adopt a family

The Ultimate Guide to Giving Back During The Holidays

The holidays are about so much more than gifts. It’s about serving our community and giving back. We have so much to be thankful for this time and year.

Recently we asked our readers what they would like to see articles about, this was a highly requested topic. We are here to share ideas on giving back during the holidays and all year long.

Ideas for Getting Kids Involved

Teaching kids about charity and giving back during the holiday season is crucial in fostering empathy, compassion, and a sense of community. It instills values that go beyond materialism and helps them understand the joy of making a positive impact in the lives of others.

Getting kids involved in charity during the holidays is not only heartwarming but also teaches valuable lessons. First and foremost, lead by example. When children see their parents actively participating in charitable acts, they are more likely to follow suit.

Secondly, make it relatable and fun. Choose age-appropriate activities that resonate with them, such as donating toys or creating handmade cards for those in need.

Involve them in the decision-making process. Let them choose a cause or charity they feel passionate about. This empowers them and makes the experience more meaningful.

Lastly, make it a family affair. Spend time together volunteering, shopping for items or organizing charity events. It’s not just about giving back; it’s about creating lasting family traditions centered around compassion and generosity.

Here are 10 ideas that families can consider:

  1. Toy Drive Surprise: Encourage kids to go through their toys and pick out ones they no longer play with. Donate these toys to a local charity or organize a toy drive within the community.
  2. Bake and Share: Spend an afternoon baking cookies or treats together. Deliver these homemade goodies to neighbors, local firefighters, or elderly community members.
  3. Family Volunteer Day: Identify local charities or shelters that allow families to volunteer together. It could be serving meals, sorting donations, or participating in community clean-up projects.
  4. Holiday Card Workshop: Set up a card-making station at home. Create handmade holiday cards and distribute them to local nursing homes, hospitals, or military personnel stationed abroad.
  5. Donation Jar Challenge: Provide each family member with a donation jar. Throughout the holiday season, encourage kids to add spare change or allowances to their jars. At the end of the season, donate the collected funds to a chosen charity.
  6. Visit a Senior Center: Coordinate a visit to a local senior center. Kids can engage with elderly residents, play games, or simply spend quality time chatting and sharing stories.
  7. Meal Kit Assembly: Assemble meal kits with non-perishable food items and donate them to a local food bank or shelter. This hands-on activity helps kids understand the importance of addressing food insecurity.
  8. Nature Clean-Up: Plan a family nature walk and bring along trash bags. Take the opportunity to clean up a local park or nature trail, teaching kids the importance of environmental stewardship.
  9. Read for a Cause: Host a family reading night where each book read equals a small donation. Pool the funds and contribute to a literacy-focused charity or purchase books for a local school in need.
  10. Gratitude Jar: Start a gratitude jar as a family. Each day, have each family member write down something they are thankful for and place it in the jar. At the end of the season, discuss and decide on a charitable act based on these reflections.

Different Ways to Give Back in Reno, Sparks, Carson City

Check out these different ways to give back this year. We are also some of our local organizations that are getting into the giving spirit and giving back to the community in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and beyond.

Adopt A Child or Family

One of our favorite ways of giving back is by adopting a child or family and helping them with gifts to open this holiday season. While some items may be a toy or a game, most often the items wished for our basic necessities. Jackets, socks, gloves, shoes…

If possible, try to adopt either a single child or a set of siblings (to make sure they each get an equal amount of love). Last year, we adopted a family and were able to donate basic hygiene and cleaning supplies for the home.

Here are some places where you can adopt a child or family:

Downtown Angel Tree

WACCS (Women and Childrens Center of the Sierras)

Adopt a family from WACCS.  The majority of families are single mother households.

How to adopt this year:

Call: 775-825-7395
Fill out form online 

Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows 

The Holiday Help Program has helped hundreds of families with gifts and goods including clothes, toys, and household items. Many that receive are members of the club and are families in need.

To adopt a Reno-Sparks family for the 2023 Holiday Help program, please get in touch with Dina Ciarlo via email at

The Children’s Cabinet 

Adopt a family through the Children’s Cabinet. Each year families and businesses come together to help families in need. You decide what size family you would like to adopt and they ask for $50 minimum on each family member. To adopt a family email

Available to Adopt: October 2023

Holiday Donation Drive Angel Trees

At these locations, you will find a Nevada Kids Foundation tree decorated with ornaments. On the ornaments, you will find a QR code to scan. Once scanned, you can “adopt” a child from our area. You can then purchase items that the child will receive this holiday season!!!

