Since I was a shorty, I’ve known the holiday season as two things: the most wonderful time of the year, and the most expensive. I suppose the wonderfulness came from my mother’s enthusiasm for all things Christmas. We’d decorate our three-bedroom apartment from top to bottom, watch Hallmark movies and blast Christmas music at unreasonable levels.

But the expense of the season placed an inescapable dark cloud over “the most wonderful time of the year.” I can remember my mother scraping together resources to make Christmas as enjoyable as possible for her children. There were times that the only gifts I might’ve gotten came from after-school programs, school or maybe a local church.


Whether it was toys, gift cards, warm clothes or food, there were times my family relied on the holiday assistance opportunities at those places to complete our holidays. 

Thing is, I know we’re not the first nor the last family to go through similar circumstances, so I’ve compiled a list of resources for holiday assistance in the Chicagoland area. Below you’ll find information on warm clothes drives, toy drives and food giveaways all for free and all for anyone to access, to help take a little of the burden off of you for the holidays.

Pilsen Food Pantry


Phone: 773-812-3150

Location: 1850 South Throop Street, Chicago, IL

The Pilsen Food Pantry is a project of the non-profit Figueroa Wu Family Foundation (FWFF) which operates multiple community wellness projects. Aside from the Pilsen food pantry, which serves zip codes 60607, 60608, 60609 and 60612, FWFF also operates a clothes closet, a little library and a social health initiative. This holiday season, FWFF is hosting a festival on Dec. 18 where it will be giving away turkeys, hams, outerwear and toys.

USPS Operation Santa


Location: Your local Post Office or USPS box

Operation Santa is an initiative of the U.S. Postal Service to provide Christmas gifts to families in need. All kids need to do is write a letter to Santa including their wishlist with clothing sizes, and mail it to the address:


123 Elf Road

North Pole, 88888

Letters should be postmarked by Dec. 10 in order to be eligible. Full instructions on how to send in your letter are available here.

Catholic Charities


Phone: 312-655-7700

Location: 721 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Catholic Charities is a national organization whose network operates assistance programs year-round. There are a few locations in Chicagoland, including St. Sabina church on 79th. The address listed above is for the Near North location. In addition to evening supper every weekday, Catholic Charities host a number of holiday assistance programs including food boxes, and warm clothing. Use this link to find the location nearest you.

Santa’s Little Helpers


Location: Online only

Santa’s Little Helpers is a Reddit Community dedicated to providing holiday presents to folks who need them. This link will take you to the application for assistance and provide instructions on how to apply which includes creating a Reddit account (also free) and an Amazon wishlist.

City Motivators Christmas Toy Giveaway


Phone: 312-682-4539

Location: Local Market, 2101 E. 71st Street, Chicago, IL

The nonprofit organization City Motivators is hosting its toy drive and giveaway at Local Market in South Shore this holiday season. You can donate to the toy drive through Dec. 13. The giveaway will be held on Dec. 17 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. No application is necessary and gifts are distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Just bring yourself and your family.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.