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10 places for free Christmas gifts for low-income families in 2022

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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.

Don’t qualify for these free gift programs? Get a side hustle like being a Care.com babysitter or try surveys from Branded Surveys to get extra cash for Christmas.

Or, trying applying for grants like the $500 Kickass Single Mom grant.

You can apply right here:

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 December 10th 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:

Santa Claus

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:

Santa Claus

North Pole

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.

Dream Foundation

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 agencies that are 501(c)(3) organizations. According to their website, “they serve those who without their services would go without basic necessities or services.”

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What is the deadline to sign up for free toys from Family Giving Tree?

The deadline for signing up for free toys is in July.

How can I apply for toys from Family Giving Tree Agencies?

To apply, you must complete their online application and submit a copy of your 501(c)3 or EIN number. You will receive a letter in 7-10 days whether or not you’re approved. If you’re approved, the agency will interview the kids to find out their holiday wishes and will create “wish cards” to send out to participating companies. 

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 campaigns. To get exact details about deadlines and how to apply for toys, use the Toys for Tots campaign search.

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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.

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. 

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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 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? 

Families who’d like to get free toys may register on their website as well as their Reddit thread. 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.

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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.

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 December 19th, but if you’re looking for assistance, it’s recommended you send your letter earlier.

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How can I apply for help from Operation Santa?

Families should write a letter addressed to Santa Clause (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.

Make-A-Wish Foundation

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.

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Christmas help in 2022:

Assistance League

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

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.

Lions Club

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.

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Schools

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

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.

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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.

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:

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Home buyer grantsFree or cheap dental care
How do I sign up for Toys for Tots?

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.

Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Health, Bustle, Latina, Refinery29, and many other publications. She also served as a sex and dating editor at Elite Daily and a freelance lifestyle editor for Bauer Publishing’s Teen Department, where she helped the team launch three new magazines.

27 Comments

I can’t believe it’s coming up so fast and I don’t even know where to start because having three kids even though they are 12 14 and 18 believe it or not they still believe but last year 2021 was probably be hardest with me being in the hospital with chronic pancreatitis and tumor growth on my kidney on the right and on my left as of yesterday I was referred and semi diagnosed with they’re not fully sure until I see the hematologist that they notice during my blood work and I was in there for my pancreatitis again this year is probably going to be harder than last year because I just don’t have the energy for anything money is tight everything around in the house tight just sucks because having three children and your health taking everything out of you it’s worse so any advice please let me know and please don’t be rude I just want positivity and any help to answers it’s been a long almost 2 years and being on disability and trying to stretch things to make it work makes things so much harder and more stressful than they already are.

In need of toys for my grand kids because l broke my leg on Monday of last week and currently am in the hospital

I am 64 and take care of 2 grandchildren. I am on a fixed income and I don’t have any christmas gifts for my 4 year old grandson and my 11 year old grandson. I have missed the deadline to sign up with an agency. I don’t know what else to do. Do you have any suggestions or know someone who may can help me

how can i get help for 5 kids for christmas unable to afford anything this year is there any hope i can get help i lost my husband a month ago and i am struggling big time on disabilty and its really hard doing things all alone i have triedd to get help noone is calling me about it back my last hope is on please help me

Thank you for the resources. It’s very comforting that this entire website is dedicated to single mothers in such an uplifting way.

Hello I’m reaching out for help on was reading your guys’s website for Angel Tree on Thomas built bus on my lunch know how do I go about getting for Christmas for my family homeless

I need HELP.. I AM 54 yr old mom with a 13yr old daughter and a 13 grandaughter and i have the covid 19. I have copd plus a lot of HEALTH PROBLEMS

Ye

I was anticipating assistance from a group that helps veterans and their families, but due to issues with government websites, I was unable to enroll. Now it’s halfway through December, and I have 4 kids I can’t provide for. An additional issue is that 3 of my kids are teens, and regardless of the fact that they are neuro-divergent and 2 of them are on the autism spectrum, teenagers are often excluded from Christmas gift programs. The program I was hoping to join was actually willing to assist kids of their ages, but now I’m at a loss. Part of being low-income in this country is that the vast majority of us know that we will *always* be low-income. Society is just that way. But this year, we are in a new location and I was hoping for a fresh start, and new opportunities – especially for the kids. Are there any suggestions out there from someone who’s experienced something similar? Or is it just too late this year..

Thank you everyone, and have a good holiday season wherever you are.

Hi my name is Amanda Smith I have six children time have been very hurtful and hard I just recently lost my mother brother cousin and also best friend the money that I had saved up to buy a food truck I end up spending the money on funeral arrangements no one had life insurance so Light Bill ,gas bill and rent being tough this Christmas I have no funding to do anything I’m disabled I only received monthly income and it’s not even enough to cover expenses so if you guys can please find it in your heart and be able to assist in any kinda way thanks

I can’t seem to find any Christmas elf in the city I live in which is a Pocahontas, AR 72455 a struggling parent I lost my husband in 2019 I have two children girl eight boy 14 is there any programs that may help us we are struggling my refrigerator leaks my microwave does not work weight off plastic and paper but we’ve been getting by barely have any furniture utensils kitchen supplies we don’t have a couch or even a TV I hate asking for help but I feel my kids are getting depressed because we don’t have things

Hi Shari! I recommend you send a letter to Be an Elf (deadline December 12) or Operation Santa (deadline December 19) ASAP. You can find more details on their websiteS: beanelf.org and uspsoperationsanta.com

Each charity has its own procedures for signing up. Visit the individual websites to see which programs still have openings. Good luck!

My son has 5 children. He has been trying to find work for months and no luck. I just spoke with him and needless to say he was in tears and so stressed out. He lives in Orange County NY. I know it’s not anyone else’s problem but is there anyone that can help them? Please… I would if I could I was later off due to Covid and just started working.

I was so excited to find this page until none of the links worked. I live in london ontario canada with my 4 year old special needs son Manny. I am a single.mother as it is but ONTOP of that which makes it even harder is that my son is diagnosed with many things, being border line autistic is one of them, spd, odd, etc. Which makes life way more harder to manage and cost more as well. I am in great need for help regarding Christmas for my son. My phone number I 226-224-9365 if ANYONE is willing to help us it would be greatly appreciated and would mean so much to my son that we could have a Christmas with some toys and a dinner. Thank you so much! Crystal and Manny

This is an awlsome thing you all are doing. God is good! What a weight u take off a single struggling mother worried how she going to be able to provide presents .my twins are 8 and we never have had a tree at home on Christmas .

God bless you Emma this is one of the very best helpful punishments I have ever read very good job I hope that pretty soon you’ll be coming out with one for seniors for low income housing that would be great I live in San Diego very Merry Christmas to you Emma thank you and to all as a matter of fact very merry Christmas everybody

Hello I’m a single mom and this year has been the toughest year I can’t even afford to get my babies Christmas gifts because all of it went to rent and bills and little bit of food now I can’t even afford get them any gifts this year I literally felt sad this whole past week but was hoping someone can shine some light tell me if anyone giving some small gifts away would absolutely be appreciate it ❤️

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