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50+ Ways to Get FREE Christmas Gifts in California

50+ Ways to Get FREE Christmas Gifts in California

Free Christmas gifts in California are easy to find if you know where to look! We’ve found many different churches, charities and nonprofits that may be able to help fuel your festivities with free toys, free holiday food boxes, free Christmas trees and so much more.

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At Low Income Relief, we understand firsthand how heartbreaking it is to be unable to provide a holiday celebration for your family or even yourself. We’ve been there and we don’t want anyone to ever experience that feeling, which is why we’ve assembled this list of organizations that can help you.

Free Christmas Gifts in California

No matter where you’re located in this state, there are some agencies that can help you. These are well-known nationwide charities that have a local presence in the state.

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities in California plays a significant role in spreading holiday cheer and providing assistance to those in need. During the Christmas season, they offer various programs and services to help individuals and families facing financial hardships.

One of their notable initiatives is their Christmas assistance program, which includes distributing food baskets, clothing, and gifts to families in need. These services vary by location and may not be available in all areas. However, they often organize special events and gatherings to create a sense of community and togetherness during this festive time.

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WHO IS ELIGIBLE: The rules vary by location. For example, the Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno provides gifts to children between the ages of 0-12 years old. Other locations may have different age limits.

HOW TO APPLY: You will need to contact your local Catholic Charities office for more information. Some branches offer an Angel Tree program while others host simple toy giveaways.

Lutheran Social Services

Lutheran Social Services may provide holiday assistance as well. The website for LSS of Southern California states that they offer holiday assistance but it does not provide any details. Their offerings may include include providing holiday dinner boxes and free Christmas gifts.

We do know that LSS offers a range of assistance programs for families in need. Besides any seasonal offerings, Lutheran Social Services also extends support through their food pantry, grocery packs, school supplies, and transportation services​.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Lutheran Social Services helps low income families. You do not have to identify as Lutheran. It is not clear if there are age limits or other requirements for their programs.

HOW TO GET HELP: You will need to contact your local Lutheran Social Services office for details.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Angel Tree program in California is a heartwarming initiative that brings joy to families in need during the holiday season. Through this program, generous individuals and businesses help bring holiday joy to children and even seniors throughout the state.

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Here’s how it works: Angel Trees are set up in various locations across California, such as shopping malls and community centers. Each tree is adorned with tags that display the names and holiday gift wishes of individuals who could use a helping hand. Anyone can pick a tag, purchase the requested items, and then return them to the designated drop-off points.

The Salvation Army then distributes these gifts to the recipients, spreading the spirit of giving and making the holidays brighter for those in need. It’s a beautiful way for Californians to come together and make a difference in their communities.

Of course, if you need a hot meal, the Salvation Army may be able to help with that as well. They have many different programs that help low income people in different ways.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: The Angel Tree program typically serves children and sometimes seniors. However, their other programs like hot congregate meals are open to people of any age.

HOW TO APPLY: You can apply for free Christmas gifts from the Salvation Army by filling out the form on the Angel Tree website. In some areas, online applications may not be accepted so you may have to contact your local Salvation Army directly.

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is a wonderful program that reaches out to families in need across California, especially during the holiday season. This initiative is all about ensuring that every child can experience the joy of receiving a gift.

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Here’s how it works: People who want to help can drop off new, unwrapped toys at designated collection sites throughout California. These toys are then carefully distributed to children in low income households, making their holiday season a little brighter. It’s a heartwarming way for communities to rally together and provide a source of happiness to those who might be struggling financially.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Toys for Tots provides free Christmas gifts for children from low income families. There is an age limit. Most areas set the age limit to 12 years old but it may vary. This program is available in most areas; only 9 counties in California do NOT have a Toys for Tots program.

HOW TO APPLY: Request a toy online using the Toys for Tots website. Click ‘Request a Toy,’ then select California from the drop-down menu.

Operation Help a Hero

Operation Help a Hero is based in Santa Margarita, California. This organization provides holiday help for military members who are currently serving. They help single servicemembers as well as families!

