60+ Charities, Organizations, & Holiday Assistance Programs for Low-Income Families on Christmas & Thanksgiving

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For low-income families, the holiday season can present more challenges than joys. That’s why we’ve put together this list of charities, organizations, and holiday assistance programs that serve low-income families during Thanksgiving and the holiday

The holiday season can be a magical time of year, filled with great food and time spent with friends and family. But for low-income families and those experiencing financial hardship, the season can present more challenges than joys. Many find themselves searching for holiday assistance for low-income families, holiday toy donations, and meal programs for Thanksgiving.

But the holiday season is also a time for people to give back and share their time and resources in acts of fellowship. As such, there are tons of charitable programs across the country that offer food, gift, and financial assistance in honor of the holiday season. Whether you’re a member of a family in need or a person who’d like to volunteer your time or money to help folks out who need it, there are plenty of programs available to you.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of charities, organizations, and holiday assistance programs that serve low-income families during Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Here let’s explore over 60 food assistance, gift donation, and volunteer opportunities for this holiday season.

Holiday food assistance for low-income families

The holidays just aren’t complete without a wholesome and hearty meal shared with family and friends. Here we’ve listed a few national resources as well as some local resources to give you an idea of the kinds of places near you that might be able to help. Use these resources to find food assistance for you and your family or to find where you can best offer your time and money to make sure no one goes hungry this holiday season:

