How to Make Your Thanksgiving More Meaningful
Connection and meaning are critical to the human experience. Here are a few ideas to bring thanks and giving to your day.
10 Ways to Give Back for Thanksgiving
- Walk or run in a Turkey Trot
- Serve food at a soup kitchen
- Host a Thanksgiving potluck or open house
- Volunteer with Meals on Wheels
- Visit nursing home patients
- Send a thank you letter to a solider overseas
- Collect pet supplies for your local shelter
- Help out a single parent
- Participate in #GivingTuesday
- Commit random acts of kindness
Walk or Run in a Turkey Trot
Participating in a Thanksgiving Day walk/run fundraiser is a healthy, fun tradition for the whole family. Each year we don our turkey hats, bundle up and hit the road with 7,000 other volunteers in our town. The run is in the morning so we're not too full to move and we have plenty of time left in the day to roast the turkey and prepare the sides. Joining with others makes the day feel much more special and the pace setters help us to do our best. Entrance fees go to support diabetes research.
There are many organizations that sponsor Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving. Here are a few of the top races in the country to start you off:
- Dana Point Turkey Trot, Dana Point, CA
- Run To Feed The Hungry, Sacramento, CA
- Manchester Road Race, Manchester, CT
- Atlanta Half Marathon, Atlanta, GA
- New Orleans Athletic Day Club Turkey Race Day, New Orleans, LA
- Feaster Five Road Race, Andover, MD
- Plymouth Turkey Trot, Plymouth, MA
- Fifth Third Turkey Trot, Detroit, MI
- Fast Before The Feast, White Bear Lake, MN
Serve Food at a Soup Kitchen
Our local soup kitchen, PADS (Public Action To Deliver Shelter), always needs people to help cook, serve and clean on Thanksgiving. They also accept families so you can get your kids involved. You are not expected to do it all. Love to cook? Sign up for that. Want to have a closer connection to the people you are helping? Choose to serve. No one likes to clean up. I'm sure they'd delighted if you volunteered for that.
Don't have any extra time on Thanksgiving? Many soup kitchens, including PADS, accept food donations including home baked. Get the kids to help you make a couple of pumpkin pies and I guarantee it is something they will carry forward into their adult lives. Always call beofre you drop off any food to see what items/baked goods they need.
Host a Thanksgiving Potluck or Open House
No statistics are kept on the number of people facing the holidays alone. Maybe the elderly woman on the corner who just lost her husband has nowhere to go. Maybe that single mom or dad has to work and the kids are home alone, left to supervise each other and not fight. Maybe your neighbor just recently got divorced and doesn't know what to do with this year. Loneliness is an easy fix for you. Invite them over.
If you decide to host an open house, make it easy on yourself. Have it catered or buy the turkey already cooked and supplement with sides and appetizers from your local gourmet grocery. Potlucks are relatively inexpensive to host and give you the opportunity to try new foods and dishes you might not have thought of.
Get the kids involved. Have them design and decorate the invitations. Handmade invitations can be inexpensive and most people find them touching.
Make clean up easy on yourself and celebrate with holiday-themed paper plates, cups and tablecloths. Giving back should be joyous not a burden.
Volunteer With Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a national organization that delivers food to homebound seniors. If you have a little time and a good-sized car, top off the tank and start delivering meals. Give yourself plenty of time to chat and really get to know the person you're helping. According to an American Medical Association study, almost 2,000,000 seniors are homebound. There is plenty of need to go around.
Not interested in driving? They also need help preparing and packaging meals. Volunteers can also call seniors and check in with them to make sure they are OK. The only prerequisite is that you need a phone.
Visit Nursing Home Patients
According to Volunteer Match, 60% of nursing home residents receive no visitors during the year. Alone is a terrible way to spend your "golden" years. Why not pay a visit to your local nursing home and spend some time chatting with someone who wants the company?
Call your local nursing home and ask if anyone there would like some company on the holiday. Pack the kids up in the car. Bring some books, magazines, flowers, cards or other boards games or anything that would really brighten their day. Possibly the nursing home would have an idea of what to bring. Spend a little time really getting to know them. Play some cards. Maybe watch a DVD. The company you keep is really the thing here and it can cost you nothing but a little bit of your time.
Consider also visiting a home for the disabled. Many of the disabled who are over 50 really have no one left and can't get out on their own so company really brightens their day. Do call and clear it with the facility first.
Send a Thank You Letter to a Soldier Overseas
Operation Gratitude, established in 2003, is a non-profit organization that sends care packages to active duty soldiers as well as veterans. The packages contain snacks, entertainment, personal hygiene products, handmade goods and letters of support and encouragement. The goal is to lift spirits and provide basic necessities to those who have given, and are giving so much. To date, Operation Gratitude has sent out 1,000,000 packages to soldiers and veterans worldwide.
This is a great low-cost Thanksgiving day activity for the kids. Who doesn't want to get a note of encouragement from a little kid?
Collect Pet Supplies for Your Local Shelter
Love animals? Collect pet supplies for your local Humane Society or local animal shelter. This is also a great project for kids. Have them create a flyer. Ge them to exercise their art and computer skills as well as their heart. Distribute the flyer a week ahead of Thanksgiving. Include a paper bag to collect donations and set pick up for the morning of Thanksgiving. That will give people enough time to pick up supplies while they are doing their Thanksgiving shopping.
On Thanksgiving morning, the cook will have peace in the kitchen while the kids pick up their distributed bags. naturally, you're going to want to keep your collection area within your neighborhood to make this a positive experience and not just another chore.
Help Out a Single Parent
Not everyone gets Thanksgiving day off. Medical workers, police, firefighters and even some plumbers have to work. Deciding what to do with the kids can be problematic. You hope they are old enough to supervise themselves and yet you wonder. Having them home by themselves can be boring and sad on a holiday and it's hard to maintain focus when you're worried about your kids.
Whether it's someone in your neighborhood, religious institution or a friend, offer to help out. Do they need a couple of hours of supervision? Bring them to your house. Do they need a ride to and from Grandma's? Tune up the car and pick them up. Giving back doesn't have to mean an official organization and a check. Helping out can be just as meaningful if not more so.
Participate in #GivingTuesday
Thanksgiving can actually be a day of work for many people. Cleaning the house for company, preparing all those dishes and then cleaning again doesn't leave much time to give back for many people. If that's the case, why not consider joining the #GivingTuesday movement?
Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday, this year on Tuesday, December 1, is a world wide day of giving using the power of social media. Created by the 92nd Street Y in New York City, #Giving Tuesday's goal is to bring people together to celebrate and encourage giving. Each year the movement has gathered steam and has brought together a growing body of people interested in tangible ways to give back in their own community. Check out their website to volunteer and check out ways to give back in your area.
How Do You Give Thanks During the Holidays?
Commit Random Acts of Kindness
If you're not into planning and are simply a more spontaneous person, why not choose a random act of kindness?
- Can't live without Starbucks? Pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive through?
- Find yourself in the grocery store Thanksgiving morning because you forgot the cranberry sauce? Pay for the order ahead of you.
- Not really into football? Pay for the movie theater goers in line ahead of you.
- Love to go out to breakfast even though you're going to stuff yourself silly later in the day? Pick up the tab for another family at the restaurant.
The meaningful ways to give back are limited only by your imagination, interests and pocketbook. The only thing stopping you, is you.
© 2015 Chantelle Porter