This year, Christmas shopping will probably be a lot more expensive because of inflation. Supply chain issues and continued unrest across the globe only compound the issue of soaring prices. But there is hope if you need extra help for the holidays.
Need help buying Christmas gifts this year? You may be eligible to participate in one of these organizations below that help financially struggling families get free Christmas toys for their kids.
For holiday gifts for low-income families, keep reading.
We also compiled this guide on where to get free toys year-round.
Here's how to apply for free Christmas gifts:
Be an Elf
Be an Elf partners with USPS Operation Santa to help needy kids get toys for Christmas. Volunteers can adopt a letter written to Santa online and buy gifts for that family.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Be an Elf?
While anyone can write a letter to Santa, Be an Elf only posts letters from the USPS of families who are financially struggling.
What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Be an Elf?
Be an Elf recommends mailing your letter around late October for a better chance to be adopted, but participants have until November 28th to do so.
How do I apply for toys from Be an Elf?
To qualify for Be an Elf, your family must write a letter and mail it to Santa through the USPS Operation Santa.
If you are struggling to provide gifts for your children, have them write to:
123 Elf Road
North Pole 88888
If your family is not having a financial issue but your child wants to write a letter to Santa, please mail it to:
While they can’t guarantee that you’ll get assistance, Be an Elf has some tips to help you get noticed: They recommend mailing your family’s letters in one envelope (so volunteers know you’re one unit) and being honest as to why you need financial assistance this year.
Then, have your kids each write a letter thanking the volunteer and listing what he or she would like for Christmas. Be an Elf advises to ask for simple things like clothes and toys, and you can also ask for gift cards that will allow you to purchase gifts yourself.
Each year, local police departments and police organizations partner with local charities, causes, businesses, and citizens to help families in need during the Christmas season.
For example, the Rancho Cordova Police Department’s Youth Services Unit will supply children of 350 families in need with Christmas gifts the week of December 11, 2022.
Registration begins October 11, 2022 at the Kilgore Station at 2897 Kilgore Road in Rancho Cordova, CA. Registered parents will pick up new toys and gift wrap to help their children celebrate the season.
To apply, you need:
- Valid identification such as a driver’s license or passport
- Proof of address such as a rental agreement
- Proof that your child attends school Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Elk Grove Unified School District, or Sacramento City Unified School District school in Rancho Cordova city limits
For questions about Christmas in Cordova, you can call 916-875-9627.
These kinds of programs are all over the nation:
- Since 1984 in Texas, the Plano Police Association Christmas Cops program is a nonprofit staffed by local police, volunteers, and the surrounding community. They do a drive each year to collect toys, coats, non-perishable food, and other helpful items.
- In Florida, the Port Orange Police Department launched Cops for Christmas in 2020. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, FL operates a Christmas Village to bring toys and holiday cheer to children in need.
If you are looking for help with free Christmas presents, contact your local police department to ask about what events they are planning for the upcoming holiday season.
The Dream Foundation’s Dream Toy Program provides thousands of free toys each year to children under the age of 18 who live with and are expecting the loss of a loved one. These are children of parents or guardians who are terminally ill or under hospice or end-of-life care.
Toy makers Hasbro and Ty, Inc. have partnered with Dream Foundation to deliver new toys for hundreds of children. Volunteers pack boxes for each child with toys and games they are likely to enjoy.
What are the qualifications for free gifts from Dream Foundation?
To receive gifts from the Dream Foundation, dependent children must be living in the household of a Dream Program or Dreams for Veterans recipient.
Dream Foundation recipients:
- Have applied and were accepted for a Dream program
- Live in the United States (includes Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico)
- Have a terminal diagnosis with a life expectancy of 12 months or less
- Do not have the resources to fulfill their Dream request
What is the deadline to sign up for free gifts from Dream Foundation?
There is no deadline to sign up. The Dream application is available year-round. Once a Dream recipient is accepted, the children are eligible for free toys.
Family Giving Tree
Family Giving Tree has a Holiday Wish Drive Program that helps low-income families in the California Bay Area.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Family Giving Tree?
