The holiday season can be incredibly stressful, even for two parent households. As a single parent, I’ve often worried about providing an adequate Christmas, and holiday dinners that my kids expect, virtually every year. I have discovered throughout the years that there are a number of places, on both a local and national level, that are there to discreetly make your Thanksgiving and Christmas season better.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army may be one of the best known charities. People are used to seeing them with their red bucket at Christmas, but they actually provide a variety of charitable services all year. They typically are able to provide a limited number of presents to the children in your household, as well as a traditional holiday dinner. In some areas, they hang the first names and ages of needy children on a Christmas tree in a large, public setting and allow strangers to supply the things that your children want or need for Christmas. To find the nearest location to you, go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-local/Home, and type in your zip code.
You may wish to keep in mind that they will often start accepting applications for holiday assistance as early as November, so you will probably want to call as early as possible.
Toys For Tots
Toys For Tots is a non-profit charity that is administered by the United States Marine Corps. Each year, between October and December, they collect new, unwrapped toys. That following December, those two are given away to the low-income children in that area.
It is most common to see Toys for Tots being done in an area that has a Marine Corps Reserve Unit. However, it is also possible to hear something about Toys for Tots near you, if there are retired Marines who have permission to do so by by the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation. If you would like to see if you are eligible, or for more information, go to http://www.toysfortots.org/request_toys/toys.asp
United Way is associated with 211. 211, of course, is the number that you can dial in many places in the United States to find out about local community resources, including government state help.
Even if you do not have that option in your area yet, you can always go to http://www.211.org/, and type in your zip code. Once you indicate that you are looking for help with holiday dinners and presents, it will tell you which charities or companies in your area have registered with 211 to help.
However, you should keep in mind that not every church will let the United way know that they are helping. That’s why it would be better for you to take some time and call every church you can, that is within an acceptable distance from you. Although I never told my children, I got help from a church one year for Christmas. They gave us one gift card for each person to buy presents with, and then another gift card to a local grocery store for Christmas dinner. Without that help, our Christmas would have been pretty bleak.
In many areas, the Department of Social Services ( also known as the Food Stamp office, the medicaid office,or the Office of Self-Sufficiency) will may have a limited number of gift or food baskets available to qualified recipients. Even if they don’t, they may be able to put you in touch with an agency in your area that does, so it’s definitely worth asking about. If you are unsure where that office is near you, you should be able to find it here: http://singleparents.about.com/od/financialhelp/a/find_TANF.htm
Food Banks and Homeless Shelters
Even if you are already using food banks to supplement your food supply, you might be surprised to discover that many of them provide additional help during the holidays. If you have ever noticed, a lot of grocery stores and churches solicit food donations during this season, and the food goes to food banks. As a result, food banks typically have more to give, and most of them try their best to make sure that families with children, particularly young children, have access to a good Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. If you would like to see where the closest food bank is, visit this site: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx
Homeless shelters will often have the same type of assistance available. Even if you are not homeless, close to homeless, or receiving any other services, you may very well be eligible for a gift basket. To find a homeless shelter near you, go here: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/
Lions Club and Kiwanis Club
Both the Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club are civic organizations. They are groups of people who feel an obligation to serve the people in the community. It is very common for either of these organizations to provide gift baskets of food to needy individuals, sometimes even anonymously ( if someone else nominates you). To see if the location nearest to you will be able to help you, go to either: http://lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php or http://sites.kiwanis.org/Kiwanis/en/MembershipInterest/FindAClub.aspx
Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most wonderful holidays in the year. Unfortunately, not everyone can manage to fulfill their children’s expectations without a little help. Every child deserves a good holiday meal, and a good Christmas morning. No-one wants them to go without, so even if you are not sure that you will need the help, apply early. Waiting too long may mean that you can’t get the help your children need. If you don’t need it, or change your mind later, you will not be penalized for not picking up your gifts in future years, but if you do need it, then you’ve got it.