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Imagine waking up on Christmas morning with no gifts waiting under the Christmas tree. It’s hard for adults, it’s heart-breaking for children. How do you answer when your kid asks, “Why didn’t Santa come this year? Was I bad?”

That’s the reality for several parents across the world. Low-income families can’t afford to buy gifts or prepare a special Christmas meal. Even if they don’t have kids, the holidays can be depressing for the underprivileged.

But there are always good-hearted folks willing to lend a hand. It’s all about knowing where to look for help, and knowing where to offer help.

1. United Ways (Web): 1,800 Locations Around the World

United Ways is an international philanthropic organization that focuses on reaching out to communities through local chapters. It’s in 40 countries and territories, with over 2.6 million volunteers. It covers most ground across the U.S., but chances are, you’ll find a chapter in your country too.

Christmas Charities -- United Ways

Once you find a local center, LiveStrong recommends asking them about a Christmas bureau, or a low-income gift assistance program. Sign up for it, get the date and location, and give them basic details like ID proof, your income, ages of your family members, and so on.

United Ways has been operational since 1888, and is as respectable an organization as The Salvation Army or Red Cross.

2. Helping Americans Find Help (Web): A Comprehensive List of Regional Charities in USA

It’s easy to find your local Salvation Army center, since that’s a large charity organization. But there are plenty of smaller groups too. It’s difficult to find information about other local charities in your area.

Christmas Charities -- Helping Americans Find Help

Helping Americans Find Help (HAFH) has compiled a comprehensive list of local programs offering Christmas assistance in 2016. It’s not just about gifts either. It’s all sorts of help during Christmas time. For example, Single Parent Provision helps single mothers in central Iowa by making a special Christmas dinner.

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3. Cars 4 Christmas (Web): Apply to Get a Free Car This Christmas

Almost 40% of Americans live in areas without adequate public mass transportation. But they can’t afford a car, which can be essential to getting and keeping a job. If you’re disabled, from a low-income group, or a veteran without a vehicle, Cars 4 Christmas can change your life.

Christmas Charities -- Cars 4 Christmas

The organization requests donations from individuals, which are pooled together to purchase cars for the underprivileged. Head to the Apply for a Vehicle page to fill out details for yourself, or for someone you know in need. The form is geared towards “gifting” the vehicle to someone you know. If your story is selected, the organization will get in touch for follow-up interviews. Veterans will need to go to the sister site, Cars4Heroes.org.

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4. Random Acts of Christmas (Web): Reddit’s Seasonal Request-and-Help Exchange Program

Reddit is the world’s largest community forum. So, it’s no surprise that there is an excellent sub-Reddit dedicated purely to people who want to receive or offer help during the holiday season.

Christmas Charities -- Random Acts of Christmas

At Random Acts of Christmas, there are people from across the world pitching in with Christmas kindness. Read the 2016 season’s rules, and then fill out the form to sign up as a requestor. There’s a way to post a request, and you should know basic “reddiquette” Your First Day On Reddit... Fixed Your First Day On Reddit... Fixed Reddit is emerging as a true force on the Internet, which explains its inclusion in our list of wonders of the Web. It's a source for news and interesting factoids, the instigator of many memes,... Read More as well.

RAoC is just one of the ways Reddit helps those in need 3 Ways Reddit Can Help Those In Need 3 Ways Reddit Can Help Those In Need Reddit is a miraculous little site that yields the potential to either make or break the Internet but when its users are not spreading memes like a disease, they are caring for people that are... Read More . You should also check out the /r/Charity sub-Reddit, which often has Christmas-centric posts around this time of the year.

5. Toys for Tots (Web): Request a Toy for a Child

Toys for Tots was featured in our list of the top Christmas charities for low-income families Top 7 Charities That Offer Online Christmas Help for Low Income Families Top 7 Charities That Offer Online Christmas Help for Low Income Families Read More before. But it merits being mentioned again because of how simple and easy it is. Toys for Tots is US-only.

First, you’ll need to find your local Toys for Tots center by using the state and city locator. That will redirect you to your city’s page for this year’s event. You’ll find a form on this page, where you have to give your details. Then, say how many children you have, along with their gender, ages, and names. In case they have special requests this year, like a Superman action figure, write that down too.

Christmas Charities -- Toys for Tots

Once you’re done, Toys for Tots will get in touch to verify the information, and coordinate a date and pickup time for the toy. The organization tries to provide two toys per child, and is associated with big brands like Toys-r-Us, Disney, Macy’s, and more.

Don’t Forget…

Please also visit your local church and inquire about any outreach programs they have for the holidays. Most churches have some activity as well as toy donation boxes for children.

Do you know any other charity organization where low-income families can apply for help? Are you volunteering in any such endeavor this Christmas?

Image Credits: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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