Matching needy families with potential benefactors is not always an easy process for social service and charity organizations. There are privacy issues to consider, and many needy people may not feel comfortable going through public channels for financial assistance. Therefore, many donors are left with the option of contributing to "umbrella charities" charged with redistributing donations to anonymous families in need. The process of helping others during the holidays doesn't always have to work like this, however.
One way to find families in need of assistance is to contact social service or human resource departments directly. A representative of the organization may be able to provide a list of people who have agreed to make their contact information public. Even if such a list is kept confidential, the agency may be willing to coordinate a more personal connection between the donor and a specific family in need. This could prove useful when purchasing or donating clothing or other gender/age specific gifts.
Another way to find families with needs at Christmas is through word-of-mouth. There may be co-workers who have suffered recent personal losses and might appreciate a charitable gesture. Local newspapers often publish articles on the plight of those who have lost everything due to fire or other natural disasters. Fellow church members or ministers may also know of people in need, especially during the holiday season. A private meeting with a local pastor or church secretary may provide the necessary contact information for local families in crisis.
Several charitable programs, such as the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, do provide specific information on eligible children, even if they are not personally identified. Adopting several participants will ensure that at least one family's needs will be met over the holidays. Other programs sponsored locally may even identify the needs of entire families, not just their children. Homeless shelters operated by non-profit organizations or religious organizations may also be able to act as liaisons between needy people and those who would like to provide some assistance during the holidays.