Why not spread holiday cheer by putting a smile on the face of a child in need?

For those who want to get involved, here are some area charities that offer an opportunity to help:

Christmas Commandos

This stealthy nonprofit's mission is to bring joy and presents to area children who have recently suffered the loss of a parent.

The organization first came to the Lowcountry in 1998 and has since served the tri-county area by dropping off presents in front yards and hanging them from the trees of families in need.

Every year, guidance counselors, hospice centers and other groups nominate children for the program.

"What makes it so intimate is we're able to garner great information about the children. Will they need a warm jacket? Will they need new shoes? If they've lost a mom, sometimes it's not noticed that they need new shoes," said Stacy Dalton Hamburger, one of the organization's founders.

The Commandos work under the cloak of darkness, completing their mission beginning at midnight on Christmas Eve. With police escorts by their sides, members work quickly to move from house to house, only allowing themselves 60 seconds on each property.

The Commandos say they aren't out for name recognition. They don't even leave so much as a card drawing attention to their presence.

"Some children perceive it (the presents) as a drop from heaven because they've just lost a parent. I guess the point is, even as an older child, you'll perceive it the way that you need to perceive it at the time," Hamburger said.

For more information on Christmas Commandos, visit www.christmascommandos.com or call 216-8325 for volunteer opportunities.

Families Helping Families

The joy that comes from one family's support of another can be a great lesson to share with children during the holidays.

For the Palmetto Project's Families Helping Families, sponsors cater gifts specific to the needs of an adopted family.

"They (sponsors) get a profile of the family that needs assistance, so they'll have shoe sizes, sweater sizes and a wish list. ... You can always tell that a family is in trouble if a kid is asking for a coat or a blanket. Kids don't usually do that unless they're scared," said Palmetto Project's Executive Director Steve Skardon.

Sponsors come in many forms, including civic and community groups, classrooms and families.

And those who don't have time to shop can still help out through monetary donations, Skardon said.

"It's really remarkable because we've had a very positive response. ... You wouldn't know that the economic times are hard because people are very generous in South Carolina," Skardon said.

For more information visit www.fhfcharleston.org.

Children's Center

By partnering with the Department of Social Services, area police, school districts and other groups, social workers at the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center work to keep children safe from abuse.

The nonprofit holds a toy drive during the holidays to support the children it cares for as well as their siblings.

This year, the center is providing for 95 children through the age of 18, the organization's Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator Caroline Smith said.

Smith said the organization receives the majority of toy donations at its annual event, The Gathering of the Elves, but that monetary donations are a big help.

The nonprofit recently used a $1,200 donation from the Choate Construction Company of Mount Pleasant to purchase gifts specifically for teens, such as purses, wallets and movie passes.

"A lot of people forget about the teens when they donate toys. We see children all the way up to 18, so that donation helped us go out and shop with them in mind," Smith said.

For more information about the DNLCC, visit www.dnlcc.org or reach Caroline Smith at 723-3600.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.