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SOUTH HAVEN — Christopher Nicolai is looking for the good fight.

"There is a lot of room for opportunities to fight for people in this area," said Nicolai, 24.

The Chicago-area native was recently named the new officer at the Salvation Army of Porter County. He's been serving since July and, after dipping his feet into the county's landscape, is ready to jump in a little deeper.

"I have a great desire to meet the needs of the community and to work with other agencies to meet those needs. I want to inspire people with hope they do not see in themselves," said Nicolai, who was commissioned as a lieutenant with the Salvation Army in June.

Nicolai said he was born and raised in the organization. His parents were both officers and served units in and around Chicago for his entire life. His father served as director of the American Red Cross in Merrillville for a brief time between 2002 and 2004.

"I got my calling around two weeks before my high school graduation. I wanted to make sure this was a God-given calling to serve people, meet their needs and provide hope in their hearts," he said.

Nicolai graduated from high school in Elgin, Illinois, and after attending Robert Morris University in Chicago, spent two years training with the Salvation Army in Chicago.

Nicolai said the Porter County unit will continue all of its present services, including the food pantry and assistance, but will also begin a new program shortly.

They are in the process of hiring a new social services coordinator and reorganizing the social services department.

When the new coordinator is in place, they will launch the Pathway of Hope program.

"It is a new program for families to help them get back on their feet and help guide families to meet their goals,"  Nicolai said.

An avid Chicago White Sox fan and recreational softball player, Nicolai also recently became engaged to Abby Hoag, who is in her final year of training with the Salvation Army.

"I am a very eager, ambitious guy and very excited this is my first appointment as an officer," Nicolai said. "I am very excited to see what God has in store."

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.