Families who want to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program must be registered before Thanksgiving. Donors begin registering and adopting families in late November.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: This program serves active duty servicemembers and eligible families. Families must be Active Duty or Gold Star families with at least one child under age 17. Priority is given to military members who are stationed at 29 Palms, Camp Pendleton, MCRD San Diego, Miramar and Naval Base San Diego.

HOW TO APPLY: You can apply online. Applications are due by mid-November each year.

More Christmas Help

Don’t forget to explore our nationwide Christmas resource directory for even more ways that you may be able to get free Christmas gifts in California! Some of the organizations in our nationwide list also provide free fully-decorated Christmas trees.

There are many organizations like Salvation Army and Toys for Tots that provide help for families in your area but we didn’t want to repeat the full list here. Get the details in our Nationwide Christmas Resource Directory!

Local Christmas Help in California

Some of the best and most helpful organizations are the local Churches, food banks, missions, and other organizations near you. Scroll to find your county below for more ways that you can get free Christmas gifts and other assistance!

The Low Income Relief team is constantly researching new ways that you can save money and get free stuff. We often find new resources to add to this list when we’re researching other things, like diaper banks or rental assistance programs. Whenever we find an agency that provides Christmas help, we add it to this list. Be sure to check back next year for more ways that you may be able to get free Christmas gifts in your area!

Alameda County

Brighter Beginnings in Oakland hosts an Adopt-a-Family program that connects low income families with donors who can buy them Christmas gifts. It appears that you need to be an existing Brighter Beginnings client in order to participate in this program, so be sure to check out their helpful low income assistance programs before the holidays begin!

Contra Costa County

Brighter Beginnings has locations in Richmond and Antioch! This organization hosts an Adopt-a-Family program that connects low income families with donors who can buy them Christmas gifts. It appears that you need to be an existing Brighter Beginnings client in order to participate in this program, so be sure to check out their helpful low income assistance programs before the holidays begin!

Christmas For Everyone in Martinez hosts an annual Christmas Day event that includes a free dinner, free Christmas gifts, and entertainment. The meal includes turkey, ham and all the sides. Children will receive a new toy. Clothing, haircuts, and entertainment are also available. No transportation? No problem! They offer door-to-door transportation from pick-up points in Martinez, Concord and Pittsburg. They can even deliver meals and gifts to those who are homebound.

Fresno County

Catholic Charities in Fresno, Bakersfield and Merced host an annual Christmas toy giveaway. Their event takes place just a few days before Christmas but you must register in advance in order to get help.

Fresno EOC hosts an annual Making Spirits Bright event every year. This tradition involves free Christmas gifts, personalized stockings, food boxes, ornaments, lights and even free Christmas trees for low income families in the area. Each family also receives a $100 Walmart gift card and a $25 gift card to Asia Supermarket as well. Each year, Fresno EOC selects a different elementary school in Fresno County. The schools recommend the families who will receive assistance, so make sure to talk to your local school if you’re having a hard time financially.

Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno helps people who have been impacted by domestic violence. Their service helps donors grant holiday wishes to people who have experienced this trauma. The assistance provided could include a holiday meal, free Christmas gifts, or other assistance. They help children, teens and adults who have experienced domestic violence but you must already be connected with their services in order to receive holiday help.

Poverello House hosts an annual Christmas Eve Toy Giveaway. The giveaway begins early in the morning while supplies last. Free Christmas gifts are provided to children who are age 17 and younger. Based on previous announcements, it appears that around 3,000 children receive free toys every year from this organization.

Humboldt County

Eureka Rescue Mission offers free Christmas gifts to children staying in their homeless shelters. It does not appear that they offer help to other children in the community.

Humboldt Bay Firefighters coordinate two Christmas programs. One is called Magic of Christmas, and it’s a toy drive that provides Christmas gifts to the Salvation Army programs. The other program is called Santa for Seniors. This program provides holiday help to the Humboldt Senior Resource Center.

McKinleyville Family Resource Center Offers a food pantry to the community. It is open by appointment. If you need food before your next appointment, stop in for more immediate assistance.

Kings County

King’s County Sheriff’s Office in Hanford hosts an annual toy drive and distribution program. They They collect new toys and wrapping supplies, then deliver the gift for unsuspecting kids in need. It is not clear how families are selected, so you’ll need to inquire with the Sheriff’s office for details.

