Give gifts to people you don’t know and let them know that someone out there cares about them. The below organizations will give your gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn’t receive any, along with troops and other people you don’t know.
The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program allows you to give holiday gifts to kids who might not otherwise receive any. You can use the site’s zip code search to find the nearest Salvation Army location and see if it has an Angel Tree program. Not every Salvation Army chapter has an easy-to-navigate website, so you might need to call your local office. If you work at a large company, some Salvation Army chapters will provide a Christmas tree for your business’s lobby. The tree is decorated with paper angels on which local children have written gift requests that employees and departments can fulfill.
Danielle Gletow started One Simple Wish after she and her husband became foster parents and realized that many children in foster care didn’t have access to things other kids might take for granted, like birthday and holiday gifts, sneakers and school supplies. Donors can browse and fulfill wishes for these items. Wishes are compiled by social workers and other professionals who work with the children. One Simple Wish reached more than twenty thousand children last year. You can fulfill a wish through the website or contribute toward a wish with a donation as low as $1 through the Facebook page.
The Postal Service’s Operation Santa program started in 1912 when Post- master General Frank Hitchcock authorized local postmasters to allow postal employees and citizens to respond to letters to Santa. Operation Santa, which operates across the US, provides the opportunity to give gifts to kids who write to Santa. You can browse letters online and choose a letter you’d like to answer with a gift. The post office does not evaluate the letters for worthiness.
Soldiers’ Angels has multiple programs that support military families. One program matches military and veteran families with people who want to “adopt” the families for the holidays by purchasing a $35-to-$50 gift for each child in a family and a $50-to-$100 grocery gift card (depending on the size of the family) to help pay for a holiday dinner. You’ll also need to donate $12 to Soldiers’ Angels, which helps to cover their overhead. Given the tight budget military families often live on, holiday adoptions can be a big help.
In 1947, Diane Hendricks made a few handcrafted dolls and asked her husband, Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks, to give them to an agency that supports children in need. When he reported back to her that he couldn’t find such an organization, she told him to start one. That year, Major Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit collected and distributed five thousand toys. The commandant was impressed and directed all Marine Reserve sites to implement a Toys for Tots campaign, making it into a national program. To date, Toys for Tots has delivered more than 548 million Christmas toys to more than 258 million children.
You can bring new unwrapped gifts to your local Toys for Tots drop-off location. Typically, toys are collected from October through mid-December, but call your drop-off location in advance. Find more information and drop-off sites at www.toysfortots.org.
You can contact local children’s hospitals and homeless shelters for information about gift-giving opportunities.