The holiday season is typically associated with joy, love, and generosity. However, for many children in foster care or residing in homeless shelters, this time serves as a stark reminder of the difficulties they face. It is in these moments that acts of kindness and generosity shine the brightest.
Here is a list of local organizations that are looking for Holiday sponsors this year.
Adopt an Austin Family
One impactful way to make a difference is by adopting a child or a family for Christmas.
Partnerships for Children
By participating in the Holiday Wishes initiative by Partnerships for Children, you have the opportunity to bring joy to a child currently under the care of Child Protective Services during the Holidays. From newborns, to toddlers, to school age and teens, sponsored gifts will provide comfort to children in CPS care during the month of December. As a sponsor, you'll receive details about the child's name, age, clothing size, and their wishes. Partnerships for Children asks that each child receives 3 gifts totaling $75-100 dollars. Sign up here to sponsor a youth.
You may also donate to Holiday Wishes. Your valuable monetary donation will go toward the purchase of holiday gifts. A donation of $100 will fill all three wishes for one child.
Another option is to shop the organization's Wishlist and help fill the Rainbow Rooms across Central Texas with toys and gifts for children in the care of CPS this holiday season!
Winter Holiday Giving by the SAFE Alliance
Whether families are celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Las Posadas, SAFE Alliance wants to give them a holiday season to remember. Your generosity and support add joy and a sense of stability to provide healing during difficult times for the families we serve.
If you would like to participate in the SAFE Alliance Winter Holiday Giving and sponsor an individual or family, please sign up here. As residents of the shelter move in and out with some frequency, they cannot provide exact Wishlists now. As we near the holidays, they will be able to account for who will be here and share which gifts are most meaningful to them so you can give each survivor you sponsor a Christmas to remember. You will be provided with a list that matches the number of individuals or family members you choose to sponsor once they have confirmed which survivors will be joining them in celebration this holiday.
The organization is also accepting Christmas trees, ornaments, and decor to help spruce up the homes of survivors for the holiday. Donate Christmas trees, decor, and gift wrapping.
You can also help provide last-minute gifts for those who move into the shelter at the end of the holiday season, as well as other basic need items for clients. Shop for items from their Amazon and Target lists which ship directly to their SAFE Warehouse, mail gift cards, or deliver donations to the warehouse.
Making a monetary donation directly to SAFE will enable them to direct resources where and when they are needed most–whether it’s holiday gifts, funding for counseling, housing support, or so much more.
Volunteers are also always needed. Shifts are available throughout the first half of December and include helping with donor drop-off, gift organizing, and staff pick-up. Sign up to volunteer here.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program
Since 1979, The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program has helped to fulfill the Christmas wishes and needs of children up to 12 years old throughout Central Texas. Low income families apply to the program starting in September. Parents or guardians provide The Salvation Army with a Christmas wish list for each child that includes new toys or games, along with clothing and shoe sizes. Donors then can “adopt” each of these Angels and fill an Angel Tree bag with gifts chosen for each child. Gifts are then distributed to parents a week before Christmas. During Christmas 2022, The Salvation Army Austin served 11,397 children through this Christmas assistance program.
The Salvation Army leverages hundreds of corporations, organizations, and individuals to adopt angels every November. To fulfill adoptions, partners are given a child’s first name, interests, and clothing sizes. Partners purchase new toys and clothing for their angels and drop off gifts in early December. To adopt less than 10 angels, click here. To adopt 10 or more angels, click here.
Volunteer: From September to January, staff and volunteers work thousands of hours at our warehouse in South Austin. Volunteers sort, organize, and inventory Christmas gifts. Group and individual shifts are available. Volunteer opportunities include workday, evening, and weekend shifts. Sign up to volunteer with 5 or less volunteers here. Sign up to volunteer with more than5 volunteers here.
Don't have time to shop at a store but still want to participate? You can make a monetary donation that will ensure no child is forgotten this Christmas! You can also shop our Amazon and Walmart wish lists.
Austin Youth Fitness Holiday Helpers
Austin Youth Fitness hopes to spread some cheer this holiday season by helping a family in need providing gifts for their family. This year, families included have students at Mathews Elementary that live in a shelter or recently moved into transitional housing as well as families who participate in Austin Sunshine Camps. Help make their holidays brighter during these trying times. Sign up to sponsor a family here.
Adopt a Family Program by Austin Child Guidance Center
The Adopt a Family program is an opportunity for individuals, families, and businesses to give back to their community during the most wonderful time of the year. By becoming a sponsor, you can provide much-needed support and holiday cheer to families in need.
Complete the Sponsorship Form and make a secure online monetary gift by December 8, 2023. Your generous donation will go towards gift cards that will empower the family to purchase what they need to brighten their holiday season. The Austin Child Guidance Center team will take care of purchasing and delivering the gift cards to the families you're sponsoring.
Toys for Teens by Foster Angels
Toys for Teens is an annual gift drive focused on teens in the foster care system who would normally not receive any gifts during the holidays. Foster Angels sponsors over 150 teens so that they can feel special during what otherwise is a difficult time.
