6 Ways to Sponsor a Family This Christmas in Central Mass (and Nationwide)

Feeling the tingle of the giving spirit this holiday season? Make a meaningful impact by sponsoring a child or family in need! It’s a perfect way to create lasting memories and bring joy to those who may be facing challenges during the festivities. Whether you want to support a local effort or national effort, there are lots of ways to spread holiday cheer this season and make it special for everyone.

A Christmas gift donation for a family in Central Mass on a white carpet.

Local Holiday Programs to Sponsor Children

If you’re looking for ways to connect with families right here in Central Mass, here are some great options.

1. Operation ELF

Operation ELF is dedicated to bringing the joy of Christmas to children and teens of our sponsored agencies, which often include kids in temporary housing or in at-risk situations. The children are located across Massachusetts and greater New England and are typically connected through local referring community agencies that review each child’s situation.

To participate, create an ELF profile and fill out the sponsorship request form with your preferred dropoff location. Operation ELF will match you with a child’s wishes, starting in mid-November, and you can shop to meet their needs.

2. United Way of Tri-County Hope for the Holidays

You can sponsor a child through the Hope for the Holidays program that helps families in communities throughout Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester County (including Bolton). The program uses a Sign Up Genius form that has kids listed by age, where you can see their top three wishes for the holidays. It’s recommended that sponsors purchase a minimum of these three gifts, but you can purchase more if you’d like.

After you sign up to sponsor a child and purchase their gifts, you can drop them off during designated times in Clinton, Marlborough, or Framingham.

If you don’t want to sponsor a family, you can also run a toy drive or donate money to United Way.

3. Project Just Because

You can support their holiday program, which is open to children who reside in Massachusetts from 1 month all the way up to 18 years. You can find “Holiday Hearts” (tags with the child’s wishes) at locations throughout Hopkinton and surrounding areas (Hopkinton Town Hall, Hopkinton Library, Hopkinton Middle School, Cornell’s Irish Pub, UniBank, and Meninger Family Chiropractic). You can also email [email protected] from Project Just Because and they will help get you matched up with a child you’d like to sponsor.

A young child sitting on the floor next to Christmas gifts and a Christmas tree.

National Holiday Programs to Sponsor Children

If you don’t have a preference for the location of the kiddos you want to help, here are a few national programs that may be a good fit.

4. USPS Operation Santa

All across the country, kids and families send in letters to “Santa” via a special address provided by the post office. In late November, Operation Santa starts posting “drops” of these letters each day at specific times, where helpful folks can sign up to read the letters and claim any that they’d like to adopt. It is very emotional reading some of these letters and gives you a real chance to connect with who you’re buying for.

A few helpful tips for this program, which I’ve participated in many times:

  • The first few days of the program, the website is almost always glitchy and overrun with traffic. After a week or so, it calms down and you will have less issues.
  • Sign in ahead of time so that you’re ready to browse when the drops go live.
  • The letters tend to get claimed quickly in the first few weeks, especially if they’re for less expensive gifts. After a few weeks, you’ll find you have more time to browse for the right letter that speaks to you (but less time to shop and ship).
  • The gifts have to be shipped via USPS using a special barcode. If you are on a budget, keep an eye on where the letter is from (you can filter by state), as well as the size of the box you’ll need to send your gifts. Last year, I had a decent size box (though not huge) of 12 pounds going across the country, and it cost $94 (!!) to ship it. I could have bought a one-way plane ticket for less to deliver the gifts, lol.

5. Miracle on 22nd Street

I love the origin story of this organization. Jim and Dylan were living in Chelsea (NYC) in 2010 when they mysteriously received a bunch of letters written to Santa. The guys recruited other folks to take a letter and fulfill kids wishes. Since then, they formed an official nonprofit organization where they recruit volunteer elves from around the country to purchase gifts for kids and families that wrote letters.

If you want to be an elf, you can sign up on their website and browse the families and letters. Choose one (or more) and make their Christmas wishes come true!

6. Operation Santa’s Sleigh

This program is a simple Facebook group where people post Amazon and Walmart wish lists because they need help with Christmas. There’s no official organization associated with this; it’s an honor system kind of thing. (I know some folks may or may not feel comfortable with that).

Last year, people were able to post their story, and I sponsored several people that I connected with. This year, it looks like they’re trying to streamline the process by keeping all the wish lists in a thread with links only (not my favorite, but I understand the effort on the part of the admin to keep things organized and less overwhelming).

This can be an easy way to help out with someone’s Christmas, especially if you already have Amazon Prime or Walmart Plus that covers shipping directly to them. Last year I had a few Amazon gift cards so it was a great way to use them to send gifts directly to families.

Additional Local Ways to Help at the Holidays

If you’re not set on sponsoring a specific child or family for the holidays, here are some other local options for contributing Christmas cheer:

Bolton Community Fund

BCF sponsors families in need at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Nashoba Regional School District provides the number of families in need in the three communities they serve (Bolton, Lancaster, and Stow), and BCF contributes food bags at Thanksgiving and gift cards for the holidays in December. You can make a donation to BCF to support these efforts.

Family Martial Arts

My karate studio – Family Martial Arts in Hudson – is sponsoring a toy drive! If you have any new toys you’d like to donate, you can drop them off at the studio starting November 21st, or (if you know me personally) give them to me and I’m happy to bring them in.

Bolton Police x Toys for Tots

The Bolton Police Department is partnering again with the United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. They have a collection box inside the main entrance of the Bolton Public Safety building, as well as at the Bolton Town Hall, Post Office, and Bolton Orchards store. Drop off donations by Sunday, December 3rd.

RFK Community Alliance

Participate in RFK’s Winter Wish Holiday Gift Drive! You can purchase a gift card valued at $25 to support the gift drive (which helps older kids and teens) or get in touch with them to help provide a program project (for example, outfitting a sensory room or contributing to an indoor recreation room). RFK is located in Lancaster and provides high-quality support to people and families facing complicated challenges.

The Bottom Line

Let’s embrace the true spirit of the season by spreading joy, warmth, and love. In sponsoring a child, you not only provide material support for their wishes, but also create lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come.

From me to you, I hope you have a joyful and meaningful holiday season filled with love, laughter, and the warmth of shared goodwill!

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