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How to Volunteer to Help Others During Thanksgiving

Updated on November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving is a time to look back on our year and be thankful for everything that we have done and for the things we have. To be thankful for family and friends and for the coming year that everyone will be spending together (or apart) and healthy.

Although Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, there are some people who don't have the family and friends to share their days with. They don't have the warm place to sleep or the hot meal to eat. From children to adults there is always someone out there in need and volunteering is a great way to reach as many of those in need that you can.

There are many different ways to volunteer. In soup kitchens, delivering meals, visiting people in need or taking on the big Thanksgiving dinner at your own house, there's always something to volunteer for.

Ham! | Source

Volunteering in a soup kitchen

In most cities across America there is a place for the homeless to go to eat. These places are soup kitchen and during the holiday seasons they get more people than any other time of year. Because of this they might be in need of more volunteers. To find out which soup kitchen is located in your area look online, in the phone book, call information or ask your city or town clerk.

Once you found a kitchen to help in there are a few things you should know or do:

  • You can organize more people to join you in volunteering such a family, friends, or an organization like the church, school, or military groups.
  • You need to understand that the soup kitchen will need a lot of help in other areas besides serving or helping with the food. There are donations that need picked up, inventory that needs done, food that needs sorted and stored, setting up the tables for the meals, and cleaning.
  • Include your children if the soup kitchen will allow children to help.
  • Remember the soup kitchen might need help all year long so if you enjoyed your Thanksgiving volunteering you might want to sign up to volunteer more often.

Delivering Meals

To volunteer to deliver meals you will need to look for organizations that bring Thanksgiving meals to people in need. Meals on Wheels have just such organizations around the country. Could you imagine the look on the face of a person who has just received a whole Thanksgiving dinner when they couldn't afford one.

Visiting people in need

Although Thanksgiving is a time of getting together with family and friends and being thankful for everything you have in life, there are some people who have no one or nothing. Visiting people is a great way to spread holiday cheer and to give those without a great Thanksgiving. Some of the places that you can go visit are:

  • Hospitals - Ask if there is someone who may be in need of company on Thanksgiving. You might even consider taking along a small gift like a teddy bear to help improve their day as a patient in the hospital.
  • Nursing homes - There are always people in nursing homes that are often left alone during the holidays. Most of the elderly are willing to sit and chat or just listen to music or watch a movie with someone. Again, consider bringing a small gift for them as they can more then likely keep it in their room or with them.
  • Orphanages - As sad as it is, there are children all around the world without family during the holidays. Most children in group homes could use a little extra spirit during the holiday season. Call a local orphanage and see if it's OK to stop by and ask if there is anything you might be able to bring for the kids such as new games, books, clothes, hats, gloves, etc. Nothing makes the holidays brighter then the smile on a child face.

The kids' Thanksgiving dinner plate.
The kids' Thanksgiving dinner plate. | Source

Volunteer to have family and friends over to your house for Thanksgiving dinner

One of the best things to do during Thanksgiving is to have family and friends come to your house for that amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

Things you will need for your dinner:

  • A large dinner table or plenty of seating for all your guests to sit down at one time.
  • A table cloth or two depending on how many tables you use.
  • Candles - because everything is better with candles. Just make sure they are out of the reach of the little ones and are sturdy enough they won't fall over.
  • Wine glasses (a must in my house).
  • Fine cutlery. You don't want to use plastic silverware.
  • Dinner plates and salad plates or bowls depending on how you are doing dinner.
  • Dessert plates or bowls because you can't have Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie, apple crisp or some other sort of dessert.
  • Coffee mugs.
  • And of course don't forget all the food!

Some tips, warnings to help volunteer

A few tips on Thanksgiving and what you might be able to do for those in need.

  • Send care packages to troops that are overseas. Most places do a Thanksgiving dinner for the troops but it's always nice to get that special "Thank You" from people back home. Need ideas for care packages? Check out Care Package Ideas For Soldiers for some great ideas.

Just some things you should do before you volunteer

  • Call before you bring your children to an event. If it's helping with dinner at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen they might not allow minors to be in the kitchen or serve food due to safety regulations. Better safe than sorry.
  • Brush up on your knowledge about food allergies. Once you get to your place of volunteering, talk to the people in charge and ask them what they do about food allergies and make sure to follow their instructions.
  • Timing is everything. Overcooking is easy when you have a lot of comotion in your home and you take your eye off things. Make sure you set a timer. One you can carry with you in case you are out of the room when the food needs to be checked.
  • If there is going to be drinking, make sure everyone has a safe way of getting home.


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    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      leahlefler - I'm so glad you were able to have a great Thanksgiving with your neighbors. Next year we are planning on hosting for all our friends. It is going to be a great time! Thanks so much for the comment :)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      CassyLu, these are wonderful tips. We were the recipients of our neighbor's gracious invitation, and it made our Thanksgiving so much better. I was recovering from emergency surgery, and we had no family in the area. Their invitation made our Thanksgiving a wonderful experience, and we were SO grateful for the invite!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      teaches12345 - I'm so glad you were able to help your church this year :) I have always loved the feeling of helping those in need! Thanks for the comment :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      There is not better way to give meaning to Thanksgiving than to volunteer. We helped our church bake pumpkin bread and prepare meals to the needy. It was so rewarding to know how others would benefit from it all. Wonderful post!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Mhatter99 - That's great you were a volunteer as a dish washer. There is help needed in all areas, espically this time of year. Thanks for all you did for them :) And of course thanks for the comment :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for raising awareness. When I was well, I was the volunteer dish washer at Glide's Kitchen (for the homeless).

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      eurpoewalker - Nursing homes have been a favorite of mine when it comes to volunteering (since I did work in one and saw how many people didn't have family or friends come visit). And you are right, they are very happy to have the company! Thanks for reading, the comment and the votes!

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

      Very useful hub with great ideas. People in nursing homes would really appreciate a visit. Some of them never get visitors and they would be so happy just to have someone spend a little time with them. Well done CassyLu, voted up and useful:)

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      tillsontitan - I'm glad I got some suggestions you hadn't thought of :) Thanks for the votes and the comment about my pic :) Figured it was time to change (it has been a year since I started writing after all!)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      You've made some good points and provided some suggestions I know I didn't think of! Great job. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      BTW love your new profile pic! Happy Thanksgiving.