Angel Tree Charity Guide: Bringing Joy to Families at Christmas

The Angel Tree program helps kids in need find joy each Christmas! Learn how it works and how you can get involved.

Updated November 7, 2023
Little girl holding Christmas present

The Salvation Army's Angel Tree charity event helps to spread kindness and cheer to underprivileged children during the holiday season. This giving opportunity doesn't require a significant commitment of time or money, so it's an excellent choice for both donors with small budgets and those who can make larger contributions.

We detail what the Angel Tree program entails, how you can sign your child up, and other ways that you can get involved this Christmas. 

The Angel Tree Charity Brings Smiles to Families 

The ultimate goal of the Angel Tree program is to get new toys and clothing into the hands of disadvantaged children during the holiday season. Families who are eligible to participate in the program submit requests to the Salvation Army for items that each child or person in the household needs.

Details Go on Angel Tags & Are Added to Trees

The Salvation Army relies on sponsoring organizations to display angel trees in high-traffic areas throughout November and December. A paper angel ornament is made for each child that includes details about the requested items. Each ornament includes details such as the first name, gender, and age of the child who will benefit from the donations. The angels may also include clothing and shoe sizes, particular items requested, and other information.

The ornaments are numbered and placed on Christmas trees in shopping centers, participating workplace locations, or other areas provided by sponsoring organizations.

Quick Tip

To display an Angel Tree at your place of business or to locate a tree in your community, contact your local Salvation Army office. You can find the facility closest to where you live by entering your ZIP code in the location finder at

Signing Up a Child for the Program

The process of signing up children to receive gifts through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program is coordinated through local Salvation Army offices. While some locations offer online applications, at others you may need to have an in-person appointment to apply. Participation is limited to those who meet age, income, and residency requirements. The individual must also not sign up for aid from other holiday programs.

Applications are usually accepted starting in early September and close in mid to late October, but program application dates can vary based on the specific location. Participation is generally limited to children 14 and under, but there may be programs available for families and older teens. Contact the Salvation Army office in your community for specific details in your area. 

Quick Tip

In some locations, the Angel Tree program also provides gifts to qualified senior adults in need. 

Common Application Requirements

While the procedure may differ somewhat from one location to another, you can expect to be required to provide a variety of documents when you apply. Necessary paperwork generally includes:

  • Valid photo ID (for the child's parent or legal guardian)
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of custody/guardianship if the adult applying is not the biological parent of the child
  • Social security cards (for both parents/guardians and children)
  • Birth certificates (for each individual)
  • Apparel and footwear sizes (for each child)
  • Proof of income (demonstrating financial need)

Suitable proof of income documents typically include:

  • Prior year's taxes
  • Paperwork certifying approval for free or reduced school lunches
  • Letter granting approval for food stamps
  • Documentation of Medicaid approval for the children (award letter or individual coverage cards)
Helpful Hack

If online applications are available for your area and you don't have a scanner, the Salvation Army will accept pictures of your official documents. When applying this way, it's best to start the application on your mobile device for easy access to your photos.

Contributing to the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program

People who are interested in contributing to the Angel Tree charity program will "adopt" one or more of the angel ornaments. In some cases, groups choose to adopt an angel as a holiday charity project. This can be an excellent charitable activity for co-workers, neighborhood associations, sororities, supper clubs, and other groups that get together regularly. Individuals can also adopt a child for the program. 

Woman wrapping Christmas gifts

Donors remove their angel from the tree and purchase gift items appropriate for the child represented by the ornament. It's important to place the corresponding angel number on each item to ensure that all gifts make it to the proper program participants.

Once the items have been purchased and prepared for giving, the donor delivers the gifts to a designated Salvation Army Angel Tree program drop-off spot so they can be delivered to the appropriate children in time for Christmas. In most cases, Angel Tree donations can be dropped off at the same location where the angel ornament was selected. This makes it easy to donate. 

Angel Tree Locations

The Christmas Angel Tree program locations are found all over the United States. Anyone can sign up to be a sponsor by finding their local contact

Quick Tip

As of 2020, Walmart teamed up with the Salvation Army to sponsor Angel Trees at Walmart stores. This means that you can find Angel Trees in your local Walmart or you can participate online!

Volunteer Opportunities

The Salvation Army Angel Tree program also relies on the assistance of dedicated volunteers to make the Angel Tree charity program a success each year. Those who are interested in volunteering for this worthy cause can help with things like:

  • Preparing angel ornaments
  • Staffing the Angel Tree locations
  • Delivering gifts to participating families
  • Other services as needed 

Information about how to volunteer your time is available on the Ways to Give page on the Salvation Army's website.

The Salvation Army Helps Families All Year 

The Salvation Army is associated with the Universal Christian Church. The charitable organization is highly visible throughout many communities during the Christmas season each year, with both the Angel Tree program and the familiar Red Kettle fundraising program.

However, the organization's activities are not limited to the holidays. The Salvation Army provides assistance to approximately 25 million Americans each year via a wide spectrum of programs that include disaster relief, shelter, and clothing for the homeless, outreach to the elderly and disabled individuals, and more. 

Angel Tree Charity Guide: Bringing Joy to Families at Christmas