Before we proceed with the annual list of nonprofits accepting gifts for the families they serve, I’d like to highlight one of the more rewarding “adopt a family” opportunities you’ll ever have: the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring Campaign.
For 21 years now, the Statesman has collaborated with local charities like iACT, Capital IDEA, HAAM, Wonders & Worries, Caritas of Austin, Any Baby Can, and more, to select and profile some of the neediest people in Austin. These are families who face an uncommon amount of bad luck combined with dire circumstances. What will strike you the most is how simple their needs are: One family needs plumbing repairs. Another needs books and winter coats. A couple hopes for one last dinner at a restaurant together.
You’re invited to read the family’s stories online. At the end of each story, there’s a list of items they need. To donate, contact the nonprofit listed and let them know what you’d like to give. They’ll work with you to make the arrangements. The Statesman also makes it easy to donate to the fund online, but a surprising number of people still like to donate by check via the mail. The Statesman has raised about $12 million for families like these over the years. It’s great.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR GIVING:
- DO GIVE EARLY. Most programs need donated gifts a week or two before Christmas. Don’t expect to be able to give to one of these programs the week of the holiday.
- DO ENLIST FAMILY, CO-WORKERS. Sponsoring a family is more fun – and more affordable – when you can share the task with others.
- DON’T EXPECT TO MEET THE RECIPIENTS. In most cases, you won’t be able to meet the family or children you’re sponsoring. Social service organizations have to protect the privacy and safety of their clients. You understand. If that’s important to you, though, consider the Operation Blue Santa project below.
- DON’T GIVE TOY WEAPONS. Remember that many of the children receiving these gifts may have been through some terrible experiences of abuse or neglect. Focus on non-violent toys (no Nerf guns), toys that don’t need the Internet; no jump ropes, no toys depicting violence, no iTunes gift cards, no walkie-talkies. Comforting, lovable toys are best for these kids.
- DO GIVE WRAPPING PAPER, BATTERIES. Consider donating wrapping paper if they ask for unwrapped gifts and batteries for all those gifts that need them.
- DO GIVE CASH IN THE FORM OF A DONATION TO THE FAMILY. No time for or interest in shopping? Many of the organizations can buy at special prices and make your dollar go farther.
- DO GIVE YOUR UNWANTED GIFT CARDS. Not really into Olive Garden? Not heading to a ToysRUs anytime soon? Mail any gift cards you can’t use to any of the charities that serve families in need.
- DO GIVE NEW. While donations of gently used items are great year round, for gift-giving, giving new items are best when you can. They convey the spirit of giving and, more importantly, the gift of dignity.
- DO GIVE IN HONOR OF SOMEONE: A donation to the cause someone cares about makes a great gift and can be really meaningful to someone who seems to have everything. Look for online forms that allow you to indicate whom the gift is in honor of, like Caritas below.
- DO CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING: Donating items is great, but someone needs to organize, wrap, and distribute all these gifts, too! Look for ways you can show up and help. A great way to restore your faith in humanity.
- DO GIVE TO PROGRAMS IN THE SURROUNDING COUNTIES. There are “Santa” programs across Central Texas if you don’t live within Austin city limits. Here’s where to find other Santa programs to donate to — or apply for.
OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE in alphabetical order:
Austin Child Guidance Center
Who They Help: Children and families in need of mental health intervention, diagnosis, and treatment
Ways to Give: Donate from their varied and unique wish list or donate monetarily online.
Deadline: Donated items from the wish list will be shared immediately.
More Info: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to participate
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas
Who They Help: Provide one-to-one mentoring services to approximately 1,000 at-risk youth ages 6 – 18 in Central Texas. BBBS has a list of more than 500 children who are waiting to be matched with mentors (Big Brothers and Sisters) of their own.
Ways to Give: This December, hundreds of Bigs and Littles will celebrate the season together at our annual Holiday Party enjoying food, festivities, music, games, and gifts. You can help bring smiles to their faces by donating an unwrapped gift for a child aged 12-17. They are also looking for gift cards up to $10 for retail outlets such as Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Amy’s Ice Cream, and others.
Deadline: Donations should be delivered to Big Brothers Big Sisters at 4800 Manor Rd., Building K, before December 3.
More Info: 512-472-5437 or at visit the Holiday Gift Drive page
Caritas Home for the Holidays
Who They Help: Homeless families, refugees, and veterans
Ways to Give: Choose from a list of items like prescription co-pays, art therapy supplies, a week of groceries, a welcome home basket, rental assistance, and more.
Deadline: No deadline is given, but best before Christmas Day, December 25.
Who They Help: Children in the first 48 hours of being in the Central Texas foster care system.
Ways to Give: Make a Hope Pack for kids entering the foster care system. Carrying Hope lists items by age and gender. Packs are less than $100 each.
Deadline: Packs accepted throughout the holidays.
CASA of Travis County Holiday Toy Drive
Who They Help: More than 1,000 children spending the holidays in foster care away from their families.
Ways to Give: Donate $30 Target and Wal-Mart gift cards for children to choose their own gift.
Deadline: Gift cards needed before Dec. 4
What did we miss this year? Please feel free to add a drive you know about.