Secret Santa/Holiday Giving Program

You can make the holiday season a little happier for some of Arlington’s most vulnerable residents by taking part in the Department of Human Services’ Secret Santa/Holiday Giving Program.

How it works

Donate gift cards from area stores – grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores and Target all work great – and the Department of Human Services distributes them through our social workers and case managers to more than 1,000 needy individuals in the community in the holiday season. You can also send a check made out to “Arlington County Treasurer – Secret Santa.”

This year, through a partnership with Volunteer Arlington, we are also accepting donations via online credit card payments.

Individuals, church groups, schools and neighborhoods have all taken part in the past. Making it a group effort is a great holiday project for kids, families, apartment buildings, sports teams and offices.

Who it helps

Gift cards are distributed to clients engaged in Department of Human Services safety net programs and other programs for low-income residents. Recipients include:

  • COVID-impacted households: Arlington Households hardest hit by the pandemic will receive gift cards for food and other necessities.
  • Children in Foster Care: Arlington has nearly 100 children in foster care. Your contribution of a gift card will help bring a happy holiday to these deserving kids. Most kids in foster care are teens, and it is nearly impossible to get the right gift for a teenager – so 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 on a fixed income. That’s the case for many older Arlingtonians and members of the community who have disabilities. Our aging and disability services specialists report that gift cards distributed through the Secret Santa program never fail to bring smiles to these vulnerable members of the community. We also distribute cards at the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence, which is home for 52 disabled Arlingtonians with low income.
  • Families with Low Incomes: For families struggling to put food on the table, having the money to purchase even modest holiday gifts is difficult. More than 3,500 households in Arlington receive food stamps right now which, for a family of four means they make less than $32,000 a year. For low-income households, gift cards from local grocery stores are a big help – and helping a parent buy a special gift for his or her child is priceless.
  • Teen Parents: Pregnant and parenting teens participating in the Arlington Public Schools’ Teenage Parenting Programs (TPP) receive gift cards to help provide gifts and items for their young children.

Gifts cards should not exceed $25 each, but you can submit as many as you like. Donations are generally tax deductible. Checks are welcome – please make them out to “Arlington County Treasurer – Secret Santa.” We will purchase gift cards with your donation.

Please remember to include a return mail address or e-mail address so we can send you a thank you note and a tax receipt!

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

Arlington Secret Santa/Holiday Giving Program uses a gift card model for several reasons:

  • Gift cards offer choices, which empowers the recipient. You can select the food you want, the style, color and size of clothes you want, or the perfect toy for your child.
  • The kindness of others is wonderful. But for many, receiving holiday presents from strangers can feel patronizing or demeaning.
  • In a low-income family, a child seeing that a gift comes from a parent strengthens family bonds.

How to be a Secret Santa

Submit by Mail:

  • Mail gift cards/checks by Dec. 24 to:
    Secret Santa Program c/o Kurt Larrick
    Department of Human Services
    2100 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor – FMB
    Arlington, VA 22204

Donate via Secure Credit Card Payment:

  • We now accept donations via credit card! We will convert your donation to gift cards for distribution to Arlington households. Click here to donate

Cards/checks/donations 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. Checks should be written to: Arlington County Treasurer – Secret Santa.

Include the value of the gift card (if it’s not printed on the card), a return address so we can acknowledge your gift and send a tax form, and a beneficiary designation if you choose one.

Please submit cards/checks by Dec. 24. Late-arriving cards/checks will still be accepted.

Questions? Contact Kurt Larrick at 703-228-1775.