7 Ways to Give Back and Make an Impact on Thanksgiving


As satisfying as a warm plate of roast turkey might be, nothing fills the heart up more on Thanksgiving than a newfound sense of gratitude and appreciation. And while that tenderness can stem from reminiscing with loved ones over a bountiful feast, it can also arise from giving back. If you’re seeking meaningful ways to volunteer and/or donate over this holiday, here are a few ideas on how to get involved.

Deliver meals to people in need.

If you like being behind the wheel, consider delivering meals to those in need. While there are tons of organizations that deliver meals on Thanksgiving, Meals on Wheels is a great option with local branches all over the country (search its website for nearby locations). Meal delivery is a great way to make an impactful contribution to your community and meet new people at the same time. Along with donating your time, you can donate food to your community’s branch, too. You can also reach out to your local Salvation Army or hospice organizations to see if they are in need of volunteers for meal delivery services.

Run in a Turkey Trot.

Looking to give back on Thanksgiving and burn a few calories while doing so? Enroll in a Turkey Trot race! There are tons of races that take place all over the country on this day, many of which benefit local charities and support good causes.

If you want to take part in the action but running isn’t exactly what you had in mind, you can also inquire about volunteering at these events!

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Serve dinner at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

When it comes to soup kitchens and homeless shelters serving meals on Thanksgiving, there are numerous ways to get involved. These facilities are often in need of volunteers to not only cook and serve the meal, but also collect the food and ensure there is enough to go around. Setting up the service area, greeting and seating visitors, and cleaning up afterward are also ways you can contribute. To search for these types of opportunities, call your local Salvation Army or visit VolunteerMatch. You can also check Craigslist or reach out to local churches in your area.

Send care packages to troops.

If you don’t have time to volunteer on Thanksgiving day, don’t fret – there are still plenty of ways you can get out and help. One option is putting together a few care packages and sending them to troops deployed overseas. You can also donate to the Homefront America’s“Giving Thanks to Heroes” program. This initiative provides Turkey Certificates to military families to go grocery shopping for their Thanksgiving dinners.

Donate to your local Food Bank.

Did you know one in eight Americans will face an empty plate this Thanksgiving? By donating to your local food bank, you can give the gift of meals and memories to families struggling with hunger. In fact, with every $1 you give, you help provide 11 meals through the Feeding America network of food banks. You can also reach out to your local food bank to find out which foods are needed through donation.

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Visit local residents in need.

Whether it’s through a conversation or simply being in the presence of others, sometimes there is nothing more meaningful than fulfilling someone’s yearning for connection. From nursing homes and veteran associations to hospitals and homeless shelters, the options are endless for making someone’s holiday more memorable and enjoyable. However, be sure to call ahead, as there may be specific hours visitors are allowed to stop by.

Don’t forget to help out within your own family, too.

If your Thanksgiving gathering is anything like my family’s, year after year, there is always that same small group of people who seem to take on most of the day’s preparation and serving. If that’s the case for you, consider switching things up this year. Whether it’s enlisting new helpers to orchestrate the grocery lists, cook the food, set the tables, or even take on most of the clean-up, what better way to show appreciation for these loved ones than by giving them a well-deserved break? This is a wonderful way to give thanks to your own family. (And a pro tip if you end up cooking the turkey: don’t forget it needs days to thaw out, not just a couple of hours!)

A few final suggestions . . .

The best way to get started is by volunteering or donating whatever and wherever you can. Whether that’s by collecting cans for your neighborhood food drive or distributing baked goods to people having to work on Thanksgiving (police officers, firefighters, animal-shelter staff, etc.), there is never a gesture that is too small.

If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and show some love, check out sites such as VolunteerMatch for local opportunities near you. You can even search on your phone via the app GiveGab to find ways to get involved based upon your interests, availability, etc. And remember: the more flexible you are in your role for the day, the more indispensable you will be as a volunteer!


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