Need Christmas help this year? This Christmas assistance programs list can help.
I know firsthand what it’s like to need holiday help for your children. One year, our holiday was saved by a shoebox gift provided by our low income housing project. Another year, we were surprised by a generous Secret Santa who had adopted our family. If your holiday season is more stressed and depressed than merry and bright, I hope this list will help.
We have found a lot of programs that can help with the holidays. However, each of these agencies receive more requests for help than they can fill. It’s always a good idea to contact them as early in the season as possible. Some of these agencies start accepting applications as early as September or October!
Of course, we’ve done our best to find resources that can help you with last-minute needs but it’s always easier to get help if you start early in the season.
This list has been updated for the 2021 holiday season.
12 Agencies that Provide Free Christmas Help for Low Income Families
This is our list of nationwide providers that are offering free Christmas help in 2021. There are other agencies in your area that may be able to assist you, so be sure to check out the state-by-state list lower in this article!
Angel Tree & Adopt-a-Family
The Salvation Army can assist with holiday meals, toys and clothing to low income families, including families of prisoners. They offer several holiday programs, including the popular Angel Tree and Adopt-a-Family programs.
This year, the Salvation Army is partnering with Walmart to #RescueChrsitmas for over 2.6 million children in need through their annual Angel Tree program. Through the Angel Tree program, Christmas trees are placed inside Walmart stores around the country. Each tree is covered in tags, which provide the age and requested gifts for each child. Shoppers can pick up a tag, buy the items and turn in the donations before they leave the store.
In order to find help through this program, you will need to contact your local Salvation Army branch to see what services are available in your area. You can find your local Salvation Army by searching their website for your zip code or city/state.
The Adopt-a-Family program is a bit different. It does not involve names hung on a tree. Instead, an entire family is adopted and may receive donations of gifts, toys, food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and more. The sponsors can even donate gift cards!
If you visit their website, you can search for your local Salvation Army chapter. Some local agencies begin taking registrations as early as October, so you’ll want to contact your local Corps Community Center as early as possible!
The AmeriCorp Seniors organizations sometimes host Senior Angel Trees that can help low income seniors receive gifts as well.
Cars 4 Christmas
Cars 4 Christmas gives vehicles away every year to those in need. Each car is filled with groceries, including a Smithfield Christmas ham, as well as cleaning products, child safety seats, gas cards, toys for the children, and more. Power wheelchairs may also be provided to veterans who are selected to win.
However, the number of vehicles that they offer is limited. You will need to apply on their website. If selected, you will be notified by the organization.
Catholic Charities is a nationwide faith-based organization that may offer holiday help. We’ve found that they do offer free Christmas gifts and free holiday meals in many locations around the country, but there is no guarantee that they offer this service in your area. You will need to reach out to your local chapter (or select your state in our list below) for more information.
The Lions Club International is a non-political service organization with branches all over the world. Many of their clubs offer holiday assistance programs for low income seniors and/or children. These programs spread holiday cheer by providing free Christmas gifts, food and companionship.
My Two Front Teeth
This organization helps connect donors with children who need to be sponsored. They connect with various community agencies that serve low income children. In order to receive a gift from them, you must be referred by a partner agency. You will need to find a partner agency in your area in order to receive a gift from this program.
Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is a project by The Samaritan’s Purse. This organization gathers millions of gifts into shoeboxes which are then shipped around the world to low income children in more than 160 countries! The gifts are sent to local churches, which then distribute them to the children.
Military families can receive Christmas help from Operation Homefront! This organization provides holiday meals for military families, as well as a holiday toy drive. Donations are gathered at local Dollar Tree stores in November and December, and then distributed to military families in the area.
Santa’s Little Helpers
This Reddit sub is allegedly “the Happiest Place on Reddit!” This community of over 28,000 people pools their resources to help thousands of people each holiday season. It’s an incredible community.
Of course, you will need to abide by the rules in order to receive help. One of the rules is that you must register at this link before requesting Christmas help in the forum. Registration usually opens at the beginning of November each year, so be sure to check back for updates on or around November 1, 2021.
Remember that they do not award money or gift cards; only non-monetary gifts are provided. You must also update your post when you receive a gift so that they are aware of who has been helped.
St. Vincent de Paul
St. Vincent de Paul is another nationwide faith-based organization that assists low income families across the United States. Through their various organizations, St. Vincent de Paul is known to help with utilities, moving costs, clothing, food, basic needs, baby supplies, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas help and so much more. Contact your local St. Vincent de Paul for more information about their Christmas assistance programs.
Toys for Tots
Register for Toys for Tots by visiting the Marine Toys for Tots page. You’ll be prompted to enter your state and select a local area. This will redirect you to your local Toys for Tots page, where you can receive further directions.
The application instructions and opening dates for applications may vary by state, so it’s important to be prepared as early in the season as possible.
For example, in Washington, eligible families are directed to visit the Washington State DSHS office to apply. All other applicants are encouraged to call a phone number to reach their local coordinator. Our local organization begins accepting applications at the end of November 2021 but many begin earlier.
The United Way is a great place to find referrals and a local Christmas assistance programs list. You can also check our state-by-state lists below to find information about additional holiday help in your area.