You can support Foster Angels teens this holiday season any of three ways:
1. Sponsor a teen’s wish list.
2. Sign up for a volunteer shift.
3. Donate stocking stuffers or run a drive for smaller or generic gifts.
Make your gift extra special
Add a personal touch to your gift by including a My Friends and I friendship book, signed by you and your family. This will show the sponsored child that they have caring friends who love to support them.
About the book: 'My Friends and I' is a fun, interactive memory book for children ages 5-12, that travels from friend to friend, who will answer questions like: What is your favorite food? What do you like to do in your free time? What songs do you like to listen to? What books do you like to read? What do you want to be when you grow up?
A picture box allows them to insert a photograph or to draw a picture of their own.
The book is a great way for your child to learn more about their family, friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, and any other special person in their life, and a wonderful keepsake of their childhood memories.
The book is available at Life Is Better With Friends or on Amazon.
Toy and Clothes Drives
Another avenue to assist Austin families is by contributing to drives for toys, clothing, and food. The following organizations are actively seeking donations.
Coats for Kids by The Junior League of Austin
Every year, The Junior League of Austin collaborates with Jack Brown Cleaners, 98.1 KVET, and KVUE to unite the community in an effort to keep the children of Central Texas warm during the winter. This initiative involves the collection and distribution of warm coats for eligible children and teenagers in the region. Currently, they are gathering new and gently used coats for this purpose. The Junior League of Austin's 37th annual Coats for Kids Distribution will take place Nov. 30 – Dec. 9, 2023.
To participate in the 2023 Coat Drive Competition, please sign up here.
Each year, more than 450 JLA volunteers and 2,000 community volunteers participate in the acquisition, sorting, and distribution of coats. It is due to the valued support of local groups, businesses, schools, and individuals that Coats for Kids continues to thrive and serve the children and families of Central Texas each winter. To volunteer, please sign up here.
A donation of any amount is helpful and greatly appreciated. Just $20 buy a new coat for a child who would otherwise go without one.
For easy shopping, visit their Coats Registry. All coats will be directly delivered to Coats For Kids Coat Drive Junior League Of Austin.
If you would like to donate a new or gently used coat, please drop it off at any Jack Brown Cleaners location beginning Nov. 13, 2023.
Toys for Tots Austin
Toys for Tots Austin collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the communities of Burnet, LLano, Blanco, Hays, Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell Counties. Their goal is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
Donate toys at these local toy drop-off sites.
Fund toys through monetary donations. 97% of every donation goes directly to providing toys to children.
Operation Blue Santa
The Operation Blue Santa program, sponsored by police departments in and around Austin, is dedicated to supplying toys and food to families in need during the holiday season.
Depending on the specific police department, there are various ways to contribute, such as making toy or monetary donations, participating in toy and food drives, joining Adopt-a-Family programs, and exploring volunteering opportunities.
Click on your local police department below for details.
Austin Police Operation Blue Santa
Round Rock Operation Blue Santa
Georgetown Blue Santa Program
Pflugerville Blue Santa
Cedar Park Blue Santa
Leander Police Department Blue Santa Program
Lago Vista Blue Santa
Blue Santa Buda
Travis County Sheriff's Brown Santa program
The Travis County Sheriff's Brown Santa program, which takes its name from the iconic brown uniforms of the sheriff's office, was established as a community-based operation to help families in the Travis County area with gifts and food for children and families, as well as senior residents of local retirement centers, during the holiday season.
Travis County Brown Santa is always in need of canned goods and non-perishable items for food boxes, as well as toys. New and unwrapped toys and puzzles are requested for kids ages 0-14. Toys are especially needed for the 8-14 age range. Brown Santa also accepts monetary donations. Wish lists and more information here.
If you’d like to volunteer your time, click here for volunteer opportunities.
Green Santa by Lake Travis Labor of Love
Founded in October 2007, the Lake Travis Labor of Love works to identify local needs, inspire community involvement, and distribute contributions through projects that assist and empower families in the Lake Travis area.
This holiday season, LTlov’s Green Santa is in need of gifts, gift cards to Target for teens and gift cards to HEB for family holiday dinners. New and unwrapped toys for LITSD families can be dropped off at several Green Santa Toy Collection Boxes throughout Lakeway.
You can also donate a gift through their Amazon Wish List or you donate through our VENMO and they will do the shopping where it is most needed.
Christmas Beyond the Toys by Foster Village
Help Foster Village meet basic needs this holiday season through their annual Christmas Beyond the Toys campaign. Each year, Foster Village focuses their efforts on helping to alleviate stressors for families who have stepped up to care for additional children while also navigating unforeseen financial challenges. Whether it's a foster family in need of a new fridge or car repair, or a recently widowed mom who is managing grief and the holidays for the first time, all contributions to this initiative will help sustain families far beyond this holiday season.
Support Foster Village through monetary donations, shopping their Amazon Wish List, coordinating a donation drive of our most-needed items, or packing a box with Holiday Meal Kit items.