If your finances and time don't allow you to be an elf. There are many great alternatives.
There are many organizations, and elves who would love the assistance.
Larger organizations are always looking for people to volunteer time, to help in different ways. These can be anything thing from packing baskets, serving food, passing out baskets, picking up donations, filling or even delivering baskets. Great places to check are Salvation Army, Good Will, Churches, Food Banks, or contact the local United Way for a list of agencies.
If time is short buy something and donate it. What makes
an Assistant Elf different from the normal person who does this is the
style we do it.
First - Contact the local food bank to see if they have made any arrangements to buy in bulk. Some have now set up deals where they can buy at wholesale or less. If this is the case, money maybe the best choice, since they will be able to get more for the dollar than you can.
If the food bank has not set-up for bulk purchase, go to the local store and pick out nonperishable items. Try to pick out foods your family likes, and a few treats. Also many food banks will also distribute non eatable items, like napkins, paper towels, dish soap...
Toys - Rather than clean out our kid's closet of the toys he no longer plays with, we buy new toys that are popular. They don't have to be expensive just neat. If you would like to wrap it, tie on a tag that states the contents of the package so that it will given to the appropriate age and gender. After all most boys won't want a Barbie Doll. If you buy something that requires batteries, or assembly include the batteries, or the tools required to assemble. Another fun thing is to do Christmas Stockings. Find a nice large stocking, and fill it with some of the classic toys. Depending on the material the stocking is made of, from either tape it or whip stitch it shut, so that the contents won't fall out. Be sure to list its contents.
Things to watch out for
Don't bake it yourself, most agencies will appreciate the thought, however with the various health regulations, may not be allowed to use it.
Buy perishables only, if the food bank has given you the
guidelines for this type of donation.
Check to make sure it works (if applicable ).
Check for age group, this is especially important for some stuffed animals that appear to be for younger children, but have small parts that could be dangerous. These can still be purchased, just tag it for Ages 3+.
Don't buy last years left overs, yes many of these toys may still be cool. However some aren't, if in doubt, find a kid in the store and ask his/her opinion.
Be careful of toys that will need additional items later. If the toy has a consumable item, add a few extras. Such as with Matel's fun flowers, buy some extra goop, or with a spin art kit, some extra paint.
Nothing is worse than half a toy. Some things just don't stand alone. If you buy coloring books, you need to buy crayons.
Batteries batteries and more batteries, most now come with expiration dates on them. Buy fresh, and buy extras. Be sure you have the right size!