You can sponsor a family during the holidays through a few different charitable organizations.

Here's How You Can Donate Gifts To Families This Holiday Season & Spread Some Cheer

jsmith/E+/Getty Images

To help end a very tumultuous year on a high note, you might be thinking about leaning into the spirit of giving. During a holiday season that might be extra challenging for some, due to the financial ramifications of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, opening your wallet (if you're able to give) to help families afford food, clothing, essential supplies, and gifts is more meaningful than ever. If you are trying to figure out how to get started, here's how to adopt a family for Christmas 2020 and donate gifts to help those in your community and nationwide.

With U.S. unemployment claims currently at their highest levels since mid-September, according to CNN's reporting on Dec. 10, your help can make even more of a difference this year. While you can donate to help those in need through national charity organizations or local groups year-round, many are amping up their efforts during a particularly difficult holiday season. If you're looking for a way to make a difference for a family that's struggling, lending your support financially — if you have the means to — can help them get the things they need while also making their family's holiday festivities a little brighter. In addition to taking note of these suggestions, you can also donate to a small or local organizations that provide similar services.

When doing your research, you'll want to make sure the group you're thinking of sending your donation through is a registered 501(c) (3), which basically confirms it's recognized as a non-profit based on certain federal guidelines. From there, you can also look up non-profit resources like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to see exactly how your funds will be allocated.

USPS Operation Santa

The U.S. Postal Service's Operation Santa program allows you to choose to adopt either letters from individuals or families (or both) by reading through different entries and finding the ones that speak to you. Once you choose to "adopt" a letter, you'll need to sign in or create an account on the USPS website, buy your gifts and wrap them, and anonymously send them on their way by Dec. 19. The last day to send in a letter is Tuesday Dec. 15, while the deadline to "adopt" a letter is Dec. 19.

Santa's Knights

The New York-based organization, which offers free martial arts and exercise classes during the year, is inviting people to take on the role of Santa for the holidays. You're able to "adopt" one of the letters, which are mostly from underserved youth in New York's Harlem neighborhood. If you don't feel like picking out gifts, you can also donate money. Based on the webpage, most people spend between $20 to $50 per letter, but you're welcome to spend less or more based on your own financial situation. Santa's Knights will accept letters and donations all the way until Christmas Day (Dec. 25).

Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program

You know Salvation Army for its Red Kettle campaign, but with the pandemic, there is predicted to be a drop in donations. You can still donate virtually here, or you can search your local Salvation Army website for giving programs. For example, in Illinois, you can drop off gifts at your local branch through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program, which you can do until Dec. 23.


CarePortal, which is a subset of The Global Orphan Project, aims to add some Christmas cheer to vulnerable kids and families in the U.S. child welfare system. The national program, which relies on recommendations from social workers and caseworkers, shares requests from different local families so you can scroll through choose to purchase items like high chairs, bus passes, beds, coats, groceries, and more. Requests are shared on a rolling basis, and range anywhere from $10 to over $1,000.

"Buy Nothing" Neighborhood Groups On Facebook

If you can't afford to give a monetary donation this year, you might want to consider joining a "Buy Nothing" group on Facebook. The group, which has local factions all around the world, encourages people to post things they either need or are giving away for free, making it easier to help out people in your immediate community.


Family-To-Family, which connects families all year round for sponsorships, is giving people the option to “fill a holiday stocking” with toys, put together holiday dinner baskets to give to local families, or adopt a low-income family this year. There's no deadline to donate by, so consider giving to help families even after the holidays are over.

M.A.S.K. Chicago

Chicago's Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings seeks to help local BIPOC communities, which have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, with its annual toy drive, which goes through Dec. 25. You can purchase items from the Amazon wish list anytime before then and have them shipped to a designated location or to you. On Christmas morning, volunteers will drop off the gifts off at communities in the west and south sides of the city.

L.A. County DPSS Adopt-A-Family Program

This popular program, which is put on by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, aims to help participants referred by social workers and other caseworkers by matching them with sponsors. To become a sponsor, you'll need to fill out an application to be matched with a family depending on the size you want. Once you're matched, you'll receive their contact information as well as a wish list of things they've requested, and deliver your gifts to the family. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the organization recommends that sponsors send gifts by mail or through contactless drop-offs to families. The deadline to send in an application to sponsor a family is Dec. 21.

Remember no donation is too small, and you should only give an amount you feel comfortable with, or consider a no-money alternative by volunteering. You also might want to consider teaming up with friends, coworkers, or family members to ease some of the financial burden of adopting a family for the holidays. If this is something you're interested in doing outside of the holidays, keep in mind that many organizations also offer the opportunity to sponsor a family year round, so you can keep the spirit of going once Christmas is over.

When dropping off gifts in-person, it's important to follow the CDC's coronavirus recommendations for community-based organizations, as of Oct. 29, which recommend wearing a mask and keeping things virtual if possible. If you can, consider a contactless drop-off or practice social distancing when dropping off gifts. If possible, you might want to consider shipping your gifts directly when possible.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.