As Thanksgiving approaches, you’re probably thankful for many things in your life. And naturally, these feelings of gratitude might cause you to think about those less fortunate and motivate you to make the holiday more meaningful. So if you want to do something to help others (and make a positive impact in someone's life), consider looking at places to volunteer on Thanksgiving.
No matter where you choose to volunteer, one thing is for sure: You will need to be strong in the face of seeing such adversity. While it’s hard not to feel sorry for those who may have fallen on hard times, it’s best to put on a brave front and do whatever needs to be done (and hold back your tears until later).
Before you head on over to your nearest shelter or soup kitchen, you should also call first. Since there are so many people (like yourself), who might want to help out, these places probably need more help throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving. That shouldn't deter you from volunteering, though, since many places are in desperate need of help during the holiday season. In the meantime, read on to determine which would be the best place to volunteer — and help spread an attitude of gratitude along the way.
1. Soup Kitchen
Since Thanksgiving is truly a food-driven holiday, volunteering at a soup kitchen is a no-brainer. Contact your local kitchen to see how you can help. More than half of all soup kitchens need volunteers to help, reported Feeding America. It might be to serve up sides, do food prep, or clean up. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and assist where needed. And since there’s strength in numbers, see if you can recruit some members of your family to help for maximum impact.
2. Nursing Home
Volunteers are always needed at nursing homes, and Thanksgiving is an especially important time to pitch in. You could do anything from cook food to help patients who might need some assistance to eat their meals. But there are other ways you can make Thanksgiving more memorable when you volunteer at a nursing home. For example, if you’re artistically inclined, you can always help entertain the residents by singing a song, drawing or painting a picture, or just sitting down and socializing with them. Reach out to a nursing home in your area to see about scheduling an opportunity to volunteer.
3. Senior Center
Your local senior center may or may not be closed on Thanksgiving, so it’s a good idea to call ahead to find out what their hours are. If they’re open, you might be tasked with meal prep and service. You may even be tasked to be the designated driver and drop off meals to home-bound seniors in your area. In some locations, the senior center might also be the home to your town’s food pantry, so you might be responsible for running that on Thanksgiving, too.
4. Food Pantry
Food pantries can go by several names — food shelves, food banks, or food help. But no matter what it’s called, the mission is always the same: feed those in need. That’s what makes a food pantry a great place to volunteer on Thanksgiving. Depending on the needs of the day, you might find yourself sorting through food to check expiration dates or discard damaged goods. You may even be asked to pack up some products and deliver them to families in need or a local soup kitchen. Foodpantries.org is a great place to locate a pantry in your area and learn what you’ll need to help out.
5. Homeless Shelter
Spend part of Thanksgiving Day at a homeless shelter, where you can make a big impact by offering your time and talent. You might cook meals, offer support, or even help people find clean new clothes to wear. You might be on dish duty, or even assist by teaching job or parenting skills to those in need. You can find more info at Volunteer Match, where you can help homeless families to find a warm meal — and a kind ear.
It’s heartwarming to want to help on Thanksgiving. But since many places are inundated with volunteers on Turkey Day, you might want to think about the other 364 days to volunteer, when help is truly needed. That’s something that everyone can be thankful for.
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