Foreclosures, job losses, high fuel prices and economic uncertainty can make the holidays especially difficult for families. Pride can sometimes prevent people from seeking the help they need. If you know of a family in need of assistance, there are many things you can do to help without bruising anyone's dignity.
Talk to the head of the family you think might need some assistance. Listen closely to what she has to say about their holiday plans. If they have their basic needs met but they are merely cutting back from previous years, respect that decision. If they are lacking basic necessities, however, feel free to do whatever you can to get those needs met, even if it requires subterfuge to get the family to accept help. A roof and four walls, enough food and adequate clothing for the weather are not optional.
Ask about the family's willingness to accept assistance. This is important, since many agencies insist on face-to-face interviews with the family in need of help. Gather information such as ages, gender, sizes, wish lists, proof of citizenship and proof of income, or help the head of the family obtain these records.
Make a list of agencies that provide any of the goods and services the family needs. Some examples are the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Ex-Newsboys associations, fraternal organizations, veterans' groups such as the American Legion and the VFW, churches and other community groups. Gather information on eligibility guidelines, types of assistance available and documentation requirements.
Match the family's needs to the correct organization. Some communities use one agency as the umbrella: checking proof of need and then matching the family to the correct program, to avoid duplication of aid. Give the agency the family's name and all the information you have gathered.
If all else fails, and you cannot find appropriate assistance, try getting friends, church members and neighbors to chip in together to provide the family's needs. Be extra careful to protect the family's anonymity.