Secret Santas Sought for Neighbors in Need

Published on December 01, 2016

Brighten the holiday season for some of Arlington's most vulnerable residents by taking part in the County's annual Secret Santa program.

How it works


Donate gift cards from area stores: Cards from grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores and retailers like Target and Walmart all work great. Arlington's Department of Human Services distributes the cards to more than a thousand needy individuals in the community during the holiday season.

Who it helps



  • Children in foster care: Most kids in foster care are teens, and as it's nearly impossible to get the right gift for a teenager, gift cards are a great option.



  • People with disabilities and seniors with low incomes: Making ends meet can be difficult when you are without family and are on a fixed income.



  • Families with low incomes: Gift cards from local grocery stores are a big help and helping a parent buy a special gift for a child is priceless.


Gift cards should not exceed $25 each, but you can submit as many as you like. Donations are generally tax deductible, and 100 percent of every donation goes to help those in need. There are no administrative fees for the program.

Can I write a check?


Checks are welcome. Make them out to "Arlington County Treasurer — Secret Santa" and staff will purchase cards with your donation. Checks can be as large or small as you like. Last year, one benevolent neighbor wrote a $10,000 check to purchase gift cards for needy residents.

Why gift cards instead of donating presents or "adopting" a family?


Arlington Secret Santa uses a gift card model for several reasons:

  • The cards offer choice, which empowers the recipient in selecting the style, color and size of clothes desired, the makings of a special meal or the perfect toy for a child.

  • The kindness of others is wonderful but for many, receiving particular holiday presents from strangers can feel demeaning.

  • In a low-income family, a gift selected by a parent using a card strengthens family bonds.


How to be a Secret Santa


Mail or hand-deliver gift cards/checks by Dec. 16 to: Secret Santa Program c/o Kurt Larrick, Department of Human Services, 2100 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor, Arlington, VA 22204.

Cards/checks may be designated for a particular beneficiary group or left undesignated. Undesignated gift cards are especially welcome and will be used where they're needed most.

Be sure to include: the value of the gift card (if it's not printed on the card), a return address or email address so your gift card or check can be acknowledged with a "thank you" and tax form, and designate a beneficiary group if you have one.