Family Giving Tree works with over 300 service agencies and that are 501(c)(3) organizations to serve over 120,000 children and individuals in the Bay Area.
Every August, these agencies reach out to collect holiday wishes from the people they serve. These wishes are placed on the Virtual Giving Tree (VGT) on the website in early November.
According to their website, “they serve those who without their services would go without basic necessities or services.”
What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Family Giving Tree?
Agencies begin contacting families to get their wishes starting in August.
How can I apply for toys from Family Giving Tree Agencies?
If you live in the Bay Area, and receive help from a local service agency or nonprofit, ask your local contact at the organization if they participate with Family Giving Tree. To receive help you must go through a Family Giving Tree partner organization.
Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots is a national 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity that works with local agencies to deliver unwrapped Christmas toys for kids.
What are the qualifications for free gifts from Toys for Tots?
There are no criteria to apply, but the charity works with local organizations that help them locate families with kids ages 12 and under that really need help. However, in some areas, because of overwhelming support, they can serve children over 12 years old.
What is the deadline to sign up for free gifts from Toys for Tots?
Each state has its own Toys for Tots campaign deadlines. To get exact details about deadlines and how to apply for toys, use the Toys for Tots campaign search.
How can I apply for help from Toys for Tots?
Those wanting help from Toys for Tots should go on their website and click “donate or request a toy” and use the search feature to find the local campaign that serves their area. Then, you’ll have to fill out an application online by the deadline set by your local campaign. Some campaigns start as early as October.
You’ll have to provide the names and ages of kids in your family, proof of residency, and a short blurb explaining why you need help with toys this year. A coordinator will then call you to verify your information.
Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive
Operation Homefront offers various financial assistance to military families. During the holidays, the non-for-profit partners with Dollar Tree to give toys to kids from military families in need.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Operation Homefront?
To qualify for Operation Homefront, you must prove that you or someone in the family is in the military.
How to apply for toys from Operation Homefront?
You must create an account through the My Operation Homefront Portal. Then, you can register for the Holiday Toy Drive if you are eligible for the event. You can also visit the Operation Homefront Facebook Page to learn about local events in your area and registration deadlines.
Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™
Prison Fellowship Angel Tree is a Christian-based organization that partners with churches to give gifts to kids of incarcerated parents.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Angel Tree?
This program is only available for kids who come from incarcerated families.
What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Angel Tree?
Parents can register their kids in early October.
How can I apply for help from Angel Tree?
Parents in prison can sign up their kids. Then, the organization will reach out to confirm kids' permission and discuss gifts.
Salvation Army’s Angel Tree
Salvation Army and Walmart partner with Rescue Christmas to reach out to families in need to help them for Christmas.
What are the qualifications for free gifts from Angel Tree?
Families with low to moderate-income or living in poverty can apply. However, there’s one catch: you can’t be enrolled in any other program.
What is the deadline to sign up for free gifts from Angel Tree?
The window to sign up for free gifts is between September and November. However, it’s recommended that the earlier you sign up, the better chances you have to get free toys.
How can I apply for help from Angel Tree?
Register your child online or through a local Salvation Army Corps Community Center, where you’ll provide information about your child’s wishes. Then organizers will take those “wishes” and create paper angels that will be displayed in high-traffic areas. People will purchase items and drop them off at the Salvation Army who will arrange to pick up and distribute items.
Santa’s Little Helpers
Santa’s Little Helpers is an online Reddit community aimed to help give families in need a joyful Christmas.
What are the qualifications for help from Santa’s Little Helpers?
While anyone can register for Santa’s Little Helpers, they take preference to families who absolutely cannot give their kids a Christmas.
When can I sign up for help from Santa’s Little Helpers?
Sign up for Santa’s Little Helpers happens around late October.
How can I apply for help from Santa’s Little Helpers?
When registration opens, families who’d like to get free toys can visit the Reddit thread to apply. Then, you’ll create an Amazon wishlist describing who you are, why your family needs assistance, and then pick out clothes and toys for your kids. Online Reddit users can then purchase gifts through your Amazon wishlist.
