Each holiday season, the United Way of Greater New Bedford’s office transforms into holiday central, providing local families with not only toys, clothing, and food, but also providing them with hope.
As its Thanksgiving effort wraps up, the United Way team is already preparing for Christmas. Each year, United Way’s Family Resource & Development Center receives hundreds of requests for Christmas assistance that would not be filled without the help of the community and United Way’s partnerships.
For twenty years, United Way has partnered with the New Bedford Fire Fighters’ Union on a toy drive that provides toys to the Family Resource & Development Center and to other local non-profits like PACE, Immigrants’ Assistance Center, and several local shelters to ensure that children have a happy holiday. This year, over 2,000 children will have a gift from this initiative.
In addition to working with the firefighters, , United Way also partnered with New Bedford Guide early in the season on “Share the Warmth,” a drive providing families with new coats, hats, and gloves; Acushnet Company hosted its annual internal drive to collect toys, coats, books, and gifts for local seniors; and a group of friends from New Bedford got together and hosted a Santa Pub Crawl in Boston requiring a toy or gift card to participate – this year they collected hundreds of toys for kids of all ages.
For the fourth year, United Way and Townsquare Media have partnered to tell the stories of families on air through Fun 107’s Holiday Wishes and for the first year on WBSM’s Mini Miracles. Local non-profit organizations nominated families in need of an extra boost because their circumstances have become beyond their control. Listeners of the two radio stations heard from six families in December– a mother and her children in a homeless shelter after fleeing from a violent home, a high school senior who lost his mother in May and the family is struggling to get back on track, and a family with a fifteen-month-old who is in need of extra care due to his special needs that are still undiagnosed. Listeners responded in a BIG way – donating over $40,000, toys, clothing, meals, and gift cards.
“I joke every year about my office looking like Santa’s Workshop,” said Victoria Grasela, Director of Marketing and Community Relations who spearheads the holiday initiatives. “The outpouring of support for the community and our partners has been truly remarkable and we couldn’t help all the families we do without this support. There are so many people that have made the holidays special for families in Greater New Bedford that we are extremely thankful for this year.”
The holidays are only a small part of what United Way of Greater New Bedford does. Year round, United Way operates the Family Resource and Development Center to assist families with basic needs, delivers food to local food pantries through the Hunger Commission, makes grants to organizations to provide additional services locally, works with the New Bedford Police Department on youth violence prevention, and provides the community with opportunities to give back and volunteer. None of this would be possible without United Way’s vast network of donors, community partners, and dedicated staff.
To learn more about United Way’s work in Greater New Bedford, visit unitedwayofgnb.org and consider making a donation to ensure that these programs and services continue into the New Year. Make a New Year’s Resolution to give, advocate, and volunteer.