5 Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities for You and Your Family

by: Steven Auger

For many people, Thanksgiving revolves around three activities; eating a large meal, watching football and Black Friday. It doesn't take much for the true meaning of Thanksgiving to get lost in the mix of what seems like a never-ending To Do List of holiday preparation. Take a few moments to ponder what you're truly thankful for, and in the spirit of the season, ask yourself how you can volunteer your time to give back to your community. Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities are as plentiful as turkey and stuffing. Here are five common ones that will benefit those who need help.

More: 5 Family Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year

Turkey Trots

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

Road races on Thanksgiving morning, such as the Feaster Five, are always popular events, whether you're a hard-core runner or just looking for a chance to burn a few pre-meal calories. The entry fees associated with a Turkey Day race usually benefit various charitable organizations. You're making a difference in the community simply by pounding the pavement. Not a runner? No problem. Races always need volunteers willing to man water stations, help with race-day registration and various other tasks.

Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for those who struggle to simply put food on the table. That's why soup kitchens are so vital to communities. But they can't do it alone. Volunteers play critical roles when it comes to serving meals, stocking pantry shelves, sorting perishables, and helping accept donations.

Food pantries are extremely busy at this time of year, as well, packing boxes with frozen turkeys and all the trimmings so families that are down on their luck can celebrate Thanksgiving at home. They need plenty of help collecting donations and packing up food stuffs. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or food shelter is a wonderful way to help those less fortunate and to show your children what it truly means to give back.

More: 10 Ways to Give Thanks This Thanksgiving

Toy Collection

Thanksgiving is the official kick-off to the holiday season, and all the gift-giving that comes with it. Sadly, many parents can't afford to buy toys for their children. That's where you can make a difference for not a lot of money. When you hit the mall with your gift shopping list in tow, pick up an extra present or two to donate and simply drop it off at specified locations. The charity will take care of wrapping it and donating it to families in need. If you don't have the funds to donate a toy, contact the organization to see if they need help collecting toys or wrapping gifts.

Homeless Shelters

homeless shelter

Homelessness is a serious problem throughout the country. It can be especially harsh in the cold winter months that accompany Thanksgiving's arrival. And while no one person can solve homelessness, there are ways you can help. Homeless shelters always need coat and clothing donations. Have your family clean out their closets to donate lightly-worn clothes. Better yet, organize a neighborhood clothing drive to see how many of your neighbors are willing to pitch in. Toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, razors, soap, shampoo and feminine hygiene products are gladly accepted. You can also volunteer your time at a homeless shelter to accept and organize donations or serve a hot meal to those in need.

Senior Communities

While the holidays are a time of joy and cheer for many, others find them to be lonely. Seniors who don't have a lot of family or friends tend to fall into that category. Nothing would cheer them up more than having a friendly face to talk to and spend some time with. Contact local senior communities to inquire about volunteer opportunities.

Volunteering your time is a great way to bond as a family. Find an opportunity in your community. Not only will you get off the couch and out of the food coma, you'll meet and help some great people in the process.