Right now, something as small as donating gifts for families in need might seem insignificant, like maybe we have bigger things to worry about. But it’s not insignificant if you’re the family worried about future policy changes – and the prospect of not celebrating the holidays, on top of it all. And you, the donor, can think of it this way: A small but meaningful way to show your support for these families.
Remember, these gift drives are hosted by nonprofit organizations that serve the exact people who might be most affected by changes in policies at the state and national levels: children in Child Protective Services and foster care, young people who have aged out of foster care, refugee families, families with disabled children, families struggling to find affordable housing, seniors who don’t have family support, adults in recovery, adults recovering from domestic violence and abuse…. thousands of our neighbors and community members, all in the Austin area.
Giving to these families isn’t complicated, but before you start shopping for toys and tying on bows, please take a look at these general guidelines for giving.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR GIVING:
- DO GIVE EARLY. Most programs need donated gifts a week or two before Christmas. Don’t expect to be able to give to one of these programs the week of the holiday.
- DO ENLIST FAMILY, CO-WORKERS. Sponsoring a family is more fun – and more affordable – when you can share the task with others.
- DON’T EXPECT TO MEET THE RECIPIENTS. In most cases, you won’t be able to meet the family or children you’re sponsoring. Social service organizations have to protect the privacy and safety of their clients. You understand. If that’s important to you, though, consider the Operation Blue Santa project below.
- DON’T GIVE TOY WEAPONS. Remember that many of the children receiving these gifts may have been through some terrible experiences of abuse or neglect. Focus on non-violent toys (no Nerf guns), toys that don’t need the Internet; no jump ropes, no toys depicting violence, no iTunes gift cards, no walkie-talkies. Comforting, lovable toys are best for these kids.
- DO GIVE WRAPPING PAPER, BATTERIES. Consider donating wrapping paper if they ask for unwrapped gifts and batteries for all those gifts that need them.
- DO GIVE CASH IN THE FORM OF A DONATION TO THE FAMILY. No time for or interest in shopping? Many of the organizations can buy at special prices and make your dollar go farther.
- DO GIVE YOUR UNWANTED GIFT CARDS. Not really into Olive Garden? Not heading to a ToysRUs anytime soon? Mail any gift cards you can’t use to any of the charities that serve families in need.
- DO GIVE TO PROGRAMS IN THE SURROUNDING COUNTIES. There are “Santa” programs across Central Texas if you don’t live within Austin city limits. Here’s where to find other Santa programs to donate to — or apply for.
OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE in alphabetical order:
Any Baby Can Adopt-a-Family
Who They Help: Children in Central Texas with medical, financial and familial needs
Ways to Give: Sign up to adopt a family and fulfill their gift wish list.
Deadline: Register for a family by November 17
More Info: Any Baby Can
Caritas Home for the Holidays
Who They Help: Homeless families, refugees and veterans
Ways to Give: Purchase items from their wish list: laundry baskets, bath towels, dishes, cleaning tools and also things like blankets and gloves, bike locks and helmets. See their lists here.
Deadline: Donated items can be dropped off Caritas located at 611 Neches St during specific times here. Please call Caritas of Austin in advance to schedule your donation drop off.
More Info: Caritas of Austin
CASA of Travis County Holiday Toy Drive
Who They Help: More than 1,000 children spending the holidays in foster care away from their family.
Ways to Give: Donate $30 Target and Wal-Mart gift cards for children to choose their own gift. Or make a cash donation to support the Toy Drive.
Deadline: Gift cards needed before Dec. 5
More Info: CASA Toy Drive
Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade
Who They Help: The Children Giving to Children Parade benefits Operation Blue Santa
Ways to Give: Bring an unwrapped toy and Santa’s Helpers will collect toys during the parade to be distributed to children for the holidays.
When: Saturday, November 26 at 11am
More Info: Chuy’s Parade
Family Eldercare Holiday Giving Drive
Who They Help: Elderly people who often have little or no family support
Ways to Give: Sponsor a senior by purchasing gifts off their wish lists. Deliver gifts to a client and spend a little time with them.
Deadlines: Clients’ wish lists are starting to be sent to donors who have registered to give, but there are plenty of seniors in need, so keep signing up. Note that gifts will need to be delivered to clients by December 18.
More Info: Family Eldercare
Foundation Communities Holiday Assistance
Who They Help: Foundation Communities provides affordable housing communities for families across Austin.
Ways to Give: Sponsor a Foundation Communities family for the holidays, donate to their Holiday Drive, or make a donation and they will shop for you!
Deadlines: If you’d like to sponsor a family, Sponsor request forms are due Friday, December 2; deliveries of gifts are accepted December 6-8.
