This is Day 19 of the 30 Days of Giving: Making Christmas Meaningful campaign, which is designed to bring the community creative and practical ways to cheerfully give this holiday season through gifts, relationships and charity. Come visit the 30 Days of Giving Advent Calendar each day in our countdown to Christmas for intriguing and original ways to help you to experience and spread the spirit of joyful giving that God intended throughout the holiday season.

Christmas is almost here and you’ve gotten one request after another to pull out your wallet and donate your heard-earned money to charity. They all seem like worthy causes, but how do you really know?

One thing you should do before deciding to donate to any organization is to check them out on sites like Guide Star or Charity Navigator, which rate charities and lets you know if they’re registered with the IRS.

For your convenience, here’s a short list of recognized charities that send funds and gifts directly to children and others in need. Many of these organizations are Christian charities.

Salvation Army

You all know Salvation Army. They’re the ones with the bell ringers on every city corner in the winter, asking for spare change for their little red buckets. Called the “red kettle,” the Salvation Army’s Christmas collection began over 100 years ago in 1891 and kettles can now be found across the United States and throughout the world.

The Army is a 501(c)(3) organization and 82 cents of every dollar donated is given directly to missions. According to their website, ”Donations provide and financial assistance provide Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for families in need including families of prisoners. Volunteers distribute gifts to shut-ins in hospitals and nursing homes, and shelters are open for sit-down dinners.”

Your Local Rescue Mission

Chances are, if you live near a metropolitan area, you’ll have a rescue mission close by. As Christian charity organizations that seek to better the lives of those suffering from homelessness, addiction, hunger and other challenges, rescue missions will collect money to directly provide assistance to men, women and children locally. This assistance comes in the form of temporary housing, educational opportunities, rehabilitation, emergency services and more. Contact your local rescue mission for more information.

Habitat for Humanity

Many churches and colleges connect with Habitat for Humanity on a regular basis, donating their time and supplies to building homes for needy families. If you’re looking for a way to donate more than just a few dollars and really want to see where your money goes, volunteer to assist at a site build either in your local community or through a service trip abroad.

Operation Christmas Child

Run by the larger Samaritan’s Purse for international relief, Operation Christmas Child is celebrating its 10th anniversary in serving over 100 million children in 130 countries. The concept: send a child a shoebox filled with toys, clothing and essentials. While shoeboxes are normally collected around Thanksgiving, you can still donate money to the organization throughout the year.

Toys for Tots

The US Marine Corp Reserve Toys for Tots Program is a popular activity that both individuals and churches participate in every year, donating new toys to needy children around the United States. The program is sponsored by many major companies including Hasbro, Lego, and Hess.

Angel Tree

According to Angel Tree, there are over 425,000 children of prisoners who crave a Christmas with a little bit of joy in it. Through Angel Tree, part of the larger Prison Fellowship organization, churches receive the names of needy children and their wish lists, then purchase gifts and deliver them directly to the family. 

The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalms 34:17-18

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