USPS Operation Santa®
For over 100 years, Operation Santa allows kids from all over the United States to write letters for Santa sharing their Christmas wishes. They have a partnership with Be an Elf, a network of volunteers who help fulfill the wishes of children all over the nation.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Operation Santa?
According to Operation Santa, anyone living in the United States can write a letter regardless of age, income, or religion.
What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Operation Santa?
You can write to Santa up until November 28th, but if you’re looking for assistance, it’s recommended you send your letter earlier.
How can I apply for help from Operation Santa?
Families who need assistance should write a letter addressed to Santa Claus (his address is 123 Elf Road, Northpole 88888) along with their kids’ Christmas wishes. Operation Santa will post their letters online and other organizations may share letters sent in as well. Volunteers can also adopt families on the USPS website, and send gifts through there.
If your family does not need financial help, but your child still wants to write a letter, please mail it to:
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps grant the wishes of ill children across the United States.
What are the qualifications for free toys from Make-A-Wish?
Make-A-Wish specifically helps kids between the ages of 2 1/2-18 who have a life-threatening illness. While they don’t have a specific holiday program for kids, they may request Christmas gifts as their wish.
What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Make-A-Wish Foundation?
Make-A-Wish grants wishes to kids year around, so there’s no deadline for applying.
How can I apply for help from Make-A-Wish Foundation?
Friends and family can refer a child online, and then they’ll be contacted by a member of the Make-A-Wish team.
Christmas help in 2023:
The Assistance League offers various holiday help during the season, but it may depend on where you live. The organization has programs where members can adopt a family for the holidays, giving them gifts and food baskets, and decorations for their holiday celebration. Some chapters also host a “Santa’s Closet,” that offers help in the form of gift cards from supermarkets and local retailers.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides after-school programs to kids around the county. Depending on your chapter, they may host holiday programs, like holiday toy drives and meals, to help financially struggling during the holidays.
Catholic Charities have a range of programs to help families, such as a “Christmas food basket” program, where people donate produce, turkeys, and canned goods to give families a Christmas dinner. They also run this program for Thanksgiving and Easter. Another Catholic Charities program is an adopt-a-family program where needy families are matched with donors who provide them free toys, clothes, and other items in the spirit of holiday help.
The Lions Club chapters worldwide host various events to help families during the holidays. They’ll collect items such as Christmas trees and toys, and host holiday parties where anyone can stop by for a meal. The Lions Club also works with local businesses to collect toys to distribute to local families to provide holiday help.
Your child’s school guidance counselor is a great resource to help you find local holiday help with gifts and food. The guidance office can get you connected with community programs to meet your needs. Be sure to reach out to your school district office for additional help, as well.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides Christmas assistance to those in need, including collecting and distributing toys for kids for the holidays. However, programs may vary by state.
United Way helps raise money for local communities during the holidays and prides itself in being a resource where low-income families can turn to for assistance. They’ll refer families to local organizations and non-for-profits that will provide them with the resources they’ll need for a Merry Christmas. You can contact the organization by dialing 2-1-1.
YMCA and YWCA
The YMCA partners with different organizations like Toys for Tots and Salvation Army to provide Christmas assistance to low-income families. Chapters across the United States offer various programs throughout the holidays to give families a good Christmas.
We compiled this list of 83 ways to get free cash or earn extra holiday money.
Or, try applying for sigle mom grants like the $500 Kickass Single Mom grant.
You can apply right here:
Where can I get free Christmas presents?
For holiday gifts for low-income families, many can apply for free kids’ toys for Christmas from:
- Be an Elf
- Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots
- Operation Santa
- Salvation Army’s Angel Tree
Need more help? Check out these helpful resources:
Those wanting help from Toys for Tots should go on their website and click “donate or request a toy” to find a published list of agencies to get in touch with. Then you’ll have to provide the names and ages of kids in your family, proof of residency, and a short blurb explaining why you need help with toys this year. A coordinator will then call you to verify your information.