Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, because my family growing up and my own little family now chooses to view and celebrate this day as a day of gratitude, love, and community. Yes, my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese casserole, my dad’s famous mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and my husband’s and my delicious turkey certainly help cement this holiday as my favorite. But it’s important to me, and to my family, that we really reflect and give thanks for everything we have, as well as think of ways to give back on Thanksgiving. Whether this means donating money online, physically going to a shelter or food bank to organize and/or pass out food, or bringing items to your local homeless shelter or women’s shelter, there’s endless things you can do to help.
There are so many families struggling this year — and every year — to put food on the table in general, much less a Thanksgiving feast. There are also many families with sick family members and children in the hospital, and many dogs and cats thrown back into shelters because people realized now that animals are a big responsibility. So I’ve provided a list of 12 ways to give back on Thanksgiving, just to get you started. So while you’re enjoying your meal and family time, I hope you reflect on your many blessings and perhaps be inspired to spread the love, kindness, and blessings upon others on this holiday.
1 Volunteer Match
If you're looking for somewhere to start but are unsure where to begin, check out the
Volunteer Match website. There you can type in your city, state, and zip code and different opportunities will be generated near you. There are all sorts of opportunities, but you can choose opportunities based on different categories, including seniors, animals, arts and culture, education, children, and more. 2 The United Way
With nearly 1,800 local United Ways around the world, you'll absolutely find a way to help a family in need by browsing the
United Way 211 website. This incredible website assists you in your search for donation opportunities in your area, including Toys for Tots for Christmas. 3 Feeding America Find your local food banks via the Feeding America website. The Feeding America website can help you locate local food banks so you can give back on Thanksgiving by donating canned goods and other non-perishables to food banks near you. 4 Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS)
If you’re already in the holiday spirit and want to ensure kids in need receive toys for Christmas, check out your local DCFS website, call their number, and ask for a staff member to pair you with a child to shop for. The staff member will bring the gifts back to the office and deliver them to the children.
"A lot of churches do this, but we always have a good number of community members that want to help out," Holly Line, the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services Fayette County director tells Romper. "There are a few families that do it every Christmas — they try to get matched with children that are their children’s ages and they all go together as a family."
5 Help an Elderly Neighbor
Offer to take your elderly neighbor to the grocery store or even ask if they can give you their list of items so you can go shopping for them for the holidays. Make them a plate for Thanksgiving if you know they’ll be alone. Or even better, invite them over for dinner at your home.
7 Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
I know from experience that local animal shelters are overcrowded and underfunded. It would mean a lot to the volunteers at the shelters, but especially the animals, if you took a day over the weekend to help walk dogs, feed animals, clean kennels, or even just snuggle with the sad dogs and cats who are probably scared and confused. Who knows, you may leave with a new best friend and family member.
I can guarantee every church in your neighborhood has some sort of drive going on for the holidays, whether for people in the community at large, or for folks in their own congregations that need some holiday cheer. And if you live in the south, I bet there are at least 10 churches within a 5-mile radius. Many denominations have a charity website where you can find out who to donate to directly, including the
Catholic Charities USA website. 9 Cradles to Crayons
With a three-step model,
Cradles to Crayons provides kids with all the essentials they need. Toys and other donations are collected through community drives, then the items are processed by volunteers in a warehouse. And finally the packages from "The Giving Factory" are distributed to local children who are in need. Check out their website and click on the “Donate” tab to see how you can help give back on Thanksgiving. 10 Your Local Women and Children's Shelter
You can find emergency shelters, transitional housing, domestic abuse shelters, and family shelters near you who I'm sure would love donations via
womenshelters.org. The website allows you to easily search for shelters near you by city and state, as well as provides updated information on new shelters popping up around you, so you’ll definitely be able to find somewhere to give back on Thanksgiving. 11 Cards for Hospitalized Kids
Cards for Hospitalized Kids is a non-profit organization that collects cards and distributes to children in hospitals and Ronald McDonald Centers around the country,” per a Romper article. “Simply create your cards (see their website for helpful info) and mail to their address; they'll take care of the rest,” the article says. 12 Ampleharvest.org
emergency food assistance and help so that "millions of backyard gardeners easily find a local food pantry to donate their extra garden produce." Click on the “make a donation tab” on their website to support this incredible organization to give back on Thanksgiving.