Gather your friends, family, and co-workers and pull together to help someone in need celebrate the holiday. Opportunities abound, but before you get started, please read over our guidelines to make sure you get the right gift at the right time.
Questions? Please contact the nonprofit for more information.
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 NEW. While donations of gently used items are great year round, for gift-giving, giving new items are best when you can. They convey the spirit of giving and, more importantly, the gift of dignity.
- DO GIVE IN HONOR OF SOMEONE: A donation to the cause someone cares about makes a great gift and can be really meaningful to someone who seems to have everything. Look for online forms that allow you to indicate whom the gift is in honor of, like Caritas below.
- DO CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING: Donating items is great, but someone needs to organize, wrap, and distribute all these gifts, too! Look for ways you can show up and help. A great way to restore your faith in humanity.
- 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 family needs. Any Baby Can supports the families affected by the heinous Texas bills that reduce or eliminate covered care for children with disabilities.
Ways to Give: Sign up to adopt a family and fulfill their gift wish list.
Deadline: Dec 1, so gifts can be delivered the following week. All families are matched up now, but gift cards to Target, Walmart, and H-E-B are still being accepted for new families that will join the list.
More Info: Any Baby Can
Austin Child Guidance Center
Who They Help: Children and families in need of mental health intervention, diagnosis, and treatment
Ways to Give: Adopt-A-Client family by shopping their wish list
Deadline: Gifts will be delivered Dec. 12
More Info: E-mail email@example.com to participate
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas
Who They Help: Provide one-to-one mentoring services to approximately 1,000 at-risk youth ages 6 – 18 in Central Texas. BBBS has a list of more than 500 children who are waiting to be matched with mentors (Big Brothers and Sisters) of their own.
Ways to Give: Make a one-time, or monthly, donation to help fund a mentoring relationship for a child. Donate $15 – $20 Target and Wal-Mart gift cards for children to choose their own gift at our annual Holiday Party.
Deadline: Unrestricted donations are accepted year-round. Holiday gift cards needed before Dec. 2nd
More Info: 512-472-5437 or www.bigmentoring.org
Who They Help: Serves kids and families with programming and books to increase literacy
Ways to Give: Donate books, wrapping paper, tape, and other gift-wrap items.
Deadline: Dec. 3. Drop-off at Bookspring offices.
More info: Bookspring
Caritas Home for the Holidays
Who They Help: Homeless families, refugees, and veterans
Ways to Give: Choose from a list of items like prescription co-pays, art therapy supplies, a week of groceries, a welcome home basket, rental assistance, and more.
Deadline: No deadline given, but best before Christmas Day, December 25.
More Info: Caritas of Austin
Who They Help: Children in the first 48 hours of being in the Central Texas foster care system.
Ways to Give: Make a Hope Pack for kids entering the foster care system. Carrying Hope lists items by age and gender. Packs are less than $100 each.
Deadline: Packs accepted throughout the holidays.
More Info: Carrying Hope Make a Hope Pack
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.
Deadline: Gift cards needed before Dec. 4
More Info: CASA Toy Drive
Center for Child Protection
Who They Help: An advocate and the only nonprofit in Travis County that is involved in the investigation of crimes against children.
Ways to Give: Adopt one of their client families and donate toys, gifts, and decorations for kids.
Deadline: Dec. 15
More Info: Email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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: Anytime before the holiday
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. Great for families!
Deadlines: To shop for a client and have Family Eldercare deliver, turn in gifts by Dec. 8. To shop and deliver yourself, please deliver by Dec 22.
More Info: Family Eldercare
Foundation Communities Holiday Assistance
Who They Help: Foundation Communities provides affordable housing communities for families across Austin.
Ways to Give: Four ways to give: Sponsor a family, donate to the Holiday Drive from the wish list, make a holiday donation and let them shop for you, and spread the word to others.
Deadlines: If you’d like to sponsor a family, sponsor request forms are due Friday, December 1; deliveries of gifts are accepted December 5-8.
More Info: Foundation Communities
Who They Help: Offers a holistic approach to lifting families out of poverty by providing educational, job-training, and life skills support to single-parent families
Ways to Give: Adopt a client family and shop for their wish list items.
Deadlines: Dec. 8 so gifts can be delivered
More Info: Email email@example.com for more information
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 Nov. 1- Dec. 22, or mail them directly within that time.
More Info: LifeWorks
Meals on Wheels Central Texas
Who They Help: Home-bound seniors and people with disabilities and their pets
Ways to Give: This year, Austin Subaru is hosting a “Stuff a Subaru” event, Dec. 11-15, asking for donations of wish-list items to be brought to Central Kitchen on E. 5th Street. You can also give gently used or new pet gifts like leashes, treats, and bedding to support clients of Meals on Wheels’ PALS Program.
Deadline: For Stuff a Subaru event, bring donations by Dec. 11-15; For the PALS donations, deadline is Dec. 4
More Info: Meals on Wheels
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 adopt a family is Dec. 15
More Info: Operation Blue Santa
NOTE: The deadline for families to apply for assistance is Nov. 30. See site for additional “Santa” opportunities for those who live outside Austin city limits. Click here to apply.
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.
Deadline: Drop off stations will be open Nov. 2- Dec. 7, 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 5,100 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 — to sponsor a family wish list, you’ll need to be paired by Nov. 21, for example — 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 the first week of December.
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 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 and bringing them unwrapped to a drop-off location. You can also donate money to help them purchase gifts for the holidays. Angle Tree locations will be in area malls through Dec. 16.
Deadline: Choose an “Angel” and bring your unwrapped gifts to a designated mall from Nov 12 – Dec 9. Deadline to send gift is Dec. 13.
More Info: Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program
Who They Help: Children with special needs, especially those who are medically fragile and/or developmentally delayed.
Ways to Give: Adopt a family with special needs kids by helping them cover basic needs or providing gift cards.
Deadline: Dec. 15 to deliver gifts
More Info: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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: Deadlines vary.
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: Donate money to fund the wish lists of six 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: No deadline given.
More Info: Texas Advocacy Project
Have we missed any? Please let us know in the comments section or send us a note at email@example.com.