Christmas assistance programs.

During the holidays, charities help low income families by providing free Christmas toys, presents and meals. A focus of these programs, such as those offered by the Salvation Army, is on supporting households with kids or senior citizens, however anyone that is currently struggling can apply for assistance. Free Christmas gifts as well as boxes of food are passed out to the working poor or households that are facing a short term financial emergency. Applications for toys are available in each state from charities listed below.

Millions of families are struggling and the holidays make those challenges more apparent. However there are charities as well as churches, including local Salvation Army centers, that have free Christmas toy and meal programs available. They help children, the unemployed as well as the elderly. The goal is to ensure that every low income family has both food and some type of gift given to them.

The various Christmas Assistance Programs that are offered by the Salvation Army as well as many other charities provide holiday meals, free toys, clothing, presents and other assistance. There is support for children from a low income household as well as single mothers or fathers. Many churches also offer some form of assistance to the needy. They also offer help for senior citizens that may reside in the household.

In addition to a gift for a kid, the family may be able to receive the necessary food and grocery items that are needed to make a Christmas dinner for their family. The Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance Program is the non-profit charity organization’s largest outreach event that is held each and every year. It can be called different names by the local centers, but the most common is Adopt a Family or Angel Tree. Other free holiday gift giving programs are offered by other churches or charities, and the details of those will also vary.

Families and individuals may register for holiday assistance by completing the application process, which usually starts during October or November at their local Salvation Army center. Any toys are usually provided first come and served for those that are eligible.

Details on Christmas assistance

The programs go by various names. Depending on where you live and your local Salvation Army branch, the holiday assistance programs may be referred to as Adopt-A-Family, The Angel Giving Tree, Toys For Tots or even something generic such as Christmas food baskets. Some local branches may also be involved in handing out thousands of winter jackets through the Coats for Kids program.




Terms of the program

While the exact conditions of each local agency may differ, in general the following conditions need to be met in order to receive Christmas assistance from the Salvation Army. Many of these will also apply to other charities that offer help. In general, to qualify for free holiday assistance:

  • Applicants can’t be signed up for any other form of public holiday assistance, Angel Tree, or other programs through another local charity or non-profit agency.
  • Individuals will need to bring picture identification and proof of their total household income (most recent check stubs).
  • Social Security cards for all family members, as well as proof of residency (utility/phone bill), are required.
  • Income qualifications are determined by your local Salvation Army center and/or The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Applicants need to meet income guidelines that are based on family size.

In addition to the holiday programs and conditions that need to be met, the Salvation Army may have different criteria for other holiday, Christmas, and winter assistance programs that they administer. As there are many options for low income families.

For example, they usually have assistance programs that are ready to help people bundle up for the winter, and this is offered during a Coats for Kids annual event. Or receive free, donated gifts from Angel Tree or holiday meals. Ask about what is needed to sign up for any of these free services.

Contacts to apply for free holiday assistance

In addition to the counties listed below, contact your local Salvation Army branch, local churches, community action agency, or other non-profits in order to learn more or apply. Click here to find non-profit agencies in your area.

The Salvation Army not only has locations in every single state, they also operate in most towns and counties in those states. Even if a center is not near you, the agency will usually have referrals to other nearby charities and non-profits that may be able to help during the holidays. Find local Salvation Army assistance programs.




One of the programs that is in highest demand is Angel Tree. It provides free toys, gifts, clothing, winter attire and more to children and senior citizens. Everyone should be able to receive some type of holiday cheer, and this resource can help make that happen. Read more Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

Also be sure to always ask a charity ask about some of the other programs that may be available where you live. A non-profit can be a great source of information on the Marine Corps Toys for Tot programs, holiday meals or food, or other Christmas assistance. Every community will have a program in place that gives kids from working poor families some type of free gift to open Christmas morning. Children should never go without during this time of the year.

Additional local non-profit resources

Major metropolitan areas often have several non-profits, churches, and charities that specialize in meeting the needs of the less fortunate during the holidays. The availability of resources will vary based on city and county and also what has been donated. These other resources do rely heavily on volunteers as well as the generous donations of toys from the community.

What may be offered around Christmas can include free toys, hot meals, Turkeys, presents for children, and more. Many organizations will also deliver food and also companionship to senior citizens and the homebound. In addition to helping around Christmas time, many of these non-profits also offer assistance at Thanksgiving or Easter.



Arkansas (The entire state)



  • Denver and surrounding counties


Delaware (The entire state)

District of Columbia





Hawaii - All cities and counties.


  • Boise area and surrounding counties.













Montana - Statewide holiday assistance programs.


  • Omaha, including Douglas and Sarpy County.


New Hampshire





New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina





Rhode Island - Agencies have Christmas help for all counties, including Providence.

South Carolina - The whole state.

South Dakota - The entire state










  • Burlington area, including Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle.



West Virginia (Resources for the state)


Find additional help at Christmas

Clothing banks and thrift stores are available in most communities. They may sell gently used clothes or toys to the general public which can then be used as Christmas presents by those families. Some of the centers may even provide vouchers or gift certificates to qualified low income families. Those can then be used to shop for free items during the holiday at the clothing closet. Learn more.

While the demand is greatest during the Christmas holiday season, the Salvation Army operates year round and also has other options available to low income families for their Easter and Thanksgiving needs. Some services and resources are offered directly by the agency, such as Angel Tree, and others are run in partnership with local churches and charities, in particular Thanksgiving meals. Food baskets are even provided around Easter too. Find a comprehensive listing of all of the Salvation Army’s holiday programs. Read more, and find additional details.






Like this site?