Help for the holidays: Twin Cities assistance programs give toys, food

But time is running short, so call today.

Many families need a little help during the holiday season—and several metro MN programs provide gifts and food to make sure the season is merry and bright for everyone.

PHS recommends these programs for Minnesota families who need assistance with toys, gifts, clothing, and food for a holiday meal. You can also call PHS Medical Social Worker Monica Handlos at 651-789-9215 for help in applying to the programs or to find out more about what may still be available to you.


General programs


Toys for Tots

  • From October through December, TOT collects new toys for children whose parents cannot afford Christmas gifts.

Salvation Army

  • The Salvation Army provides food and toy assistance.
  • To register for Toy Shop: go online at or call 651-746-3595 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m-4 p.m. The 2010 Toy Shop is open until December 9.
  • Toy Shop is a collaboration of churches and agencies working together to register families for Christmas resources. When you complete the form, you will be assigned to an agency that will serve you and instruct you on how to pick up toys.Who is eligible:
  • Residents of the 10-county metro area (Minnesota)
  • With a child or children up to age 14
  • With an active email address (for online registration)
  • With a home address where you receive mail
  • Those not registered for Christmas assistance anywhere else
  • Those able to show proof of address and ID for every child when you pick up your toys

Dakota County

Neighbors, Inc. Holiday Program provides the ingredients for a holiday meal, as well as toys and clothing for children.

  • Who is eligible: Residents of Inver Grove Heights, Lilydale, Mendota Heights, South St. Paul, Sunfish Lake, or West St. Paul.
  • To apply: Applications are taken in person from November 3 through Monday, December 15, between 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 to 4 p.m. (Application deadline on 12/15 ends at noon.) To receive an application, go to 218 13th Ave. South, South St. Paul, second floor, and bring:
  • Picture identification
  • Current utility bill, from Xcel, Qwest, Comcast, etc. for November or December; name on bill must match picture ID
  • Bring a birth certificate for each child school age or younger, or proof of child from Dakota County, or a letter from the school they attend listing your name and child’s name
  • Proof of income for the past 30 days for every adult in the household (pay stubs, bank statement or proof from Dakota County—this includes child support payment and any Social Security income for children.

To learn more, call the Information Hotline at 651-306-2149 (for Spanish call 651-306-2153).

Hennepin County

Community Emergency Assistance Program, Inc. (CEAP) provides food baskets for families and parents can choose two gifts and a stocking stuffer for each of their children.

  • Who is eligible: Residents of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, or East Champlin with children in the household aged 18 or younger.
  • To register: leave a message on the Holiday Line at 763-450-3670 to make an appointment. The deadline to call in for an appointment is December 8.

PRISM Holiday Shoppe provides toys for children. Parents may come and choose gifts about two weeks before the holidays. They also receive wrapping and other supplies as available. PRISM receives toys from church partners, local businesses and individuals and Toys for Tots.

  • Who is eligible: Residents of Golden Valley, South of 42nd Avenue in Crystal, New Hope, or Robbinsdale, East of 494 in Plymouth.
  • To sign up: you need to be seen by a PRISM caseworker. Call 763-529-1350 to make an appointment. Guidelines:
  • Sign up is in person at PRISM after September 1
  • Bring proof of address and ID cards for each child
  • You will be issued a map to the distribution site and a specific appointment time
  • Toy distribution: families come to the site at the appointed time and sign in with a PRISM staff person. A Santa’s Helper takes the family through the room helping them choose gifts (number and types vary depending on donations).

Jackson County

Lakefield Food Assistance provides holiday food baskets and Christmas gift baskets.

  • Pre-register and apply at Jackson County Department of Human Services, Jackson County Community Health, or Lakefield Food Shelf. Call 507-662-5718 for more information. You must be a resident of the Lakefield area to be eligible for this program.

Still need help?

If you aren’t eligible for any of the resources listed here or miss the deadlines, call United Way First Call for Help at 651-291-0211 or 1-800-543-7709 and ask for agencies helping with holiday assistance. They will ask for your zip code and give you local agencies that may be able to help you.

How are you celebrating the holidays this year? Do you set a budget or have any tips on how to manage over holidays? Is there a program that helped you out in a time of need? We’d love to hear from you.

Monica HandlosMonica Handlos, LGSW, is the Medical Social Worker at PHS. Please feel free to contact her with any questions on the resources listed above.