How to Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a time for family, feasting, being grateful and giving back. Volunteering and donating help to spread the holiday spirit to those who need it most, giving you and your loved ones a rewarding and meaningful Thanksgiving Day.


EditVolunteering In-Person

  1. Ask your local soup kitchen if they need more volunteers. Soup kitchens don’t just need people to cook and serve food on Thanksgiving. They’ll also need volunteers to collect food, set up the service area, seat people, make deliveries, and clean up afterwards. Many soup kitchens get a lot of volunteers for Thanksgiving, though, so call ahead to see if they need any more help before you show up.[1]
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    • To look for a soup kitchen near you, go to: You can also looking online by searching for “Soup kitchens near me.”
  2. Volunteer at a local aid organization for a few hours. Some aid organizations may be holding Thanksgiving aid events, which could be anything from food and clothing drives to events for veterans or homeless people. Search online for charities in your area, then call or look on their website to see if they’re hosting any volunteering events on Thanksgiving.
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  3. Visit a nursing home for a few hours. Some nursing home residents may not have any family to visit for Thanksgiving. You can volunteer at a home for the elderly and do anything from decorating the home for Thanksgiving to helping cook and distribute the big meal.[2]
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    • Call a local home and ask about visiting times, or see whether they need any extra help around the holidays. Plan out activities to do, like listening to music, chatting, or watching a holiday movie.
  4. Give blood or volunteer at a blood drive. Blood banks are always in need of more donations, and giving on Thanksgiving is can give a patient the chance to spend another holiday season with their loved ones. Ask local hospitals where the closest blood center is to you, or look online to see if a blood drive will be hosted in your area on Thanksgiving.[3]
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    • If you can’t give blood, volunteer to become a donor ambassador for the Red Cross. You’ll help run blood drives and make donors comfortable after they’ve donated.
    • To donate, you’ll need to be at least 17 years old and at least . Some diseases and medications might also disqualify you for donation.
  5. Run or walk in a “turkey trot” for a local charity. Turkey trot runs are a popular way to get some exercise and raise money for a good cause on Thanksgiving. To participate in one, simply search online and look for a distance you can do and cause you support.[4]
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    • Turkey trots can be anything from a 5k to a full marathon. Choose whatever distance you feel best at and remember that you can always walk.
    • You can also ask about volunteering at the event.
  6. Check in with friends and neighbors to connect with your community. Helping out on Thanksgiving doesn’t always mean going to a soup kitchen or volunteering event. Sometimes it can be as simple as reaching out to friends and neighbors to see how they’re doing! This is especially important if you know of anyone who’ll be alone on Thanksgiving Day. Consider inviting them over to eat and spend time with you and your family.[5]
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  7. Stay involved for the rest of the year. Charities often get a lot of volunteers during the holiday season, but have a lull in other months. Use the holidays as a way to make a longer-term commitment to doing good! After you volunteer, ask the organization what else you can do to help throughout the year.[6]
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EditGiving Items In Need

  1. Give to a holiday clothing drive. Homeless shelters and other organizations will often hold winter clothing drives around Thanksgiving and the holiday season. This is a great chance to clear out your closet and donate those unwanted clothes to people who really need them. Search online in your area to see what Thanksgiving clothing drives are going on, or simply donate your things to a local Salvation Army branch.[7]
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  2. Send a care package to an overseas military member. Many soldiers and military personnel are stationed overseas during the holidays, away from their loved ones. To thank them for their service and bring some Thanksgiving spirit to them, you can send a letter or a care package through an organization.[8]
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    • Look up organizations like Operation Gratitude and Support Our Troops to see how to send a care package. You’ll get an address and suggestions on what to send and what not to send.
    • You can also donate money to fund care packages.
  3. Donate non-perishable food items to a local food bank. Schools, workplaces, and churches will often host food drives during the holiday season to help feed in need. You can donate food items at these places, or call the food bank directly to see how you can make a contribution.[9]
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  4. Organize a food drive in your area. If there’s no food drive going on at your work, school, or church,, start your own! Contact food banks or charities nearby and ask what you need to do to run your own food drive and collect donations for them. Ask local businesses, churches, and schools if you can set up donation sites in their buildings.[10]
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    • Ask family and friends to help you! You’ll need plenty of volunteers to help you advertise the drive, donate food, and drop it off at the food bank.

EditDonating Money

  1. Start or donate to a crowdfund campaign. If you’re passionate about a particular cause, creating a crowdfunding campaign for it is a great way to encourage family and friends to donate. Share your campaign on social media and email it around to loved ones individually to ask for donations, and ask them to spread it around too. Make sure they know that you’re not raising the money for yourself, but for a charity.[11]
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    • Use a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
    • You can also donate to crowdfunding campaigns already in existence.
  2. Donate to general aid organization to give to people in need all over the world. Aid organizations work year-round to help people in need, from the homeless and hungry to people affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Donating to one of these charities ensures that your money will be put to use in good causes across the world.
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  3. Donate to victims of a recent disaster. People affected by natural disasters and other crises may have lost money, their homes, or even loved ones, which can make it difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving. Look up funds for a specific disaster and see how you can help or donate.
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    • For example, you might choose to help people in Indonesia, who were hit with a destructive earthquake and tsunami in September 2018.
  4. Give to a local shelter to help in your community. You don’t have to contribute to a large aid organization to make a difference. In fact, sometimes donating on a smaller scale can make an even bigger impact. Call homeless shelters, church organizations, animal shelters, and other non-profits in your area and ask how you can make your donation.[12]
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  5. Sponsor an impoverished child or family to know exactly who you’re helping. You can extend your Thanksgiving kindness and generosity across the country or world by sponsoring a child in need through an aid organization. You’ll usually make recurring donations throughout the year to help the child or family get access to healthy food, go to school, and learn necessary skills to have a brighter future.[13]
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    • Consider using organization like Save the Children, Compassion International, and Food for the Hungry.


  • Call ahead before bringing your children to an event such as helping to serve dinner at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Some organizations do not allow minors to serve food due to safety regulations (sharp objects in the kitchen, or danger of being burned at steam tables).

EditSources and Citations

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