Think creatively and do all you can to soften the blow for a family that's fallen on hard times.
Step 1: Arrange to cover food Arrange to shop and pay for groceries for a family in need at Christmas. Bring over dinner to help out.
Step 2: Volunteer transportation Volunteer to supply basic transportation needs. Pitch in by walking their kids to and from school. Or tutor, counsel, or entertain them to give the parents time to sort things out.
Step 3: Give cash or employment Give cash or offer to lend them money to pay bills, if you have the means, especially if it will help them keep their car or hold on to their home.
TIP: Co-sign for a loan, but carefully consider the legal and financial implications.
Step 4: Offer to take them in Offer to take in, feed, and protect kids for a while if you can afford it and the rest of your household agrees. During Christmas, try to find room for the whole family for a couple of weeks so they can stay together.
Step 5: Provide services Provide services -- do their laundry, cut their lawn, or shovel their snow, repair things, or give haircuts to ease the burden.
Step 6: Guide them to professional help Guide them to employment agencies, debt counselors, welfare services, or short-term lenders.
Step 7: Find shelters Help them find homeless shelters for housing or financial support in the short term. Be creative and make it a merry Christmas for everyone.
FACT: The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2008 that the poverty rate had risen to over 13 percent, an increase of 2.5 million people since the year before.