The Salvation Army of Boyertown
409 South Reading Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512


Mark Malizzi--Custom Fabricator
Jeff Graber--Graber Letterin'

by Jane Stahl

“Prayer Bear” stands at the corner of Boyertown’s Salvation Army, 409 South Reading Avenue, in a position to welcome everyone to the services offered by the organization and to the Boyertown community.

“Prayer Bear” was customized by Mark Malizzi and represents the second sculpture Malizzi has modified from the original standing bear form, fabricated by Cowpainters, LLC, located in Chicago, IL.

“The Salvation Army welcomes all people of all faiths to their assorted services,” Malizzi explains. “In the bear’s posture of prayer, he symbolizes the heart, the love for the community that the Salvation Army brings to any member of the community who—at one time or another—may need help to recover from unfortunate circumstances.” Malizzi serves as regional chaplain and vice president for Boyertown Fire and Rescue and many other police, fire and EMT programs in Berks County.

Malizzi’s knowledge and skill acquired from working with fiberglass in repairing Corvettes as service director for over 20 years for Ford Beans Ford of Boyertown allowed him the ability to make the modifications necessary to meet his vision for the project.

For “Prayer Bear,” Malizzi tilted the bear’s head to show it bowing its head in prayer for the community. He changed the direction of one of its paws, and added a Bible to the form. Jeff Graber of Gaber Letterin’ painted, added a clear coat, and installed the bear at its current location. The bear features a fur-like texture but his uniform has a smooth finish.

On the base of the sculpture is painted the corps motto: “Doing the most good” along with the Salvation Army’s logo.

Pieces were cut out of the bear’s paw to enable a repositioning and wire netting added to hold the Bible. Several dozen hours of custom work were dedicated to creating “Prayer Bear,” hours that included creating layers, applying netting, fiberglass, cloth, body filling, and sanding. Malizzi claims he is now “retired” from customizing Bear Fever sculptures and is available for consultation only!

Malizzi shared that the color of the Bible has special significance to him. It was painted white with gold edges to resemble the Bible he held at a Baptist summer camp when he made a commitment to Jesus Christ. “I now have a better understanding of why artists will add little secrets in a painting; it’s like a piece of yourself becomes part of the work,” he admits.

Salvation Army Boyertown Corps, taken from pa.salvationarmy.org
The Salvation Army Boyertown Corps has been serving since 1994. The corps has many social service programs including a food pantry, daily lunch program, rent and utility assistance, Back to School help, toys and clothes for children at Christmas, and Christmas Food Baskets. Our emergency disaster services include help following floods, fires, and other natural disasters. The corps also serves children and youth through Monday Red Shield Music Academy, Wednesday DMZ Jr. kids programs, Summer Day Camp, Camp Ladore and other camp trips. We have a chapel on site that offers church worship services, Bible Study/Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and adult fellowship retreats. We also have nursing home visitations. Our community events include a Back to School Night, Easter Egg Hunt, and Thanksgiving Community Dinner.

The Salvation Army's success and "Doing the Most Good" is only made possible through the generosity of our local, individual, and corporate donors.

The Salvation Army of Boyertown is currently seeking to raise $10,000 to support the new Salvation Army Canteen, a vehicle that provides food support and service to community members and first responders on the scene of local and regional emergencies.

Capt. Joseph Smith, corps officer at The Salvation Army of Boyertown, explains, “The donations will be used to provide food, drinks, and supplies to continue the canteen service at the highest level. We will be able to offer the continued support to our first responders and assist the community during times of disasters.” The donations can be sent to The Salvation Army, PO Box 254, Boyertown, Pa 19512.

Food Pantry
The food pantry, a drive-thru service, serves the community with food and hygiene needs. Malizzi noted in November 2022, that over 600 meals were being served each week; over 35,000 homes within the Reading, Pottstown, Limerick, and Hereford areas are within the reach of Boyertown’s Salvation Army, the emergency and first responders. Captain Smith added that the number of families served by the food pantry has increased 63% over the last year. The number of individuals served at the daily lunch program has increased 54% in comparison to last year.

A call for volunteers is in place to support the Salvation Army of Boyertown’s Daily Meal and Food Pantry. Volunteers are needed in the kitchen to help serve meals or during the weekly food pantry. Tasks include preparing and packing meals, intake, picking food items, stocking shelves, and loading cars.

“The needs are the same, but the need is greater,” says Smith. “The need is great and it continues to increase. We are working hard to meet the increased needs of the community.”

Mark Malizzi
“I’m known as “the divine instigator” in my efforts to help all people by spreading the love.” Malizzi—regional chaplain and vice president for Boyertown Fire and Rescue and many other police, fire and EMT programs in Berks County—goes by the adage that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

“People are looking to work with people they trust—in volunteer efforts and in their everyday lives. Building trust in relationships helps business, too. My bosses Fred Beans and Dennis Malloy know that my community work benefits the business.

In addition to his fulltime work with Fred Beans Ford Boyertown and his work as regional chaplain, Malizzi founded the non-profit organization now known as Thunder Outreach Ministries in 2006 that began as a block party in 2005 titled Thunder in the Valley.

Today Thunder Outreach Ministries is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records; Ripley’s Believe It or Not, earning the World Record for the World’s Largest Community Food Drive in 24 Hours; and has acquired three National awards in the American Police Hall of Fame among other awards, honors, and commendations.

Malizzi’s mission includes recognizing the unique gifts each person brings. “We’re a diamond of many facets,” he explains, a rainbow of many colors, a garden of many flowers. “Working as a team, with each person bringing different skills, refusing to put square pegs in round holes—we can get so much done.

“What it takes is the artist’s vision—the ability to see the sculpture in the block of clay, the willingness to hammer out the chunks—what doesn’t add to the final work of art, what we don’t need to do or worry about. Seeing the best in all of us looks like a miracle and, in the process, improves the world around us.”

Listen to Mark Malizzi’s episode on the “B Inspired” podcast available on your favorite podcast platform: Spotify, Anchor.fm, Google, Apple, Castbox, etc.