It can often appear as if Christmas charity drives work in one direction only. Contributors rarely have the opportunity to interact with recipients of their gifts and financial support. That sort of contact information is usually held in confidence by the charitable organization itself. There are a number of ways social service and charity organization coordinate their efforts in order to distribute gifts to those with genuine needs. You can mention your need to your caseworker, if you're already receiving government assistance, or speak directly to charitable organizations to let them know about your circumstances.
Many social service organizations use existing family financial records to generate a list of those with true financial needs. If you're already in their system for various social welfare programs, you may want to discuss your financial needs with your assigned caseworker in private. The caseworker can make sure your name is on an approved list of charity recipients. Gifts received by the social services organization can be distributed equitably among those eligible for the assistance at Christmas.
A number of non-profit charitable organizations may ask potential recipients to fill out a few forms in order to determine eligibility for their particular programs. There may be income level restrictions, for example, or a residency requirement. If you do meet the charity's criteria for receiving holiday donations, then you should be told when and where to appear in order to receive your portion of the assistance. Private organizations do have the right to prioritize the distribution of donations according to their own criteria, however. Families with greater financial needs may be accommodated first, for instance.
Other charities simply ask that you show up in order to qualify. Soup kitchens, food pantries and other organized meal providers rarely require recipients to demonstrate financial need, for example. A family in need of a hot meal during the holidays can usually visit any of these organizations and receive service. Food pantries operated by a collective of churches may require proof of financial need for long-term participation, but Christmas meals are often excluded from such requirements.
One thing you can do to receive Christmas charity is to contact a number of local churches and non-profit social service organizations early in the year to let them know of your family's financial needs. The holiday season itself may be too chaotic for organizations to record that information properly. The Salvation Army, for instance, may ask needy families to register early for their Angel Tree gift program, in order for the charity's workers to have all of the information ready to go in December.
Above all else, remember there is no reason to feel ashamed when it comes to receiving Christmas charity. All of those donors look forward to the thought of a needy family or individual receiving a present under the tree, or enough financial support to pay for utilities or housing. Perhaps you will find yourself able to make a charity contribution in return in the future. Meanwhile, if you are eligible to receive some financial or material relief during the holidays, you have every right to pursue your options.