Not Too Soon to Think About the Holidays

It’s not too soon to start thinking about the winter holiday season. Many organizations have programs that offer holiday help like gifts, food, and decorations to those meeting low-income and other criteria. They start planning early to meet deadlines and provide support for as many as possible.

This article presents some of the programs that offer help for the holidays. To request help, follow individual program application or registration instructions.


Most people look forward to a special holiday meal. But the food that goes into a holiday meal might be outside the budget. Various food donation resources provide special holiday dinners and food baskets. Contact a resource in your area for information about such programs. To locate a resource, use the search features of these sites:

  • use the ‘Find Your Local Food Bank’ box to search by zip code.
  • use the ‘Search for help by Zip’ field to populate the map with locations in your area.
  • search by state then by city to find food help near you.
  • click on the ‘Find a Food Pantry Near You’ button to locate a pantry in your area.
  • search by event or location or scroll through the calendar to see food assistance events around the country.


Sometimes money isn’t available for extras like presents. Programs to provide free toys and other gifts to low-income families help bridge that gap.

  • Adopt -A-Family 

This Soldiers’ Angels program helps post-9/11 wounded, ill, or injured veterans and those currently enrolled in HUD/VASH. It provides gifts for each child and a grocery gift card to put towards a holiday meal. Find out how to register for ‘adoption’ here.

  • Angel Tree is a collaboration between Walmart and the Salvation Army. To take part in this program, register children with a local Salvation Army or apply online. Find your closest Angel Tree Registry by using the search field at this site Walmart Angel Tree | The Salvation Army USA.
  • Toys for Tots is a national foundation that oversees local campaigns to provide gifts for children. Use the search options on this site Marine Toys for Tots to find contact and application information for a campaign near you.
  • USPS Operation Santa from the United States Postal Service matches letters kids write to Santa with people who provide gifts based on those letters. See an overview of the program here. Learn how to write and submit a letter here.


Trees and other decorations brighten the holiday season but don’t always fit the budget. A few organizations give trees and decorations to eligible low-income families.

  • The Christmas Tree Project considers all requests for a fully decorated Christmas tree. Click the ‘Request a Tree’ button on the project site to make a request.
  • Christmas Tree Santas is a partnership between Home Depot and social service agencies in some states to give Christmas trees and decorations to eligible families. Use this site Tree Giveaways – Christmas Tree Santas to locate and contact a participating agency in your state.


Many businesses, charities and support organizations offer help at holiday time to people in the areas they serve. Some are local; others are national with branches located throughout the country.

  • Catholic Charities: contact a local Catholic Charity organization through their on-line locator.
  • Helping Americans Find Help: find help in your state through The Christmas Help List.
  • United Way: find a United Way in your area. Contact it for referrals to agencies in the area that provide help.   You can also phone 2-1-1 to talk with a United Way operator to find out about holiday programs statewide.  Learn more about the 2-1-1 referral program here.
  • Salvation Army: use the Find Help This Holiday Season box to find and contact your local Salvation Army to learn about help available in your area.
  • American Legion: find and contact an American Legion Post in your area. Many offer meals and other help during the holidays.

Organizations like these express the sharing and giving that many holiday traditions encourage. Reach out to one or more if you or someone you know would have a happier holiday season with some help.


Bodine, A. (n.d.). How to Get Free Food for Christmas for Those with Low Income. eHow. Retrieved November 29, 2021). 

HAFH Team. (2021, October 11). 2021 Christmas Help and Assistance. Helping Americans Find Help. 

Miller-Wilson, K. (n.d.). Free Christmas Presents for Needy Kids. Love to Know. Retrieved November 28, 2021.  

McNamara, J. (n.d.). Free Christmas Meals, Dinners and Food. Need Help Paying Bills. Retrieved November 29, 2021.  

McNamara, J. (n.d.). United Way Christmas Assistance Programs. Need Help Paying Bills. Retrieved November 29, 2021.  

Thelin, N. (2021, November 16). Christmas Help: 15+ Ways to Get Free Gifts & More. Low Income Relief.  

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