Available to Adopt: Now

UNR Early Head Start Giving Tree

If you are able to contribute to the Giving Tree this year, please provide gift cards and gifts.

Available to Adopt: Now

Return Gifts by: No later than December 14th.

Ashlee’s Toy Closet

2023 is the 16th annual toy drive.  You can drop off new and unwrapped toys at multiple locations.

Collecting Toys through December 15th.

Safe Embrace Adopt A Family

Children and families are currently available to be adopted through email or phone. Email: Phone: 775-324-3766. You can request family size, individuals, or children and they will match you with a survivor or a family who is currently receiving services.

Available to Adopt: Now

Return Gifts by:  Preferred to have by December 15th but will work with donor

19th Annual Holiday With A Hero

Holiday with a Hero provides a holiday shopping trip for students in the McKinney-Vento Students-in-Transition program within the Carson City School District. Students are paired with first responders or volunteers from community organizations.

Local fire, police, medical and military leaders guide the students through the store to spend their money on gifts for the students and their families. The gifts are then wrapped and shipped back to the student’s school.

For this program, you are donating monetarily to a family via check which gets dispersed into Walmart Gift Cards.

Operation Stocking Stuffer

Each year Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada collect stockings for children in the community. They have over 2,000 children registered in need of stockings for 2023.

You fill the stocking with age-appropriate toys for children ranging in ages 0-18. Stockings have a $20 maximum value.

Stuffed stockings can be dropped off at St. Vincent’s Thrift Shop at 500 East Fourth Street in downtown Reno or any of their donation sites.

Stockings Accepted: Now – December 11th

Giving Back During The Holidays (1)

Adopt a Senior

If you thought adopting a child was amazing, wait until you adopt a senior! More often than not, these seniors don’t have a family to celebrate the holidays with and are lucky to even get a visitor stopping by.

While seniors have basic necessities on their wish list, it is always fun to think outside the box on their gifts.

Be Santa to a Senior

You can adopt a senior this holiday season through Be Santa To A Senior.  This is an organization that helps you find a giving tree in local senior care homes.

There are over 25 listed in our area. Type in your zip code and head to the location nearest to you.

Available to Adopt: NOW

Return Gifts by: Date Listed on Tag

Donate to a Food Bank, Collection, or Box

Every year there are so many families who go without and one way to give back is to donate to a local food bank.

That doesn’t mean you have to drive ALL THE WAY to your food bank, though as it can be out of the way. Most food banks during the holiday season have bins set-up around town.

Here are several places you can donate food:

Alpine Circle Near Jessie Beck Elementary School

Each year the neighbors in this cul-de-sac light up their homes to celebrate the holiday season. As it gets closer to Christmas, Santa sits outside handing out candy canes! Each year is a little different and there is also a spot to donate canned goods that benefits the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Food Bank of Northern Nevada Holiday Food Drives

The food drives on this list are all open to the public and welcome your donation towards helping them reach their goal. There are SEVERAL of them around town, please you are supporting local businesses!

Most Needed Items:

  • Canned Vegetables (No Salt Added or Low Sodium)
  • Canned Meals (Stews, Soups, Spaghetti/Ravioli)
  • Protein (peanut butter, tuna, salmon, chicken, dried or canned beans)
  • Grains (whole-grain cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain pasta)
  • Canned Fruits (in 100% juice or light syrup), dried fruit, applesauce (no sugar added), 100% fruit juice boxes
  • Dairy (shelf-stable milk)
  • Baby & Kid Friendly (formula, infant cereal, baby food, granola bars, popcorn, crackers)

Karma Box Project

The Karma Box project is a community initiative that allows people to give non-perishable food, first aid, and toiletries to those in need. The Karma Box Project people can donate year-round.

There are several boxes located around Northern Nevada, you can find a box close to you here.

Raley’s Food for Families

When you give, they give! One Food For Families $10 donation provides more than 20 nutritious meals to neighbors in need.

Donations STAY LOCAL. You can donate online or at the local Raley’s near you!

