Giving Back: Holiday Toy Drives in Houston

The holidays are in full swing, and kids everywhere are dreaming of toys they want and are counting down the days until it's time to open presents. However, the holiday season is as much about giving as it is about receiving, and during this time parents have a unique window of opportunity to teach children the importance of volunteering and giving back to those in need. One way to do this is by donating toys to a local holiday toy drive, and we've rounded up several organizations in and around Houston that are dedicated to bringing holiday cheer to families unable to afford gifts this holiday season.

Adam's Angels Ministry Annual Toy Drive
In an effort to bring the magic of Christmas to families battling childhood cancer, Adam's Angels Ministry hosts an annual toy drive benefiting children from birth to 20 years of age. The 2016 gift drive is November 17-December 9, and those wishing to participate are encouraged to bring gift cards, new and unwrapped gifts, and monetary donations. A full list of drop-off locations can be found here. For those unable to visit a drop-off location, pick-ups can be arranged.  

Toys for Tots
Since its humble beginning in 1947, Toys for Tots has been providing toys to underprivileged children during the Christmas season. The organization now collects and distributes an average of 16 million toys to children who likely would not get to celebrate the holiday season without these donations. To contribute, bring a new, unwrapped toy to a collection site near you, consider volunteering with the toy collection process, or host a toy collection function. 

Photo Courtesy of The Salvation Army of Greater Houston

Salvation Army Christmas Assistance
There are two different ways to help those in need during the holiday season when you join forces with the Salvation Army: by participating in the Angel Tree Program or donating to a local Salvation Army toy drive. The Angel Tree Program delivers presents to children and families in need who have been registered with the Salvation Army and then adopted. Adoptions are done through a Corporate Angel Tree -  where business, churches, and schools adopt a family - or through the Mall Angel Tree program - where individuals purchase a predetermined gift while shopping at select malls and then donate it to the Salvation Army Christmas Tree located at that mall. If you'd like to contribute a toy to someone who wasn't adopted by one of the Angel Tree programs, consider donating to a local Salvation Army toy drive or to KHOU's "Secret Santa" Toy Drive. 

My Brother's Keeper Children's Christmas Social
While providing assistance to those in need and giving back is always the mission at My Brother's Keeper, the holidays are a special time for the organization to focus on helping children. This is done by giving gifts to children ages 1-12 who otherwise would not have presents to open on Christmas. You can get involved this Christmas season by volunteering with My Brother's Keeper or submitting a donation. A full list of current needs can be found here.   

Photo courtesy of Memorial Assistance Ministries

Memorial Assistance Ministries Christmas Share Program
Hundreds of Houston-area children receive gifts and a twin-sized blanket each year through the Memorial Assistance Ministries Christmas Share Program, an organization dedicated to serving families who are struggling to provide food and other basic necessities. Toy donations should be valued between $15-$50, be new and unwrapped, and include any necessary batteries. Monetary donations are also appreciated. Donations will be accepted through December 6 and can be delivered to Memorial Assistance Ministries at 1625 Blalock Road.  

West Houston Assistance Ministries Toy Drive
In an effort to bring Christmas to underprivileged children, West Houston Assistance Ministries hosts an annual toy drive. Monetary donations as well as new, unwrapped gifts, such as board games, dolls, books, and educational toys, are given to children ages 10 and under. Gift cards valued at $15 are requested for children ages 10 and older. For a full list of the types of toys needed, visit the WHAM website. The toy drive runs from Monday, December 9 through Friday, December 13. WHAM also offers a holiday food drive, Adopt-A-Family program, and more to bring holiday cheer to families in need. 

Photo courtesy of Houston Fire Department.

Houston Fire Department's Operation: Stocking Stuffer
New, unwrapped toys are needed for Operation: Stocking Stuffer, a toy distribution event put on by the Houston Fire Department that runs from November 18-December 16. Toy donations can be dropped off at any Houston Fire Department fire station. Once the Stocking Stuffer collection event concludes, parents are invited to come pick up toys for their kids at The Great Toy Giveaway. The 2016 Great Toy Giveaway begins at 6 a.m. December 21, and toys are given on a first come, first serve basis. Due to the traditionally large turnout, it's recommended that children not attend.

Houston Area Women's Center Holiday Gift Express
The Houston Area Women's Center transforms their office into a mini-toy store this holiday season to bring Christmas festivities to families who have suffered from domestic and sexual violence. Parents and guardians are invited to come select gifts for their children at the "toy store," and children are in turn invited to select gifts for their parents and guardians. In addition to donating toys, the Women's Center is also requesting gift card donations to allow teens and adults the ability to choose their gift. A full list of the items requested can be found at the Women's Center website. All donations are needed by December 5. 

Star of Hope Mission Christmas Gift Catalog
In addition to opening presents this Christmas, consider also opening the Star of Hope Christmas Gift Catalog and selecting a way to give to families in need. The Christmas Catalog allows you to select giving the gift of food, shelter, and care, fresh clothing, education, children's critical care, and children's Christmas presents to families who are struggling to make ends meet, and it can all be done from the comfort of your own home. Simply visit the Star of Hope Christmas Catalog online and choose which gift best fits how you want to give back this holiday season. 

These toy drives and donation events merely scratch the surface of ways you can donate to children and families in need during the holiday season. For more ways to give back, consider checking with local churches and schools for upcoming toy donation programs, donating stuffed animals to Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, or dropping off toys year-round to local chapters of organizations like Ronald McDonald House and Purple Heart

Top image courtesy of The Salvation Army of Greater Houston

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