The holiday season can be "the most wonderful time of the year," but not if you are facing financial difficulties. While counseling and strategizing can help with the long-term picture, sometimes you just need a little help right now.
The National Military Family Association has put together a great list of places that struggling families can turn to get assistance with food, gifts, and other holiday needs.
USO – Contact your local USO and inquire about their holiday programs. Some offer free meals, entertainment, and toys to military families. Holiday festivities may include breakfast with Santa, Christmas dinner, holiday food baskets, toy drives, food pantries, and more.
Toys for Tots – Since 1947 the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program has distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million children. This program is open to all children in the community, including military kids. Families can select their state from the"Request A Toy” tab to learn about how to sign up for the program.
Veterans’ Service Organizations – Many Veterans’ Service Organizations (VFW, American Legion, etc.) provide a wide variety of holiday support to service members, veterans, and their families. Programs vary, but may include holiday meals, food pantries, gift card distribution, and fellowship.
Installation Support – Holiday support at local installations also varies, but may include food baskets, holiday meals, toy donation, fellowship, or entertainment. Contact the family center at your nearest installation and ask about the support provided this year.
Local Nonprofits – The scope of support varies greatly. The nonprofit may have a regional presence, a national name, or only provide support to military families within a certain county. Operation Homefront is an example of a national nonprofit that provides regional support. In some locations they have a holiday meal program, holiday parties, and toy drives for military families. Contact your family support center for a list of nonprofits providing support to military families in your area.
I'd like to add to the NMFA's already great list by suggesting that you contact your place of worship or county agencies to see if they have any programs. Don't be shy! Most importantly, reach out and help your neighbors. It is the right thing to do at any time, but especially if you think that things might be a little challenging for them. Many people don't have any idea where to turn for help. Let's join together to make sure that all military families have a wonderful holiday season.