9 places for free Christmas gifts for low-income families in 2021

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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.

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For holiday gifts for low-income families:

Be an Elf

Be an Elf an organization that 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 Thanksgiving for a better chance to be adopted, but participants have until December 12th to do so.

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How do I apply for toys from Be an Elf?

To qualify for Be an Elf, your family must write a letter online to Santa through the USPS Operation Santa. 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.

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 5013c 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 501c3 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 not-for-profit 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 non-for-profit works with local organizations that help them locate families with kids ages 12 and under that really need help. 

What is the deadline to sign up for free gifts from Toys for Tots?

Toys for Tot will publish a list of agencies to get in touch with around November 1st.

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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” 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.

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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 register at your local Operation Homefront Toy Distribution.

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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 Corps Community Center, where you’ll provide information about your child’s wishes. Then organizers will take those “wishes” and will be used to 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 gives families in need 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.

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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.

Christmas help in 2021:

Assistance League

The Assistance League offers various support during the holiday season, but it may depend on where you live. They have programs where members can adopt a family for the holidays, giving them gifts and food, 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 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 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 program is an adopt a family program where needy families are matched with donors who provide them free toys, clothes, and other holiday items to brighten up the season.

Lions Club

The Lions Club chapters worldwide host various events to help families during the holidays. They’ll collect items such as Christmas trees ad

They’ll also host holiday parties where anyone can stop by for a meal. They also work with local businesses to collect toys to distribute to local families.

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. 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.

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.

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