Although I don’t generally engage with the Salvation Army, Angel Tree has been a staple for my family’s Christmas my whole life.
My dad (who I think might have been a literal angel) never wanted anything for Christmas. Instead he asked that each of his kids pick an Angel Tree kid and take Mom shopping to get what they wanted. After he died we continued to do it in his memory. (And now I’m tearing up like the sap I am.)
Angel Tree has a counterpart in the Christmas Mother program in my home town. There’s likely something similar wherever you are too. The concept is simple. Parents who can’t afford to give their kids the Christmas they want sign up with the program. They list their kids’ ages, clothing sizes, and a few toys that each kid wants more than anything. The Angel Tree program then puts all this information on a tag and the tags get dispersed around town to hang on trees at donation sites (usually malls and banks). You go and pick one, sign it out with the volunteers, and do your shopping.
This program actually takes place in November, at least in my area, and donations have to be returned by the second of December. But you can help Angel Tree by volunteering with the program. Kevin and I volunteered last year with distribution and, although I was nervous, it was a pretty cool experience. There are lots of positions so you if you’re not comfortable with interacting with people you can help sort gifts or manage lists.
Personally, I always chose older kids. It seems that people tend to pick younger children for most projects so I make a point of grabbing the oldest one on the tree. They might not believe in Santa, but they’re going to be much more acutely aware of an absence.