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10 Ways To Give Back To Your Community This Thanksgiving

Do some good from home this year.

by Nina Kahn and JR Thorpe
Originally Published: 
A food kitchen organizes a Thanksgiving Meal. These ideas for charities and ways to give back during...
Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post/Getty Images

Between eating until you drop on Thanksgiving day, shopping online on Black Friday, and washing it all down with one more money-spending reprise on Cyber Monday, let's just say this holiday week can easily become one of excess. It's easy to forget that Thanksgiving is kind of about giving thanks, right? Brainstorming Thanksgiving charity ideas and ways to give back can help you start the season of giving by sharing gratitude for your local community.

While the true history of Thanksgiving is pretty incongruous with the values associated with it today, you — yes, you — have the power to use Thanksgiving to help equalize the societal imbalances that kicked off with that first Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas for ways to donate within your community for Thanksgiving, as well as other ways to give back to those in need.

Open Your Wallet

Giving back can be as simple as making a monetary donation to an organization that's working to make a difference. And it's a way to do good while socially distancing from others. If you're in a position to do so, give some funds to an nonprofit organization or other agency that's doing work on an issue you care about near you. Do some research on your own and use a third-party site like to help you know where your money's going.

Turn Your Thanksgiving Into A Food & Clothing Drive

Instead of having an in-person Thanksgiving this year, why not tell your would-be guests to gather a nonperishable food item, lightly used clothes, shoes or blankets that they no longer need, unopened personal hygiene products, sealed face masks, or other useful items — then drop them off at a local shelter or homeless organization? It's a super simple way for people to de-clutter their closets and cabinets while also helping others. Make sure to do your research on the best procedures to give to shelters near you; due to COVID, some may prefer monetary donations.

Support The Homeless Population

The homeless community has grown in 2020 due to the economic crisis, according to the Pulitzer Center, and is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. And with the weather getting colder by the day, this issue becomes even more pressing than it already is. Consider donating to an org like National Alliance To End Homelessness, which helps to prevent homelessness through legal advocacy. You can also connect with local organizations helping unhoused people in your town or city.

Help Feed The Hungry

Did you know that five million children face hunger in the U.S. in 2020? It's not exactly an uplifting fact to think about when you're about to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast — and that's exactly what should compel you to take action. Donate to a charity like No Kid Hungry or Feeding America to help ensure everyone has food on their plate.

Volunteer On Thanksgiving Day

If you want to forego some of the typical indulgences of Thanksgiving in favor of doing some IRL volunteer work, good on you — and there are plenty of great ways to get involved. Organizations like Volunteer Match can link you up with tons of volunteer opportunities in your area, so check out their Thanksgiving listings. Whether you're volunteering in person or online, it's a great use of your time.

Participate In Giving Tuesday

Even if you do up the whole Thanksgiving week in a state of pure "eat/drink/spend money," you can still give back by participating in Giving Tuesday — an annual event that takes place the day after Cyber Monday and is all about making donations to charity. Partners include T-Mobile and PayPal, but a lot of local organizations take part too; research who's signed up in your area.

Do Grocery Shopping For A Vulnerable Person

People who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 may be pretty isolated during the holiday season, both emotionally and logistically. Groups like Shopping Angels are using volunteers to grocery shop for at-risk people this Thanksgiving season. You can sign up to be an Angel or donate to help their efforts. You can also look up your local mutual aid to see if they're organizing similar ways to help your neighbors.

Fund A Turkey Drive

Everybody deserves a delicious meal on Thanksgiving — but not everybody gets one. Operation Turkey operates across the U.S. to give Thanksgiving meals to thousands; they're 100% volunteer-run, and in 2020 their goal is to feed 75,000 people. You can volunteer in person to pack and distribute food, or stay home and donate or buy some of their merch.

Support Medics Fighting COVID-19

This holiday a lot of people will be in hospital battling COVID-19 rather than feasting with their families — and medical staff will be on the front lines. Hospitals across the country, like Johns Hopkins, have donation appeals so you can fund PPE and support for medical staff. Check out your local hospital or medical center to see how you can donate PPE or even fund a meal.

Give Blood

This doesn't sound very holiday-like, but it's badly needed right now. During the pandemic, hospitals are putting out the call for blood and plasma donations. Whether you're already registered as a blood donor or it's your first time, this could be a life-saving gift to other people this Thanksgiving. Check out the Red Cross to find local blood drives.

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