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2018 Holiday Help Guide

Most of us want the holiday season to be a time for happiness, gifts, and overindulgence. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to splurge on food and gifts when Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's roll around. This period can be particularly hard for many low-income Americans, who struggle to face the additional expectations and financial pressure.

Fortunately, several assistance programs and charities provide help to low-income families, spreading light and warmth during the darkest, coldest time of the year. Let's take a closer look at some of the programs and organizations that help families to brighten the holidays. Links to the organizations and programs are at the end of this article.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has several initiatives to brighten the lives of low-income families over the festive season. If one of these programs interests you, look it up on the Salvation Army website.

Angel Tree Program
Every child should receive at least one gift for Christmas, but unfortunately, needy families can't afford gifts, which can leave children disappointed and parents distressed. That's where the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program comes in. The Angel Tree Program is an expanding Christmas tradition that allows anonymous donors to give clothes and toys to less privileged children all over the United States. Generous donors can "adopt" a child each year through the Angel Tree Program, enabling around one million children to experience the age-old joy of receiving a gift at Christmas.

Grocery and Food Assistance
The Salvation Army has several programs that provide food assistance to less fortunate folks over the Christmas period. They host sit-down Christmas dinners, deliver meals to people's homes, and stock food pantries ahead of the festive season.

Thanks to these generous programs, low-income families, struggling seniors, and homeless individuals all have the opportunity for a warm meal and a sense of comfort over the holidays.

Bill-Paying Assistance
It's hard to experience the warmth of holiday cheer when you can't afford to pay the heating bill. The additional burden of providing gifts and special means can strain finances even more. The Salvation Army helps struggling families to pay their utility bills.

Events
The Salvation Army spreads festive cheer to local communities by organizing hospital visits, nursing home events, meal deliveries, gifting programs, bell ringing, and clothing and toy donations. Thanks to these programs, low-income families, shut-ins, homeless people, and children of prisoners - all groups who might feel excluded from the general festive mood of the season - receive some hope and happiness when it matters most.

Local Churches
You might be surprised at what local churches do for their communities as part of their outreach programs. Many offer programs that help deserving low-income families, elderly persons and children at Christmas time, such as financial aid for bills, free Christmas gifts, food, shopping vouchers, and family counseling.

Visit your local church to find the assistance programs they have on offer.

Local Businesses
Many local businesses support families in need through initiatives like toy drives, food baskets, even turkey giveaways! Pay attention to your local news channels (TV, print, and internet) and look out for any related initiatives coming up in your area.

Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities has been serving poor and vulnerable persons and families of all religious backgrounds for more than 100 years. Their feeding program is their biggest, most inclusive Christmas initiative. This program offers senior citizens, shut-ins, and underprivileged families a hot meal at a time when they might not be able to get one otherwise. Depending on the available funds and donations, Catholic Charities also distributes free Christmas gifts, blankets, cold-weather clothing, and household goods to families in need.

Toys for Tots
Can't afford gifts for your little ones? The US Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program distributes gifts to registered children, ensuring that every child gets a chance to participate in the holiday spirit. They start collecting toys from October to late December. Local community members place their new, unwrapped toys in designated Toys for Tots collection boxes across the nation. Toys for Tots coordinators then collect all the toys and sort them by age and gender in central warehouses. When Christmas arrives, coordinators, marines, local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local community agencies give out the toys to the less fortunate children in the community. Thanks to their generosity of this program (and its donors), low-income children can participate in the spirit of gift-giving!

To register your child, select your state on the Toys for Tots website.

Make-a-Wish
Make-a-Wish helps children with life-threatening medical conditions by granting their wishes. Whether a child wants to experience doing a particular job for a day, like being an airline pilot, or wants to visit a certain place or meet a certain person, Make-a-Wish can make their wishes and more come true. The wishes they grant at Christmas are perhaps the most special, coming at a time when these children might feel most alone and hopeless.