  • Assistance Center of Towson Churches. Folks in Maryland can request a basket or donate by purchasing a pre-packed bag from several local supermarkets or by following their shopping list and packing your own to donate.
  • Bel Air Church. This LA-based church feeds over 10,000 neighbors annually with their Thanksgiving baskets. You can check out their page to donate or volunteer your time.
  • Bread for the City. Based in Washington, D.C., Bread for the City’s Holiday Helpings program feeds over 9,000 families during the holidays each year. Find out how to get assistance from them here. They also offer volunteer opportunities or you can sponsor a meal for $32.
  • Care and Share Food Bank. If you’re in Southern Colorado, you can donate a frozen turkey on November 16th to help a family celebrate Thanksgiving. They also accept monetary donations and encourage folks to run fundraisers.
  • CCHASM. People in the Chesterfield, VA area can request a Thanksgiving basket or can donate funds to help feed over 3,000 families nearby.
  • Christian Life Center (CLC). Residents of Dayton, OH can donate to or request Thanksgiving baskets through the CLC.
  • City Rescue Mission. Folks in Western PA can either get assistance or donate to Thanksgiving fixings through City Rescue Mission. Turkeys can be purchased for $15.
  • Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and Islands. Cape Cod residents can donate money to provide Thanksgiving meal baskets and shopping gift cards to over 200 families in need.
  • Family To Family Food Baskets. This Scranton, PA-based program aims to feed over 15,000 people though their holiday food basket program. You can donate to them online.
  • Feeding America. Feeding America is a nationwide charity and advocacy group dedicated to ending hunger. You can check their website for ideas on how to start your own fundraisers, food drives, and other donation programs. When you fundraise in conjunction with Feeding America, a donation of just $700 can provide 2100 meals.
  • Feeding NYC. The Feeding NYC program provides a frozen turkey and all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal to folks in New York City’s homeless shelters. If you’re looking to help out, small boxes are just a $35 donation and you can also check in with them on how to volunteer.
  • Good In The Hood. This Twin Cities, MN organization partners with a local church to raise money for Thanksgiving baskets for area residents. You can donate or volunteer to help them get 4,500 baskets to local families and food to area churches to feed over 20,000 individuals.
  • Goodman Community Center. This community center in Madison, WI provides Thanksgiving baskets to over 3,500 families in need. Although registrations to get your own basket are closed for 2018, folks who want to give their money, food donations, or time.
  • Interfaith Food Pantry (Morris, NJ). New Jersey residents can request a basket, donate food and money, or volunteer to help them reach their goal of providing 1,600 Thanksgiving dinners to people in need.
  • Jax Beam. Residents near Neptune, FL can register to receive a Thanksgiving basket or volunteer to donate your time, food, or money.
  • Just Food (Lawrence, KS). Just Food provides 1,200 families in Douglas County, KS with a holiday meal. You can donate $15 to sponsor a full meal.
  • Kroc Center (Omaha, NE). A Salvation Army project, the Kroc Center’s annual Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance programs offer food, financial assistance, and gifts to the elderly, low-income families, and houseless folks. Check out the Omaha Salvation Army page for more details on how to donate or volunteer.
  • Mom Helps (Middleton, WI). Folks in Middleton and surrounding areas can get financial assistance during the holiday season from Mom Helps. Check out their page for volunteer opportunities or donate online or by check.
  • Move For Hunger. This charity encourages people who are moving to donate any unwanted non-perishable food items to their local food bank rather than throwing them out. This holiday season, they’re looking for folks to hold food drives for holiday-related donations. If you set up a food drive, they’ll provide you with posters, collection boxes, and transportation of your donations to your local food bank.
  • National Center for Children and Families. Through their Thanksgiving drive you can build a basket, purchase a meal for a family for $75, host fundraising events, and volunteer to help pack meals or deliver baskets for folks in Maryland and the D.C. area. Meals are donated to families through affiliated local agencies.
  • No Kid Hungry. Host your own Friendsgiving in conjunction with No Kid Hungry to raise money for their programs that combat hunger among children and low-income families.
  • Oakland Family Services. Folks in Oakland, CA and the surrounding areas can donate to help feed a family during Thanksgiving or adopt a family to purchase them gifts during the holiday season. You can also contact them if you’re seeking assistance.
  • Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront fed over 10,000 families through their Holiday Meals for Military program last year. They work from 41 locations across the US. Find one near you to volunteer or donate.
  • Operation We Are Here. This military charity has a great list of programs across the US where you can volunteer your time or money to help a military family have a great Thanksgiving. Check it out here.
  • Sacred Heart Community Services. People in San Jose, CA can send along food donations, money, holiday gifts, or volunteer to support Sacred Heart’s holiday giving efforts. They hope to donate 7,400 food boxes and 18,600 gifts for kids.
  • Services of Hope Dallas. Folks in Dallas, TX can register for a basket or donate time and money to help them reach their goal of giving out over 350 baskets.
  • South Lincoln Resources. This Lincoln County, OR organization provides over 200 Thanksgiving baskets each years. Check out their website to find out how to apply for a basket or how to volunteer with them.
  • St. Luke Catholic Church. This church in Indianapolis, IN provides opportunities to donate to and help build Thanksgiving baskets.
  • Thrive Market. Thrive is a popular online grocer with tons of organic and natural food options. Low-income families can request a free membership to the website where you’ll find most products at a 25-50% discount compared with regular retailers.
  • The Triangle Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership Center. Folks in Durham, NC can either volunteer, donate money, or register to sponsor a family to help provide meals to over 1,700 local residents.
  • Trinity United Method Church (Gainesville, FL). Churchgoers are encouraged to bring a specific Thanksgiving item each week to help fill baskets for folks in need. Referrals for baskets are made by local agencies.
  • United Way. Most local United Way chapters have hunger assistance programs that can help you feed your family year-round and particularly during the holidays. Find your local United Way chapter to see if they offer programming that could help you.
  • Urban Affairs Coalition (Philadelphia, PA). Offers opportunities to donate or volunteer to help them provide Thanksgiving baskets to 2,000 or more families. 
  • Urban League St. Louis. This nonprofit provides free turkeys and trimmings to families in need in the St. Louis bi-state area. You can donate to them directly on their website or sign up with them to volunteer.
  • Washington National Cathedral. This D.C. church is accepting donations of packaged Thanksgiving baskets, monetary donations, and volunteers to help them give 1,250 baskets to neighbors in need. 
  • WhyHunger. Although they don’t have a specific holiday program, WhyHunger does charitable work and advocacy to combat against hunger in the US and abroad. You can call their WhyHunger hotline at 1(800)5-HUNGRY to find soup kitchens, food banks, government programs, and charitable organizations near you to get help this holiday season.
  • 211. 211 programs exist in states across the US to provide information on financial resources for folks who are struggling. Many of these sites have a search feature where you can specifically look for Thanksgiving assistance programs in your state and your local area.

Holiday gift assistance for low-income families

There are a number of charities that provide assistance to families specifically during the Christmas and holiday season. Here we’re going to focus on national or large regional organizations, but you can also find a great list of local charities with similar programs here

