Editor’s Note: Due to several comments that included personal, identifying information, I’ve closed comments on this post. If you need help, please contact the resources below. I can’t personally help you get the support you need.

This morning I received an email from a single mother of three who is out-of-work and struggling to pay her bills. She wanted to know how she could sign up to receive help from an adopt-a-family program this Christmas.That email broke my heart. I did some research and sent her a few resources in her location. Unfortunately, I fear that there will be many more families receiving from an adopt-a-family program this year, and many fewer families supporting these worthy charities. If you can afford to help out less fortunate families this year, please do. Please see my previous post about Christmas charities to find out how my extended family supports needy families.

If you or someone you know needs help this Christmas, here’s how to get it.

Where to Find an Adopt-A-Family Program
Most adopt-a-family programs start requesting donations in early November, which means needy families must be found before then. If you’ll need help this holiday season, contact your local resources now to be added to the rolls. Start with these resources:

Local Church
If you’re a member of a local church, ask the pastor if they have community support program. Many churches have programs that provide financial support to member families in need. At Christmas, they also include those families in their food drives and gift drives. The recipients are usually anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about embarrassment. However, if you’re active in your church, fellow congregants may be even more generous if they know they’re helping “one of their own.”

Salvation Army
The Salvation Army operates Christmas programs around the country. If your local church doesn’t offer a program, contact the Salvation Army to find out how your local program works. Visit their site to find your local branch, then call and ask to speak to the person managing their Christmas charity drive.

Child and Family Services Department
Each county or state operates a Child and Family Services department. Often these departments provide lists of families in need to local charities. If your family is struggling, contact your county office to find out what sort of help is available to you. If they can’t help you directly, they can help you locate the office or program that can. To find your local county’s office, either look at the front of the white pages under “government,” or search for your county and “family services” in Google. Example: “los angeles family services.” If you’re struggling, they can also help you enroll in food and medical benefits programs.

Google an Adopt-a-Family Program
Finally, you can simple enter the name of your city or county next to the words “adopt a family” to find programs in your area. For example, “los angeles adopt a family.” Call several to find out if you qualify for their program.

With so many families seeking help this year, it may be more difficult to qualify, so keep trying until you get the help you need. And for those of you who are doing okay this year, please give to an adopt-a-family program if you can.

Editor’s note: Many people are suffering this year, but I do not supply charity groups with lists of people who need help. I also don’t adopt families directly through this blog. If you need help, please contact a local church or your county social services department. I have disabled comments because too many people were posting personal information about their need for help. This is not a safe forum for posting personal details.

After my aunt passed away nearly a decade ago, another aunt started a tradition of adopting a needy family in her honor every Christmas. The deceased aunt was very big on charitable giving, so an annual Christmas charity donation was a perfect fit.

It’s very easy to find families to help, but it can be expensive for one small family to adopt another family. If you pool your resources among your extended family or a group of friends, you can give much more without hurting your budget. For example, each adult in my extended family donates $10. Either my aunt or my cousin contacts her local church’s or county’s charity drive to tell them how much we have to give. The services matches us with a needy family and sends a wish list. She collects the money, buys the gifts the family wants, and delivers them to the charity. There are currently 15 adults in my family, so that’s $150.

For several years, we adopted the same family with a child suffering from a severe disability. Later we found out we actually had a personal connection to that family, which made the annual gifts all the more meaningful.

This year, my immediate family is adding another adopted family to the mix. We normally spend Christmas Day with family friends. Rather than exchange gifts none of us need, my mom suggested we adopt a family as a group. We have 11-13 people donating $10 each. My mom and their mom will go shopping together to buy the requested items and deliver them to a charity group they work with.

So, for a total of $20, I’m helping give two families a much merrier Christmas. I certainly don’t need whatever I would have received for that token amount, and I feel better knowing it went to someone who really does need it.

If you and your friends or relatives want to adopt a family, simply contact your local church, family support groups, city, or county to ask about their “Adopt-a-Family” program. You can also just Google your city and “adopt a family” or your city and “Christmas charity.”

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