Spread Some Holiday Cheer: Put These San Antonio Charities on Your Gift List

The crazy year/decade/century of 2020 has given us all pause. Even socially distanced, this year has proven how interconnected we really are—and the impact that we can have on others seems clearer now than ever before. And the community we live in needs help.

COVID and its impact have touched so many families that no matter where you look, there’s an opportunity to help. As the holiday season swirls around us, one of the ways we plan to connect as a family is to give back and help others. After the craziness of this year, we want to put some good out in the world and hope that ripple inspires others to do the same.

Think you can’t make an impact? Any amount of help is never too small. Keep in mind that the amazing team at the San Antonio Food Bank turns $1 in meals for seven and $25 feeds a senior for a week at Meals on Wheels San Antonio. And while some kids may be dreaming of the new PS5 for Christmas, others are just hoping for a warm coat. If you’re not sure where to begin to spread holiday cheer to those in need, here are just a few of the wonderful organizations making an impact locally:

Elf Louise Christmas Project

An image of Elf Louise presents ready to go from last year. Help make Christmas wishes come true by supporting their toy drive this year. Photo credit Elf Louise Christmas Project.

Working to provide Christmas to San Antonio families since 1969 when then-Trinity student Louise Locker worked to deliver Christmas presents to 13 children in need. This year, Elf Louise needs more than 60,000 gifts. Volunteer run and supported by both cash and toy donations from across San Antonio, 98 cents of each dollar donated goes directly to the purchase and delivery of toys. If you’d like to buy a toy, the website includes links to wish lists on Amazon and eBay, as well as cash donation buttons. And yes, adult volunteers are needed and volunteer times are available on the website.

The Salvation Army Angel Trees

Angel Trees are still out and about at North Star Mall, Rolling Oaks Mall, and Ingram Park Mall. The Angel Trees are also at many Walmarts this year (list online), so if you’re out shopping and want to fill a wish before December 13, grab an angel and help make someone’s Christmas brighter this season. With the limitations to in-person shopping, this year’s Angel Tree campaign includes digital shopping options. All of the information and links to shopping/where to ship are listed online and it’s not just for children: the online lists include senior “Silver Angels”. And of course, cash donations are always welcome and stay in the San Antonio area.

Blue Santa

Police Departments throughout our area coordinate gift efforts for children in need through the Blue Santa program. San Antonio Police Department is of course the largest Blue Santa effort in our area, but the police departments in Schertz, Universal City, and New Braunfels also coordinate programs and need monetary and toy donations.

Christian Assistance Ministry

Founded in 1977 by nine downtown churches and supported by more than 80 today, Christian Assistance Ministry is a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, financial assistance and other critical services to more than 50,000 people in need each year. There are needs year-round, but during the holidays, CAM is seeking toy and gift donations for children and teens by December 9 when it opens its CAM Emergency Christmas store. Volunteers are also needed. Donations can be made in person at CAM’s downtown location, 110 McCullough Ave. Want to do more than toys? CAM has an Amazon Registry, and goods are needed—including food, new items and clean, gently used items in good condition—year-round. They’ll even come out to your car to pick them up.

San Antonio Food Bank

Help keep our neighbors fed by helping the San Antonio Food Bank. Photo credit San Antonio Food Bank.

It’s hard to have a good holiday season when you’re food insecure, which is the term you’ll hear describing those who are struggling to put meals on the table. The headlines have been filled with stories of the increased need and challenges that families are facing due to the economic impact of COVID. Some parents are skipping meals to make sure their kids can eat. And while that’s hard to hear, what’s sadder is that San Antonio already had a huge issue with food insecurity BEFORE we were dealing with the pandemic. Those already vulnerable families and so many more are struggling. The San Antonio Food Bank serves 16 counties and the need is HUGE. The food bank is feeding more than 120,000 people each week. But you can help. You can hold a food drive (do porch pickup with your friends and make it a group effort!), you can donate money, and yes, you can mask up and donate your time—volunteers are needed.

Meals on Wheels

Promoting the dignity and independence of seniors who are in need of nutritious meals, companionship, and Alzheimer’s care, Meals on Wheels San Antonio helps eliminate hunger and alleviate isolation for seniors across San Antonio, serving 4,000 meals a day. COVID has increased the need for their services and Meals on Wheels adapted their deliveries to ensure safety for their clients and volunteers. So what can you do? You can change a life with a $5 donation that their elderly clients, who are considered high risk for getting the coronavirus, receive a nutritious meal, a friendly visit, and a safety check. Donate or volunteer to deliver meals.

Randolph Area Christian Assistance Program

While the San Antonio Food Bank and Meals on Wheels do all they can for people in need in our area, there are other localized efforts that work to fill the gaps as well. Randolph Area Christian Assistance Program (RACAP) serves the Randolph MetroCom area in the Northeast part of town. An independent, non-profit emergency food pantry, based in Schertz, RACAP offers emergency groceries, rent or utility assistance, and prescription assistance within their service area. Their efforts are solely supported by donations. You can donate food and goods (hygiene items, toilet paper) or funds to help them serve those in need.

Texas Diaper Bank

It may not be what you think of during the holidays, but did you know that one in three families don’t have access to an adequate supply of diapers? The Texas Diaper Bank has been working since 2013 to change the lives of babies, children with disabilities, and seniors in the Greater San Antonio Area and 12 surrounding counties. You can help by donating diapers at their warehouse or donating funds. Volunteers are also needed to help package diapers for distribution.

Don’t forget: while you’re online shopping this season, make sure you’ve designated a charity through Amazon Smile. You shop, Amazon gives. And if you have gift cards that you aren’t using, consider using them to help fill a charity’s wish list. Every little bit helps.

Another way you can give back this season, and year-round: donate blood! Blood donations are desperately needed in our area and regular blood drives have been hampered by COVID. There are donation centers across the city and everything is COVID-safe. Give life by giving blood this holiday season.

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food