More Info: Foundation Communities
LifeWorks Project Holiday Help
Who They Help: Youth and young families seeking to build a path to self-sufficiency.
Ways to Give: Thanks to the community, applications to sponsor a young person are closed, but you can still send gift cards from H-E-B, Wal-Mart or others and you can always put together an “Apartment Starter Kit” to welcome homeless youth into LifeWorks safe housing.
Deadline: You can take the gift cards to one of five LifeWorks locations between Dec 2 – 11, or mail them directly within that time.
More Info: LifeWorks
Operation Blue Santa
Who They Help: They provide food and toys for about 5,000 families in need.
Ways to Give: This is one of those rare “adopt-a-family” opportunities that lets you select the family you want to give to, contact them directly, inquire what it is they want and then deliver it to them. If you go to this page, just scroll to the bottom and click “on-line sponsor login” to get started. At the time of this post there were still 129 families in need of assistance.
Deadline: The deadline to deliver gifts to a family is December 17.
More Info: Operation Blue Santa
Who They Help: UT-Austin employees and their families with special needs over the holidays
Ways to Give: Drop-off unwrapped toys, gift cards and wrapping supplies at the offices in UT parking garages or at a number of athletic events throughout the fall. The program hosts the Orange Santa Store Dec. 3-5 where recipients will “shop” for gifts for their families.
Deadline: Drop off stations will be open November 2- December 1, this way parents have time to shop, wrap and put gifts under their trees at home.
More Info: Orange Santa
Partnerships for Children Holiday Wishes
Who They Help: Children in the care of Child Protective Services. Last year, Partnerships for Children provided gifts to more than 4,700 children in Central Texas.
Ways to Give: Donations, sponsor a child, or general gifts of toys.
Deadline: Gifts must be delivered through Christmas. For more information, contact HolidayWishes@partnershipsforchildren.org .
More Info: Partnerships for Children Holiday Wishes
SAFE (Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace) Holiday Giving Programs
Who They Help: SAFE serves victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Ways to Give: The Sponsor a Child or Family program matches donors with a a family served by SafePlace. The Fulfill a Wish program matches donors with a child or family in the care of Austin Children’s Shelter.
The Project Santa program lets donors give toys and gifts that Austin Children’s Shelter can give clients throughout the year for birthdays and other occasions. You can also provide gift cards and provide “Shop for the Shelter” donations.
Deadline: Deadlines for donations vary — and many are around Thanksgiving time — so please take a look now to put it on your list of to-do’s.
More Info: SafeAustin.org
Saint Louise House’s Home for the Holidays
Who They Help: Provides housing and essential services to mothers and children experiencing homelessness in Central Texas.
Ways to Give: Sponsor a family or provide gift cards to help support moms who want to do a little shopping for their families. This organization also accepts stocking-stuffers like stickers, pencils and other small toys. And they’re also looking for Christmas Pajamas to help the kids stay warm – and festive.
Deadline: New, wrapped gifts, stocking-stuffers, pajamas and gift cards delivered by Dec. 9.
More Info: Saint Louise House’s Home for the Holidays
Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program
Who They Help: Children and families in need in Travis and Williamson Counties
Ways to Give: Visit an “Angel Tree” at an area mall or – now – you can choose an “Angel” from the online Angel Tree. Choose to Adopt an Angel by picking a name from an “Angel Tree” and purchasing gifts for a specific child. You can also donate money to help them purchase gifts for the holidays.
Deadline: Choose an “Angel” and bring your unwrapped gifts to a designated mall from Nov 12 – Dec 9.
More Info: Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program
Southwest Key Christmas Angel Program
Who They Help: Low-income youth and families in Central Texas and in the East Austin Children’s Promise program.
Ways to Give: Sign up to sponsor a child or family. Southwest Key will match you with a client and send you their names, ages and needs. You shop for them and deliver the gifts to Southwest Key’s campus in East Austin.
Deadline: The deadline to deliver your gift is December 16.
More Info: Southwest Key Christmas Angel Program
Texas Advocacy Project’s Hope for the Holidays Gift Drive
Who They Help: The Project provides free legal services to Victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Ways to Give: This year you can help give “Hope” to seven families who have been nominated by a Project attorney and have transitioned from a home filled with violence to one of safety and security. See their wish lists online.
Deadline: To ensure delivery before Christmas, all gifts must be received at The Project’s office by Friday, Dec 2 so they can wrap and ship by the Dec 9, in time for holiday delivery.
More Info: Texas Advocacy Project
Have we missed any? Please let us know in the comments section or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.