The Christmas tree at the Oregon State Capitol (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

It's cold, days are short and holiday lights are going up around Salem. If you're looking to make the darkest part of the year a little brighter for local families in need, we've rounded up a list of ways you can help, whether you're into extreme couponing, have extra soap lying around or want to wrap gifts.

Toy and gift drives

Many local schools are collecting items or gifts to help students in need. Community members can adopt families in need at these schools, or bring in specific items mentioned. Gift cards are popular items for teens in middle and high school. Schools are collecting items through Dec. 20 unless otherwise noted.

Battle Creek Elementary (clothing, shoes, diapers, art supplies, Lego, books by Dec. 11)

Claggett Creek Middle School (hoodies, other teen gifts by. Dec. 12)

Clear Lake Elementary (snacks like granola bars, Goldfish, pretzels by Dec. 18)

Four Corners Elementary School (coffee, food, store gift cards, winter coats, gloves and hats by Dec. 16)

McNary High School (food, presents and clothes)

Schirle Elementary School (adopt a family)

South Salem High School ($20 gift cards, by Dec. 13)

Stephens Middle School (adopt a family by Dec. 17)

Sumpter Elementary School (food and gifts for boxes by Dec. 12)

Waldo Middle School (winter clothes, sweat pants)

Salem Police are hosting their 33rd annual toy drive, collecting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 10. Donations can be dropped off at the police station in downtown Salem, or at participating local businesses. More information is on the city website.

Families starting over after fleeing domestic violence often struggle to afford the basics. Through the Center for Hope and Safety, you can adopt a family who’s currently staying in their domestic violence shelter or has recently moved out. You’ll be asked to shop using a wishlist from the family and spend no more than $50 per person. Call the Center at 503-378-1572 to be matched with a family.

CASA of Polk County is collecting toys for Polk County children in foster care through Dec. 15. Donations can be dropped off at several locations in Dallas and West Salem. Visit the CASA website for more information.

Grab a tag from a Community Giving Tree to get a gift for someone staying at a Union Gospel Mission shelter. Each tag has a gift listed for around $25. Bring the unwrapped gift back to the location you got the tag. Trees are up at Copy Cats West Salem, Phiz Spa, Salem Health, Court Street Christian Church and Courthouse Fitness locations in south Salem, west Salem, Battle Creek and Lancaster.

Salem Firefighters Local 314 is collecting unwrapped toys at all 11 Salem fire stations. Firefighters will also collect toys and cash donations to help local kids in need on Dec. 14 at the south Salem Fred Meyer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Christmas in the Garden (Courtesy/ The Oregon Garden)

Buy a wreath

A local farmworker women’s cooperative, Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas/Women in the Struggle for Progress, is selling wreaths at Salem’s Alternative Christmas Market at First United Methodist Church over the weekend. Grab a wreath for $35 or shop for other items Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Donate food or supplies

Visitors to the Keizer Miracle of Christmas display in the Gubser neighborhood can bring food or cash donations for Marion Polk Food Share from Dec. 6-26. The food bank’s most wanted items are peanut butter, shelf-stable dairy (like almond milk or boxed milk), tuna fish, canned/shelf stable fruit, and grains like oatmeal or cereal. Cash also helps because the food bank can purchase food at a significant discount.

Hallman Elementary School is hosting a canned food drive through Dec. 13.

Stephens Middle School students are collecting toys for kids 18 and under at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital through Dec. 17.

Members of the National Junior Honor Society at Crossler Middle School are hosting a 12 Days of Christmas giving challenge, collecting a different item like shampoo or deodorant each day until Dec. 20. Check out a full list here.

Santiam Outreach Community Center is collecting blankets (new or clean and used) for people without shelter. Drop donations off Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 280 Santiam Boulevard.

Epic Fitness is collecting pajamas for its annual pajama drive through Dec. 16. Donated items benefit Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Polk & Yamhill County, Family Building Blocks, Center for Hope & Safety, Connections365 and Simonka Place. They’ve already surpassed a goal of 500 sets of pajamas, so if you know a worthy cause that could use a cozy set of clothes, reach out to them.

Union Gospel Mission needs food for holiday meals, including hams, sweet potatoes, pies, fruit, dinner rolls, olives, potatoes and green beans. They’re also collecting twin-sized blankets, pillows, warm coats and hats, disposable razors, deodorant and diapers. Drop off items at the Mission, 345 Commercial Street NE.

Volunteer

The Keizer Network of Women needs help the evenings of Dec. 11, 12 and 14 to sort food, wrap donated gifts and deliver baskets. Learn more and sign up on the group’s Facebook page. 4101 River Rd N in Keizer, starting at 6 p.m.

The Center for Hope and Safety needs volunteers to provide food for Christmas meals. Volunteers can bring food to the Center's office, and staff will take it to the shelter. Call the center at 503-378-1572 for more information.

This article was updated to clarify the Center for Hope and Safety's need for food.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.