Get in the Thanksgiving spirit with this week’s Voluntourism Spotlight. We’re releasing the column a day early to give you extra time to take advantage of the 10 ways we have for you to give back this Thanksgiving weekend and throughout the 2012 holiday season.
Whether you’re home or on the road this Thanksgiving, there are some amazing opportunities for holiday outreach. Your local food shelf is always a great place to start, as everyone in your community deserves at least one great meal every year. But there’s a lot more you can do. Get creative and don’t let state lines or international borders stop you. More often than not, that need is closer to home than you think, with more than 50.1 million reported Americans living in food-insecure households.
On a holiday that for many of us revolves around food, here are some of the best ways in the country to give back, before you give up your calorie count.
1. Turkey Trot
Speaking of calorie count, if you’re inclined to be active, do it for a cause. Virtually every city in America hosts a “Turkey Trot” or “Turkey Burn,” benefiting various organizations. Run for Epilepsy Research in Detroit, Michigan; The MS Society in Wilmington, Delaware; East Africa Energy Projects in Temecula, California; or Feeding the Hungry in Ithaca, New York…just to name a few.
If running is a little too ambitious for your holiday agenda, there are less physical but equally worthy activities out there too, like King’s “Bowl a Turkey for Charity” event in Boston, Massachusetts, benefiting the greater Boston Food Bank.
2. Help Hurricane Sandy victims
Mayor Bloomberg’s recent announcement that 5,000 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tickets will be given to families affected by Hurricane Sandy is definitely smile worthy, but there’s still an enormous need for volunteers to bring Thanksgiving to victims and press onward with recovery efforts. Among the most inspiring opportunities to get involved is the new Facebook Group “Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving: Adopt a Family for Dinner,” which matches up those with a few extra chairs at the table with the people who need it most. Tablesharing is another great site that is also open to away from home utility workers.
St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery and the Greenpoint Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen will host large-scale meals all week for displaced Sandy Victims. Both donations and volunteers are still needed. Volunteer Food Bank for NYC also needs help with meal distribution over the holiday week.
If you tend to collect hotel toiletries, The Bowery Mission is your match. They need travel-size toiletries along with winter clothing donations to make “Blessing Bags” to be given out on Thanksgiving Day.
3. Cook for international travelers
Show international travelers what Thanksgiving in the U.S. is all about. Hostelling International hosts Thanksgiving meals in many cities, like Austin, Texas, and is in need of volunteers to help create a “home-cooked” experience.
Organizations like Handmade for the Homeless in Boston, Massachusetts collect knit and crochet items for those in need. Bond with friends and family over crafting hats, scarves, socks, blankets or mittens, as donations to keep your neighbors warm this winter.
5. Support our troops
Make a care package for America’s armed forces and send it to an organization that takes care of delivery. Operation Minnesota Nice sends more than 314,379 pounds worth of care packages to over 6,307 service men or women who don’t have friends or family supporting them during the holiday season.
Operation Gratitude is another great organization putting together packages for troops over the holiday season. Follow them on Twitter @OpGratitude for updates.
6. Share your musical talents
Sometimes hope is the best meal you can feed someone. Join the 5th annual “Sing for Hope, Sing for Home” in NYC, a musical and meal served to over 300 homeless and elderly neighbors. New York City Services and Food for the Homeless are also partners of the event. Interested performers can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don’t have to be near Broadway to share your voice. Many small community events, such as the Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Windham, VT, are also seeking musically talented volunteers for their events this weekend.
7. Cook a little extra
Double up on desserts, turkey or hot dishes and bring them to a community meal event, like “Feed the Beach” in Venice Beaach, California, or the Union Station Potluck, dubbed the “Biggest Potluck in the Nation” which relies on thousands of volunteers to feed the greater Los Angeles Community.
8. Help at risk passengers
If you are overflowing with patience with a passion for travel, check out opportunities to volunteer at your local airport over the busy Thanksgiving weekend. Chicago O’Hare International Airport needs volunteers to help distressed, and at risk passengers travel safely. Email email@example.com for more information. Many airports, such as Cleveland Hopkins International Airport are also instituting ambassador programs seeking extra volunteers over the holidays. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or your home airport for more information.
Shop till you drop, or at least clean out your closet, and bring your clothes to the Bronx based Real Life Church, for their second annual Thanksgiving event. Guests enjoy dinner and then shop for free winter clothes donated by Dress for Success and the NYC Clothing Bank. Contact email@example.com.
The City Wide Club in Houston is also putting on a similar event. Search for an awesome clothing drive in your city, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find a home for your much needed fashion!
10. Customize your drive
If you have a great idea for outreach but can’t find the right outlet, You Give Goods is worth checking out. You can create your own drive and invite friends and family from all over the country to donate, and customize the recipient charity. It’s also a great resource to find volunteer opportunities near you as postings can be seen by anyone on the site.
For more volunteer options, check out:
- Donate Funds and Volunteer to Help Hurricane Sandy Victims
- Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding & Cleanup Volunteer Projects
- The Complete Voluntourism Archives
By Courtney Crockett for PeterGreenberg.com