Christmas season means an increased workload to meet the needs of southwest Michigan families during the holidays, Montgomery said she is looking forward to it, as it means she is able to provide a valuable service to the community.

“We are here to serve,” she said. “We are here to let people know that we are here for them, that we want their families to be fulfilled, not hungry, not in need. We want people to know that we can help them fulfill a need that they may be struggling to fill, and it’s important for us that the community knows that they are loved and cared for by the Salvation Army.”

Montgomery said she would encourage any family in need to seek Christmas assistance through the Salvation Army. For those who do not need assistance but would like to help, Montgomery said there are many ways for residents to become involved — whether through donations or volunteering as a bell ringer during the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign, which begins next month.

“Bell ringing is one of our most import activities because the money we raise goes to fulfill our budget throughout the year, to help us feed kids all year long,” she said. “We need bell ringers, and we need donations, of course. We need families and churches and businesses and organizations to help ring the bell to bring in the donations so that we can fill the needs of the community during the holidays and throughout the year.”

For more information, call the Salvation Army at (269) 684-2660.

To volunteer as a bell ringer, visit registertoring.com.