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This year, emphasize the "giving" in Thanksgiving

By: Maria Werner-- 2015-11-20 8:00 am --

Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time of to share food and company, while expressing gratitude for the things we have. Historically, Thanksgiving commemorates the day in which the Plymouth colonists shared a large feast with the Wampanoag tribe. Having just settled in America, the colonists struggled to find food and adequate shelter, causing many to fall victim to famine and disease. The Wampanoag’s sought to educate the colonists on local agricultural practices to help them boost their bounty. In November of that year, the colonists harvested their first successful corn crop. In celebration and gratitude, they prepared a feast to share with the Wampanoag tribe, which has since been called Thanksgiving. 

Today, while many still recognize Thanksgiving as a day of gratitude and appreciation, fewer utilize the day as an opportunity to give back to those around them. This year, put the ‘giving’ back in Thanksgiving by donating your time, money, or skills to those who need it most.

How to Give Back This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving customarily focuses on feasting and family, and for people who are fortunate to have access to both, it’s a positive and uplifting time. However, many Americans, particularly the elderly, have no living relatives to share the holidays with. Additionally, with 14 percent of American households living in food insecure situations, and 3.5 million going homeless each year, many people lack the ability to partake in the communal feast that makes Thanksgiving special.

How to Give Back

There are a variety of ways to influence the lives of those around you and ensure people in your community have a memorable Thanksgiving.

  • Provide company to those without families. With 397, 122 children in foster care and 4 percent of senior citizens living without relatives or friends, volunteers have the opportunity to enrich the lives of those without family. Consider volunteering with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). There, you’ll be paired with an abused or neglected child that is in need of mentorship. You could also spend the afternoon interacting with elderly people at your neighborhood senior home. Thanksgiving is typically spent with loved ones, and those without family often feel particularly isolated this time of year.
  • Donate food, clothing, and toiletries to local nonprofits. For millions of Americans, preparing a vast Thanksgiving feast isn’t always practical. Fortunately, food banks can help low-income families access the basic food items needed to prepare all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. By donating bulk food items, like canned vegetables, coffee, cocoa mix, piecrusts, canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and other festive foods, you can help low-income families enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving feast during their time of financial hardship. Making clothing and toiletry donations can also minimize the difficulties of low-income and homeless families by ensuring they have everything they need to stay warm and comfortable throughout the season.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Soup kitchens will be working overtime on Thanksgiving to ensure that all homeless and low-income families can access a hearty and warm Thanksgiving dinner. They need as many volunteers as possible to ensure the day is a success. Homeless shelters are also swamped on Thanksgiving, as they desperately try to accommodate as many families as possible. Taking your family to volunteer is not only a great way to give back this season, but it will also provide education, awareness, and vital life skills to your children. By encouraging children to volunteer, you can cultivate empathy at a young age and better equip them for adult life.

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude for the things we have, while helping others in need. This Thanksgiving, get into the true spirit of the holiday by spending your time and energy helping the most vulnerable people in your community. For homeless people and those without families, the holidays are a stressful and saddening time. By donating your time to provide company and food to those who need it, you’ll be enriching both their life and yours for years to come.