Better World

How To Find Local Gift Giveaways (If You’re In Need or Want To Donate)

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Holiday gifts will be a struggle for many families, especially given the kind of year 2020 has been. If you can’t afford to make extra purchases right now but want your kids to receive something special, there may be a solution in your community. Or, if you have the capacity to help, there are plenty of opportunities to donate gifts to those in need.

Here are some starting points to find gift giveaway programs for kids whose families are struggling financially right now. Many holiday drives have gone virtual this year to make donations and distribution safer during the pandemic.

Operation Santa

The U.S. Postal Service runs a nationwide service called Operation Santa to help kids’ wishes come true during the holiday season. Kids can write actual letters to Santa (see official postal address and instructions here) and if they are received before December 15, they will be considered for “adoption” by other customers—but every request is not guaranteed to be answered. Customers can go online to read the letters and anonymously send what kids have asked for by December 19, whether it’s a specific toy, basic necessities like clothes, or another item for their families.

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots, a gift distribution program started by the U.S. Marines, organizes large local toy drives every Christmas. To request a toy gift for your child, click here to apply through your local Toys for Tots campaign. To donate a toy to someone else, you can either do so online (the selected toy will be distributed wherever there is the most need) or at a nearby toy drop location.

Angel Tree

The Salvation Army, a Christian organization, has partnered with Walmart for their Angel Tree program. Children can become Angels if they meet certain income requirements, and make a wish list to specify their needs (generally clothing or toys). To register your child as an Angel, first search for the nearest Salvation Army community center, and call that location for instructions. To donate a gift to an Angel, you can do so online through Walmart’s website, at a Walmart store, or via your local Salvation Army.

Other local organizations

There may be other gift giveaways in your area. United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, and Catholic Charities locations often have toy or winter clothing drives, but you’ll have to check with your local chapter. Other community centers and nonprofit organizations run annual holiday giveaway programs as well. Reach out to your school’s social worker or guidance counselor, plus your local fire department, 4-H or Scouts club, or place of worship, to see if they are running holiday drives this year or if they know of other resources in the area.


Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.




Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.