Presents on Patrol is a service provided by the Lemoore Police Department. This program provides free Christmas gifts to children in the community but it is not clear how the families are selected.

Santa for Seniors in Lemoore provides free Christmas gifts, blankets and gift cards to low income seniors in the area. This program is a joint effort between the Lemoore Police Department, Mary Immaculate Queen School, and the Lemoore Rotary Club. Based on Facebook posts, it looks like the Kings County Commission on Aging may also be involved. I recommend contacting one of those organizations to see how you can get help from this program.

Los Angeles County

There are so many free Christmas toy giveaways in Los Angeles County that I cannot include them all in this list. You’ll need to check out our LA County Christmas Resource List to find all the different organizations that can help you.

Monterey County

St. Mary’s By The Sea in Pacific Grove donates Christmas gifts to children whose families are receiving help from Mental Health Services. 

Orange County

Christmas Is for Sharing is a service of the Assistance League of Orange County. They have a partnership with the Santiago Canyon Community College that enables them to help college students who served in the military or are former foster children. Those who qualify can receive free holiday meals, free gifts for every member of their family and more.

Boys and Girls Club in Garden Grove coordinates a Holiday Giving program for the children they serve. Families can receive free toys, food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and even gift cards. It appears you already need to be working with this organization in order to receive holiday assistance.

Share Our Selves in Costa Mesa has hosted an Adopt-a-Family program for more than 50 years. Each child receives two free toys or two new gift cards worth at least $25 each. The family also receives an additional grocery gift card worth $25 per family member. This program is only accessible by referral, so you will need to reach out to 211 or a local organization that can submit a referral on your behalf.

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa provides hot meals 365 days a year. They provide free Christmas gifts and Santa photos during their special Christmas meal.

Operation Santa Claus in Irvine offers free toys and other gifts to Orange County children who are receiving services from Orange County Social Services Agency.

Senior Santa & Friends in Irvine provides gifts and requested items to low-income senior citizens or severely disabled adults who are clients of the Orange County Social Services or Orange County Health Care Agency. Qualified items include medical equipment, household appliances, clothing, and nutritional supplements. 

Friendly Center in Orange provides free toys for low income families in the area. They help around 600 families (1,300 children) per year. The toy giveaways happen in early December.

Placer County

California Backyard helps low income families get free Christmas trees. They gather donations and then give them to the Salvation Army, who distributes those trees to people who need them.

Placer Food Bank in Roseville provides food to low income people in the area. They may be able to help supplement your holiday meal with free food.

Salt Mine in Lincoln gives out free Christmas Boxes in mid-December. These boxes include holidya meal ingredients like turkeys and sides.

Riverside County

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission in Indio hosts an annual toy give away. Santa and Mrs. Claus come and help distribute over 15,000 toys to children in need. This program provides free Christmas gifts to children between 0-12 years old. 

Jurupa Valley Adopt-A-Family provides two different holiday assistance programs. The Adopt-a-Family program connects low income families with donors who adopt them. Fully adopted families may receive a holiday meal, two weeks worth of food, hygiene items and free Christmas gifts for children. They also adopt seniors, too. The second program is a free toy giveaway that helps children whose families were not fully adopted. 

Carol’s Closet in Beaumont provides kitchen items, housewares, clothing, bedding, shoes and other essentials to low income families. It is not clear if they have any holiday programs, but this may still be a useful resource to get some new clothes or shoes for the holidays.

Riverside Rescue Mission in Riverside provides free food boxes year-round. If you need help with your Christmas meal, they may be able to help!

Sacramento

The Sheriff’s Toy Project in Sacramento refurbishes used bikes for low income families in the area. They also participate in a toy drive every year to gather gifts for low income families who need some extra help.

The Stanford Settlement in Sacramento is running a program to provide free Christmas baskets to families in need. Applications open in late October! You must live in a qualifying zip code in order to participate. The zip codes are 95815, 95833, 95834, 95835, and 95838. Each family can receive only one basket from this program.

Sacramento Loaves & Fishes serves an annual Christmas meal to Sacramento residents in need. Tuck into a warm, filling meal this Christmas, and bring some old-fashioned joy back to your holidays.