Drive-By Food Drive at Grand Sierra Resort

When: December 8

Benefitting the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

We Care Volunteers 

This organization provides a home-cooked meal, Tuesday – Thursday nights 6:30-7:45 PM for the homeless and working poor of the Reno/Sparks community. They serve anywhere from 150-300 meals per night.

We Care Volunteers encourage church, community and school groups along with the general public to join in to serve, and to provide a side dish or dessert, etc. to round out the meal

To get volunteer information email

Reno Sparks Gospel Mission

Each year the Gospel Mission serves over 475,000 free meals to homeless and needy people across the Northern Nevada community. They work with individuals, families, churches, and schools to supply food from our community pantry to those who are in need.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating contact (775) 323-0386, Ext. 11.

St. Vincents Dining Hall
Photo Credit: Saint Vincent’s Dining Room

Saint Vincent’s Dining Room 

The St. Vincent’s Dining Room in Reno welcomes all who are hungry in our community. The dining room serves a free hot cafeteria-style lunch, Monday through Saturday, to over 500 people each day. They are always looking for volunteers

For volunteer or donation information contact (775) 329-5363.

Visit a Nursing Home/Senior Living Center

Visits this year are most likely not allowed, but you could have kids make and color cards or pictures to be dropped off.

Residents in nursing homes aren’t always fortunate enough to have family or friends visit during the holidays. You can check with your local nursing home to see if you can stop by to visit some of the residents.

In addition, think about bringing Christmas cards, cookies, fuzzy socks, or little goodies they may enjoy. Get the whole family involved and sing Christmas carols or listen to their stories.

Just a few of the nursing homes you can call:

  • Life Care Center of Reno
  • Cascade of the Sierras
  • Home Instead Senior Care
  • Arbors Memory Care
  • Morningstar Senior Living

Donate Warm Clothes

Big Reno Coat Drive

This coat drive has been operating since 2005! And although there is a very short timeframe for collections, there is ALWAYS next year. Operating October 15th – November 20th.

The coat drive has bins at several locations through the area where you can drop-off new coats. It usually occurs during the middle of October through mid-November.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, The Big Reno Coat Drive can ONLY accept brand new (with tags) winter coat donations for the 2020 Drive. Thank you for your support.

Denim Drive

When: November 13 – December 31

The Reno Rodeo Denim Drive provides comfort with new clothing, new teddy bears, new books, and new rolling backpacks to abused, neglected, and abandoned children who have experienced the unimaginable in 14 Northern Nevada counties. We are excited to share the Reno Rodeo Foundation has expanded the Denim Drive benefits to include new clothing for employment interviews and educational scholarships to support foster youth education.

Participate in a Toy Drive

Christmas Vacation Drive-in Toy Drive

Date: Friday, Nov. 24 from 4pm-8pm

Location: West Wind Drive In Theater, 555 El Rancho Drive Sparks, NV 89431

Cost: $50

Join us in making miracles and magic this Holiday Season at our private screening of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Help us fill Cousin Eddie’s RV by bringing a new, unwrapped gift. Bring your family and friends and celebrate with us at this good old fashioned family Christmas event. Price is per vehicle. Non-refundable.

Giving Back Doesn’t End After the Holidays

While giving back during the holidays makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, it doesn’t mean that the holidays are the ONLY time to give back.

Throughout the year, you can do some of the things we’ve listed above. Volunteering is a huge one!

While baked goodies may seem like a bad idea during the hot summer months, consider bringing a couple of cases of water or pizza to the homeless downtown.

Do you give back during the holidays or throughout the year? Also, if we missed an awesome way to give back, let us know in the comments below and we will add it!


Kacey Queen is a co-founder of Nevada Moms

Kacey received her bachelor's in Psychology while cheering for the University of Oregon. They moved to Reno in 2014 and have loved it ever since. She is a dedicated homeschooling mother to her three children.

She serves on the board for Northern Nevada Health Systems, and Northern Nevada Sports and Recreation, and she is passionate about her community.

Kacey loves exploring with her family and finding family-friendly events and activities! A few of her favorite things include family adventures, exploring the outdoors, working out, local coffee shops, and dessert!

Leanna Carson is an expecting mama via IVF and a serial entrepreneur.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, she loves sharing all things family-friendly as well as local spots most don’t even know about! She co-founded Nevada Moms in 2018 and it has become the #1 Family Guide to Nevada experiences, activities, happenings, and more.

Connect with her on social media or IRL @mrsleannacarson on Instagram.