For many families, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and to gather around a table filled with delicious food. They battle annoying relatives while breaking bread with them and discuss what they're thankful for this year, as well as plans for the holiday season ahead. But what about those who aren't as fortunate, or who had a tough year? (What if that's your family?) There is Thanksgiving help for families in need, if you know where to look. Because if you're one of those families, it isn’t easy during the holidays, much less every day.
From ages 4 through 18, I was involved in martial arts. I got my black belt at the age of 10, and four years later I was a second degree black belt. I was also an instructor at my karate studio all throughout high school. Why did I stick with it so long? Of course it was fun, but it was the the focus my studio placed on kindness, respect, and doing the right thing that really resonated with me... like how every year, we had a “kick-a-thon” and used the proceeds to deliver Thanksgiving dinner supplies to all the needy families in our community.
The day before Thanksgiving, students from the studio's three locations met to fill baskets full of turkeys, dressing mix, mashed potato mix, cranberry sauce and green beans for a Thanksgiving meal. Then each family would get a list of addresses, and we’d hand-deliver the food to each family. I’ll never forget the mom who was so touched she cried and invited us in to eat chitlins with her entire family. She was so incredibly grateful, and in turn, I was so thankful for what my family had and that we were able to help so many others.
Of course, your neighborhood might not have a kindly karate studio holding a kick-a-thon, but because of my experience growing up, I believe that kind people exist in every community. There are organizations working to feed families across the country this Thanksgiving. Use the following resources whether you're looking to help out or you're in need yourself this year.
1. Feeding America
Feeding America is a website that can help you find your local food banks. Local food banks will provide canned goods for Thanksgiving sides, and they're pretty well stocked — especially around the holidays.
2. Your Local Church
Almost all churches do some sort of community service or food drives for those in need all year round, but especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Look up all the local churches in your area and call their office to see if they're providing assistance.
A website providing information on where to find your local food pantry, this site will also help you find out how and where to get subsidized food.
Holiday Relief is an online community that supplies "knowledge about housing, financial planning, advice, articles, information, and other services that may be beneficial to hardship sufferers," according to their website. And that includes finding food, coupons and services for free or reduced-cost this Thanksgiving.
5. United Way
The United Way has been a valuable resources for decades. In fact, my local United Way is offering Thanksgiving dinners to families this year, and I bet yours is doing the same. Check out your local United Way website to see what's going on in your area. (They also have a 211 website.)
An organization providing emergency food assistance and help so that "millions of backyard gardeners easily find a local food pantry to donate their extra garden produce." That's a pretty awesome way to get some healthy food this Thanksgiving.
If you're fortunate enough to have food this year, but want to help those who don't, there are ways: You can always participate in a turkey trot, or volunteer at your local food bank (by donating or sorting) or soup kitchen, or just adopt a family in need. (If you're lucky, maybe you can do a "kick-a-thon" at a karate studio as helpful as mine.) But if you need help, please remember that there is no shame in asking, and there are dedicated people who will be there to guide you in your search.