Sharing God’s Bounty in Sacramento hosts an annual Christmas dinner. The meal includes free Christmas gifts, toiletries, socks, candy and a visit from Santa!

San Bernadino County

Pathway From Boys to Men in Fontana operates an annual Christmas food and toy drive to benefit low income men, women and children in the community. The distribution date happens a few days before Christmas each year.

Santa Claus Inc. sends applications for free toys to certain school districts in San Bernadino County. These districts include Colton Unified, Rialto, San Bernardino city unified, and Redlands/Highlands school districts. They also accept referrals from County Services, but you will need a social worker to complete that referral.

Water Of Life Community Church in Fontana invites low income families to pick out free Christmas gifts from their toy store. This store provides free gifts to children between the ages of 0-12 years old.

San Diego County

Toys For Joy partners with local schools and businesses to distribute free toys to low income children in the community. You can register for an upcoming event on their website.

Lemon Grove Lutheran Church in Lemon Grove provides a free community event on Christmas, per their website. It is not clear what this entails but the website does say that their food bank takes referrals from 211.

San Diego Food Bank provides free food to low income families throughout the year. Based on their donations page, it sounds like they also offer special food boxes for the holidays.

San Francisco County

Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Services provides free Christmas gifts for children and teenagers! They include youth all the way up to age 18 in their Angel Child Program.

Compass Family Services in San Francisco hosts an annual Adopt-a-Family program. This program accepts applications from families who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. You can apply on their website when registrations are open.

Glide in San Francisco has a number of Christmas assistance programs that can help you. Their Grocery Bag Giveaway provides holiday meals customized to cultural needs. Each bag can feed four people. The GLIDE Toy Wonderland program provides a free toy distribution for children ages 10 and under. On Christmas Eve, they host a luncheon that serves prime rib and more. They also deliver hundreds of meals to encampments around the city.

Jewish Family and Children’s Services provides free holiday gift cards to their low income clients. You must be an existing client of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in order to receive these cards.

San Francisco City Impact delivers holiday meals to the homeless in the Tenderloin area on Christmas Day. They also host a kid’s carnival that distributes free Christmas gifts to children.

San Francisco Police Department gives away free toys to children ages 12 and under. This program runs from the end of November until a few days before Christmas. They also give away free Christmas trees to those who qualify.

SF Firefighters Toy Program distributes toys to children of low-income families living in San Francisco County, aged newborn to 12 years old. You can access applications in both English and Spanish on their website.

St. Anthony’s in San Francisco hosts an annual Christmas dinner that includes ham, mashed potatoes, veggies and dessert. When donations allow, they also distribute gifts to their guests. In a recent year, they gave away thousands of hand knit scarves.

San Joaquin County

Prevail in Stockton coordinates an Adopt-a-Family program for their clients. This organization serves young people and families who have been impacted by domestic violence.

Emergency Food Bank in Stockton holds an annual Christmas food box giveaway each year. To get yours, you must be a resident of San Joaquin County with a valid ID. The Christmas boxes are given away the week prior to the holiday.

Santa Clara County

The Family Giving Tree in Milpitas strives to fill Christmas wishes for everyone, regardless of whether they are a child, senior or adult. They work with over 300 different agencies in the Bay Area to identify people in need, so you’ll need to get a referral from one of their partner agencies.

Sunnyvale Community Services provides free gift cards to their clients. You must already be enrolled in a food program from this organization in order to get a gift card.

Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose gives away free Christmas gifts. You must already be a Sacred Heart Community Service member in order to apply. They provide help for children ages 17 and under. Toy registration begins in November.

St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy offers Christmas meals. The meal features a turkey.

Relief Recap

There are many ways to get free Christmas gifts, free holiday food boxes and more in California! From well-known providers like Toys for Tots to small local missions, our research team has uncovered more than 50 different organizations that will provide you with free toys and other essentials to help you celebrate the season. Contact the providers on this list or check out Nationwide Christmas Resource Directory for more ways that you can get help with the holidays!

Dawn reina

Thursday 10th of November 2022

Anything for tehema county i missed tge salvation army sign ups and thats the only thing out here

Catherine Marucci

Thursday 10th of November 2022

Hi Dawn. It may be worth calling 211 to see if they know of any programs in your local area.