Every year my neighborhood has an event called Santa's Mittens where we collect gently used winter items and toys to donate to needy families. Here are some photos from this year's event. See below for tips on organizing your own Santa's Mittens event.
How to organize a Santa's Mittens event
1.Find a Santa
Call your local volunteer fire department, Elk's Lodge, or other organization that might be able to provide a Santa for your event. Sometimes you have to supply a donation and in our case I believe it's under $200. Our neighborhood group covers the cost with our annual dues.
2. Rally the crowd
We live in a large neighborhood with an elementary school and park within walking distance of most home. We have a well-organized email list and we hold events several times a year like the July 4th parade. But you can rally a good group of people by working through your preschool, church, even your friends (tell them to bring friends).
3. Make it a cause
Everyone loves to give and providing them a venue just makes it easy. Just let them know what you are collectiong...canned goods, gently used coats, hats and mittens, or new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots. It's easy to find a group who can use the donations. Our elementary school collect the same donations and so we often just haul our 'loot' over there and they handle the distribution. Giving is easy!
4. Everyone pitches in
Ask the people coming to each bring something so that the organizer(s) don't have to do all the work. We break it out sometimes like this: A-L bring a snack, M-Z bring a beverage or craft item. Plus you can ask people to bring their coffee urns, space heaters, a few pieces of fire wood if you have a fire pit, etc. This way, the host only has to worry about clearing out their garage (we try to keep this an outside event) for table for the food, craft, and a heater or two for warmth.