  • Angel Tree. This program is run by the Prison Fellowship Organization. It provides Christmas gifts to children whose parents are incarcerated. Check here for more information on how the program works and how you can get involved.
  • Be An Elf. Through this charitable giving program, kids from low-income families can write letters to Santa which are collected at post offices participating in Operation Santa. Folks can then collect one of these letters and mail gifts directly to families in need. Learn how to be an elf here or check this page for instructions on sending letters to Santa.
  • Cars 4 Christmas. This charity accepts donations of used cars to give to families in need. If you’d like to apply to receive a car during the holiday season you can find the application here. Veterans can apply specifically through their Cars 4 Heroes program.
  • Christmas Connection. Catholic Charities runs this initiative where folks can adopt a family during the holiday season to deliver gifts for each family member and presents for their household. If you’re looking for assistance, you’ll need to be referred by a local service agency.  
  • Christmas Spirit Foundation. With their Trees for Troops program, the Christmas Spirit Foundation uses donations to send christmas trees to families on military bases and to military service members who are overseas for the holidays. You can donate through their website.
  • Family Giving Tree. Folks can donate to this California-based nonprofit to help grant holiday wishes to kids referred by schools and nonprofits from around the state. They’re in need of donations, folks to lead wish drives to collect gifts, and people to volunteer to sort, wrap, and prepare gifts for distribution.
  • Fill The Truck. A joint effort between Salvation Army East and Walmart, shoppers can donate gifts and coats for kids in need at participating Walmart stores on weekends between November 28 and December 14. You can find more information on Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance programming here.
  • Holiday Relief. Qualified folks can sign up to become members of Holiday Relief where you’ll get information on holiday assistance programs near you, exclusive discounts from their partners, and articles on navigating the holiday season. It should be noted, however, that this is a marketing lead company and not a charitable organization.
  • Lions Club International. Although they don’t have a specific national program, most of their local chapters run a donation program during the holiday season for Christmas trees, toys, food clothing, and other things like strollers and household goods for low-income families. Check here to find your local chapter.
  • Local churches, fraternal organizations, and charities. Many of your local organizations will offer both assistance to families in need as well as opportunities to donate or volunteer for folks who want to help out during the holiday season. Check with your local charitable organizations to see how you can get or give help.
  • Make-A-Wish. Make-A-Wish operates year-round and can grant wishes during the holiday season as well. They’re specifically dedicated to providing gifts and experiences to kids ages two through 18 who have been diagnosed with a critical illness. You can refer a child here or find out more about how to get involved here.
  • One Simple Wish. If you’re looking to donate toys to a child in need, One Simple Wish connects donors with wishes from kids in foster care. You can donate money, grant a child’s wish directly, or check out other ways to help on their website.
  • Operation Christmas Child. Run by Samaritan’s Purse International, this program encourages folks to pack a shoebox full of gifts for a child ages 2-14. Packages can be dropped off at one of their 5,000 locations across the US, mailed to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters, or built and shipped through their website.
  • Salvation Army. This well-known charity offers holiday events, grocery and food assistance, gift donations, and bill paying assistance to low-income families during the holiday season. Find your local branch to donate or to request assistance for you and your family.
  • The Holiday Project. Through this program, volunteers visit and supply gifts to people who are in hospitals, nursing homes, and other residential institutions who might not otherwise receive visitors on the holidays. You can sign up to volunteer here.
  • The Toy Foundation. The Toy Foundation particularly encourages gift and financial donations from the toy and gaming communities. However, anyone can donate cash or products through their website to their Toy Banks which send out millions of toys to children in need. Charities can find out how to get toys for their constituents here.
  • Toys for Tots. Founded by Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks in 1947, Toys for Tots accepts toy donations to give to children whose parents can’t afford to buy gifts for them at Christmas. You can request or donate a toy through their website, or find your local chapter for more information.
  • United Way. Each year, United Way sets up Christmas Bureaus at locations across the country to collect and distribute food and gifts for low-income families. Find your local United Way chapter to ask about donating or receiving assistance.
  • 211. In most areas across the US, you can call the 211 hotline if you’re in need of financial assistance, help paying bills, job and employment assistance, and more. Call them to ask about getting assistance during the holiday season.

Holiday volunteering and donation opportunities

In this article we’ve explored both how to access holiday assistance and how to offer it yourself if you’re a person with the means to do so. A great way you can participate in these holiday programs, especially if you don’t have a ton of money to donate, is to volunteer your time. These are a few online tools that can help you find volunteering opportunities near you:

  • Create The Good. Create The Good provides information and resources on how to offer your time, money, and services year-round. Use their volunteer search engine to check for holiday and Thanksgiving assistance programs near you.
  • Do Something. This online social media platform allows you to join ongoing charitable campaigns and share photos of you volunteering with other people across the world. 
  • Reward Volunteers. Reward Volunteers encourages focus to participate in volunteerism by offering a chance at monthly prizes to people and organizations that have logged volunteer hours. You can use their search function to look for holiday and Thanksgiving volunteering opportunities.
  • Volunteer Match. This website is a portal that helps you easily connect with volunteering opportunities in your area. Use it during the holiday season to find local food and gift assistance programs in your neighborhood.
  • You Give Goods. You Give Goods allows users to set up online drives to collect products to donate to various causes. They have a specific page dedicated to toy drives that can help you figure out the best way to run a holiday toy drive and how to do so on You Give Goods specifically.

This holiday season, as always, it’s crucial that we band together and disperse our resources equitably so everyone can feel the warmth and joy the holidays have to offer. Check with these organizations and local charities near you to figure out how you can help or receive assistance this winter.

We’ve got plenty more great ideas for how you can save money and access assistance right here on Knoji. Be sure to keep up with our regular articles and check out the Knoji homepage where we’ve answered thousands of questions about how you can save money at many of your favorite retailers— you’re going to want to know our answers as you prepare for the holiday season!


Susan Broadbelt
Posted on Jun 19, 2014
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