USPS Operation Santa
We’ve reported on the Be an Elf program for years… and in 2019, the USPS expanded the program nationwide. It is now called USPS Operation Santa.
When your child sends a letter to Santa through USPS, a volunteer will open and scan the letter. They will be uploaded to the website but the family names and addresses are redacted. Volunteers can print out the letter and an encoded address label. They shop for the requested items and then ship the item with the encoded label. You can learn more about the process here.
The website includes tips on writing effective letters and some great information about how this all-volunteer program works. Please visit this link for more information. Remember to send the letter between Thanksgiving and the first of December!
What about Make-a-Wish?
A lot of readers have asked me if Make-a-Wish offers Christmas help to low income families. This is a rumor that has been perpetuated by other websites.
I have reached out to Make-a-Wish directly but there is nothing on their website to indicate that they offer general holiday assistance for low income families. Make-a-Wish provides memorable once-in-a-lifetime experiences for children (ages 2 1/2 to 18 years old) with critical illnesses.
3 Ways to Get FREE Christmas Trees!
We’ve even found ways that you can get free Christmas trees during the 2021 holiday season!
Christmas Tree Project
The Christmas Tree Project accepts requests from all over the country and will do their best to fill each request. However, they cannot guarantee that they will be able to help every family. Make your request early for your best chance of success!
Christmas Tree Santas
This organization offers a unique form of Christmas help! They partner with Home Depot to distribute Christmas trees to families in need. In order to receive a free Christmas tree from this program, you must live in a participating state and get a referral from a partner agency.
Christmas Tree Santas distributes Christmas trees to those referred by these agencies:
- OakLuv Foundation (Oakland)
- The Child Development Association (Roswell)
- HomeStretch (Roswell)
- Cristo Rey High School (Atlanta)
- Family Services Inc. (Gaithersburg)
- Amesbury Holiday Program (Amesbury)
- Action of Boston family Community Development (Malden)
- Boys and Girls Club of Lower Merrimack Valley (Salisbury)
- Community Action Inc. Head Start (Haverhill)
- Community Service of Newburyport (Newburyport)
- Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center (Newburyport)
- The Salvation Army (Newburyport)
- The Pettengill House (Salisbury)
- YWCA (Newburyport)
- General Assistance offices in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel
- Neighbors Inc (South St Paul)
- New Jersey
- Boys and Girls Club (Newark)
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Paterson)
- Kiddie Keep Well Camp (Edison NJ)
- North Carolina
- Hope Match (Charlotte)
- The Family Enrichment Movement (Charlotte)
- Servant’s Heart (Mint Hill)
- Unisal Organization (Charlotte)
- Charlotte Bridge Home (Charlotte)
- Ridley Park Presbyterian Church (Ridley Park)
- Austin Children’s Shelter (Austin)
Trees for Troops
Trees for Troops provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to United States military families in all branches of the military. The trees are delivered to 70 military bases in the United States and overseas!
This organization has an exciting announcement for 2021! They’ve been able to partner with several retail locations who have committed to be “Official Trees for Troops” locations. These outlets encourage people to purchase a tree and donate it to the program. That makes donation so much easier and will really help this organization make a bigger impact for the families that need a little holiday help!
Get FREE Christmas Gifts & FREE Christmas Dinner in YOUR area!
Of course, the best resources we’ve found are the small organizations and Churches in local communities. There are hundreds of local agencies that offer holiday help in 2021, so we can’t possibly list them all in this one post. That’s why we’ve broken this article into state and county resource guides – it’s just easier to use that way.
We have received literally thousands of information requests. We’re working through them as quickly as we can. When we finish a new resource list, it’s always uploaded and linked into this series for your convenience. Of course, if you don’t see your area listed, just let us know and we’ll make sure to research that as soon as we can!
Please select your state from the list below to see what else we’ve found in your area:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island (Johnnycake Center of Westerly)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Last Minute Christmas Help Near You!
Over the last several years, we’ve noticed that this post gets an insane amount of traffic during the week before Christmas. It is very rare for charities to still be distributing gifts that late in the season.
If you’re looking for last-minute help and we haven’t already written about your area, hopefully some of these last-minute Christmas gifts and resources can help you.
Buy Nothing is a local movement that helps reduce waste by encouraging people to give away items that are no longer used. Sometimes, you can find some awesome things there! On my local Buy Nothing groups, I’ve even seen people giveaway Christmas presents and other items to families in need. If you’re looking for some last minute assistance, checking our your local Buy Nothing group and see what’s available! Just search “Buy Nothing” on Facebook and see if you can find a group near you!
Sometimes local food banks also stock Christmas gifts for families in need. You can always reach out to your local food bank and see if they have anything available (or know of any local agencies that do). Food banks are usually well-connected to other local resources, so this can be a great way to find help for your family!
Library of Things
You can check out toys, drum sets, museum passes and even GoPro cameras at certain libraries! If all else fails, get your kiddo a library card and let them unwrap the gift of endless adventure – for free! Check out this list of everything you can check out from your local library.
Try these FREE & cheap holiday traditions and gifts!
We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to save money on Christmas! Check out these 50+ Amazingly Cheap DIY Christmas Gifts and 65+ Christmas Tradition Ideas Your Family and Bank Account will Love!