Make Spirits Bright: How to Sign Kids Up for the Angel Tree Program

When it comes to the season of love, giving, and joy, there's always a neighbor willing to help. Get tips on the Angel Tree registration process here.

Updated November 7, 2023
Christmas charity buskers are high fiving in the street as they raise money for charity

Brought to life by the Salvation Army, the Angel Tree program is a mission to bring holiday magic to all homes, especially those in financial need. They help when buying presents can be just beyond the means or possibility of some families. Since the program is handled through the organization's local service centers, sign-up procedures vary by area, but these tips can help. 

Applying for Salvation Army Angel Tree Assistance

Local Salvation Army service centers accept applications for the Angel Tree program each year during the fall. These often open as early as September and generally run through mid-October, though the timeframes and deadline extensions vary by location.

The main Salvation Army Angel Tree website offers online applications for some areas. You can enter your zip code to see if it's available. If not, you'll need to go through your local organization, which may offer either in-person or online sign-up. 

Quick Tip

Chances are, you will learn of some other charities offering Christmas assistance, or discover other ways to find free toys for the holidays that you can explore.

How to Sign Up for Angel Tree Help 

The exact timeframe and process vary depending on the location, but here are some general steps to register kids for the Angel Tree program. 

  1. Find local offices - To identify your local Salvation Army office, head to Scroll down the page to the "See What's Happening at Your Local Salvation Army" widget, enter your ZIP code in the search box, and then submit.
  2. Review results - You will receive a list of results with the name, address, website, and contact information for the service centers closest to your area. Skim the list, focusing on "services offered" or applicable categories to narrow down to the best ones to contact with your inquiry. If you see one that has "seasonal services" or similar on your list, start there. Otherwise, opt for a location that seems to offer the broadest variety of services, including community services.
  3. Explore service center offerings - Review the selected local organization's website to see if details are available for the current year's Angel Tree program. If not, contact the service center and ask if their location offers an Angel Tree program. If they don't, ask for information about which service centers in the area do have the program so you can reach out to them directly.
    • Contact information for a few service centers is provided below for your convenience, though if you don't live in a town served by one of these areas, follow the steps above to find your local service center. This information can change at any time, as organizations restructure.
      Local Contact Information
      City Phone Number
      Baltimore, MD 410-783-2920
      Birmingham, AL 205-328-2420
      Charlotte, NC 704-522-4970
      Chicago, IL 773-725-1100
      Houston, TX 713- 752-0677
      Philadelphia, PA 215-825-4601
      Richmond, VA 804-225-7470
      San Diego, CA 619-231-6000
  4. Verify procedures - After finding a location in your area that has the program, verify how their sign-up procedures work and when applications are accepted. Most programs close early in October, or when capacity has been reached. You may be able to find this information on the local group's website or via a phone call.
  5. Verify eligibility - Angel tree eligibility requirements vary, so it's also important to find out income qualifications and what documentation you need to submit when you apply. You can see examples of specific requirements on the websites of the Chattanooga, TN, and Wake County North Carolina locations. 
  6. Apply as required - Once you know the procedures for your area, follow them exactly. You'll typically need to provide documentation demonstrating financial need and proving your identity and parental status for the child (or children). 
Quick Tip

Once someone is approved for the program, information like clothing sizes and wish items are added to an Angel Tree tag that's placed on an Angel Tree in a participating location. While some organizations include first names on tags, people donating won't ever know complete details like your child's full name or address. 

Options Beyond the Angel Tree Program 

The Angel Tree program provides a wonderful opportunity for children in families who are experiencing economic difficulties to receive Christmas gifts. On the downside, not everyone qualifies for assistance. If the program in your area is closed by the time you reach out, or if you are not eligible, ask the person you speak with if they know of other local groups that offer similar programs so you can research them.

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Make Spirits Bright: How to Sign Kids Up for the Angel Tree Program