Holiday Military Family Give Back Guide: 2021 Edition

With the holidays around the corner, it is imperative to help those in need. According to recent data from the Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey Comprehensive Report, some level of food insecurity was found in all enlisted ranks and is intensified in families with a spouse who needs or wants to work but is not employed. 9% of active duty military families said they only had enough money to buy a week of groceries which is higher than the national average. There are many ways to not only prepare for your own family but ways to give back to other military families. 

One of these ways is Soldiers’ Angels Holiday Adopt a Family program. Last holiday season, nearly 1,500 families were supported through the Adopt-A-Family campaign. However, additional sponsors were lined up to adopt even more families. This year, Soldiers’ Angels is doubling down on its outreach efforts in order to connect all those who want to show their gratitude to military and veteran families. Veteran and military families in need of additional support this holiday season can visit the website between now and Dec. 6, 2021 to learn more and apply. Once accepted, families are adopted by Soldiers’ Angels sponsors. At minimum, sponsors who adopt a family provide gifts for the children and a grocery gift card to offset the purchase of a holiday dinner and its trimmings.

The Armed Services YMCA hosts Operation Holiday Joy every year. Since its inception in 2004 with Woman’s Day Magazine, Operation Holiday Joy has distributed more than 25,000 baskets of food to military families and more than 320,000 toys to military children. Those who wish to donate or volunteer can look for their local ASYMCA branch or can use this link to donate directly through the organization. 

Operation Homefront has several programs for the holidays. One is Holiday Meals for Military, where families in need are given grocery items to have that hot holiday meal. Another program is the Holiday Toy Drive, where the organization partners with Dollar Tree to collect toy donations. To learn more about Operation Homefront and to be a volunteer, visit their website. 

Toys for Tots partners with the US Marines to gift toys to those in need. You can find a local toy drop-off location or you can donate via online. 97% of monetary donation goes to the mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children. The last 3% spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses – not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs. If you do not want to donate funds or toys, you can also donate books to less fortunate families. 

Wreaths Across America Day is December 18. Each year, the mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor and teach, and it is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,500 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. Those who are interested are encouraged to volunteer with a group located near them to help lay wreaths, or can donate to support a wreath-laying group and can even sponsor some wreaths. 

On top of a program for wreaths, there is also a program for Christmas trees. The Trees for Troops program offers free Christmas trees at over 62 installations. Sponsored by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, farms across the country grow the trees and ship them to the installations. On top of tree donations, monetary donations are welcome. Learn more about Trees for Troops at their website. 

Layaway is a popular option for families who need to put items away to pay. The Pay Away the Layaway program works with retailers across the country, including Army and Air Force Exchange and Navy Exchange, to surprise families and pay off any remaining balances. The program is always in need of volunteers for in-person events and is taking donations. If you are a part of a group looking to get involved, then check out the fundraising program. 

With over 250 locations worldwide, the USO has holiday programs every year. Each local branch hosts their own events including toy drives, Santa appearances, and dinners. To find a branch near you, check the USO website

You can also check your local MWR locations, or family support groups at an installation near you for more opportunities to get involved.