Charitable requests have risen in the past few years and organizations are struggling to reach everyone. The demand for help is so high, some of these organizations close applications for holiday help, including Thanksgiving meals, as early as August. Please contact them early.
If you miss the deadlines, a shelter, food bank or local church is your best bet to get a little holiday assistance. Many churches will reach out around the holiday season. Each one has a different method of requesting assistance. Request for food and shelter are always greater in the winter, because of the cold.
If you want to help, I have lists of food banks, shelters and toy donation services that could use the time, goods and money. These lists are also good places to find help. Some of them help individuals directly, others only help organizations. Some of these places do provide emergency assistance to those in need.
You can contact each organization for more information and application deadlines.
The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program takes applications for two weeks in October. Those who qualify for applications are low-income families with children younger than twelve years old or families who need help providing food during the holidays. Qualified families can apply to get help with their Christmas gifts for children and food boxes. The Salvation Army has a very strict deadline, and they only help a limited number of families.
If you missed that deadline, you can still get a meal in the shelter.
The United Way provides free holiday food and toy assistance to qualified candidates.They usually do a special Christmas luncheon where they feed kids, let them meet Santa and provide each with a wrapped gift and toy. It's a pretty fun event for kids, and they serve about 450 kids each year.
Toys for Tots is a U.S. Marine Corps charity that collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December annually for Christmas. Most of us who have live in Little Rock for a while know the big motorcycle parade near War Memorial Stadium's Toy Hill. Toy Hill has moved to the Clear Channel Metroplex, 10800 Colonel Glenn Road, but they still do a big event every year.
Toys for Tots does not accept individual family requests. They supply toys to organizations who handle those request. A list of organizations and contact information can be found on their website. These organizations all have different deadlines for requests, so call early. They also all have different requirements for receiving aid, so if you don't qualify for one, try another.
You can find some pretty awesome stuff on Freecycle, and it's all free. During the holidays, you have to act fast, but sometimes they have things like bikes, coats and some other neat stuff. Clothing is really popular, and sometimes electronics items. They might not be the most up-to-date items, but it's worth checking out. Craigslist is another place to find free or inexpensive items.
You can get some great deals on toys and clothes in thrift stores. I recommend the big Goodwill on 109 Markham Park Drive. It's a very large store and the prices on some things are very reasonable. There are plenty of others to choose from. Toys in Goodwill go pretty fast at Christmas, but if you inquire at the individual stores, they may be able to tell you when is the best time to check for new offerings.
Some of these food banks only supply food to local shelters, but others take applications from individuals. If you are need of food, many of them can direct you to the proper resources. If you need access to a local shelter, check the shelter list.
Around the holidays, churches collect food and items to donate. Though it's, of course, better to go to your own church for assistance, if you don't attend a church and are in need many will reach out to non-parishioners, especially for food requests.