How to Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving

Two Parts:Helping the Community During ThanksgivingHelping Out Your Family During Thanksgiving

Well, it's time for nice turkey dinners, apple or pumpkin pie, glasses of sherry, and most important of all, celebrating with family and friends. However, what about people who don't experience Thanksgiving the same way as you do? Helping to make it a wonderful event for other people through volunteering can create a very meaningful Thanksgiving Day for you and other members of your family. Here are a number of ways that you can volunteer to help during this special holiday.

Part 1
Helping the Community During Thanksgiving

  1. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 1
    Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Soup kitchens aren't just in need of people to cook and serve the food. They will also need people to collect the food, check that there is enough food for everyone expected, set up the service area, help those people coming to the soup kitchen find the place and be served and seated, etc. and make deliveries. They also need help with cleanup afterward. If you're flexible about the role you're prepared to take on, then you can find yourself indispensable for the day!
    • Search for soup kitchens in your area. There may be advertisements in the paper or online on sites such as Craigslist asking for people to help out on Thanksgiving. You can also see if a local church is running a soup kitchen nearby.
    • Check or the Corporation for National Community Service for possible volunteer opportunities in your area.[1]
    • Other places include the Salvation Army, Rescue Mission and your local church, synagogue or other place of worship.
    • Your workplace might be organizing something. Check your internal bulletin board or leave a request on it to have others contact you if they need helpers.
  2. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 2
    Deliver meals to people in need. Look for organizations that bring Thanksgiving meals to people in need. Many of them will be very happy to have additional drivers and delivery people available on Thanksgiving Day.
    • All you have to do is to pick up the meal as instructed and deliver it to the people on your list.
    • If you have been asked to help the person prepare the meal or spend a few minutes chatting, add this into your schedule.
  3. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 3
    Visit people in need. Call local hospitals and nursing homes. Ask if there is someone who may need company on Thanksgiving or if there are things you can do to make the day more pleasant and enjoyable for residents or patients. Call ahead to determine if children must be a certain age to visit hospital patients. You might talk with them, sing, perform or help serve the meals. If you're asked to stay around for the meal, engage everyone near you in conversation and ask them about their experiences of previous Thanksgivings to help break the ice.
    • If you're visiting children in hospital, consider taking along a small gift such as a teddy bear, to help improve their Thanksgiving Day as a patient.
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    Be part of a fundraiser. Inquire in your city or town about fundraisers like marathons which raise money to help families in need on Thanksgiving. If you cannot pay an entry fee, ask about volunteering your time to the event.
  5. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 5
    Volunteer at a Salvation Army. The holiday season is very busy at the Salvation army, and you can volunteer there and help the families in need of assistance by doing anything from taking down their information to helping them explore their options.
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    Volunteer at a home for the elderly. The elderly may be lonely around the holidays if they have nowhere to go or aren't up to leaving their home. You can volunteer at a home for the elderly and do anything from decorating the home to make it look more festive to helping cook and distribute the Thanksgiving meal. Giving your time and spending some time with the elderly to cheer them up and ask how they're doing is also a great way to volunteer. Many people feel extra lonely on the holidays, and you can make a big impact.[2]

Part 2
Helping Out Your Family During Thanksgiving

  1. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 7
    Be an angel for someone this Thanksgiving. Instead of expecting one person to do most of the preparation and serving, stand in for them instead. While this isn't quite "volunteering", it is a huge gift of time and love for someone you care about.
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    Take over for the person who does the most work. Work out who usually does most of the work for Thanksgiving and tell them that you're taking over this time and giving them a well-earned rest. Just be sure to let them know they're welcome to help if they still want to though, as you don't want them to feel left out!
    • If you don't want to do it all alone (it's a big task), enlist some helpers.
    • Tell the person who usually does the lion's share of the work to relax and to really prepare themselves to enjoy Thanksgiving without a care.
  3. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 9
    Write out a list of invitations to send. As well as your own family, consider inviting as many people as you can feed, especially people who might be alone on Thanksgiving, and people who may not be able to afford their own dinner. This might be an elderly neighbor or two, someone from a local nursing home or someone from your local church. This can be your "volunteer" touch to the meal.
  4. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 10
    Make a list of groceries to buy for the big Thanksgiving Dinner. Shop for fresh things the day before Thanksgiving but you should order the turkey earlier to be sure to get the one you want. Some of the usual things needed include:
    • At least one big turkey
    • Sausage stuffing for the turkey
    • Gravy
    • Potatoes
    • Vegetables such as sweet potato, corn, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, etc.
    • Wine, non-alcoholic beverages
    • Apple or pumpkin pie or some other type of pie
    • Ice cream
    • Coffee and tea.
  5. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 11
    Prepare the meal on Thanksgiving Day. If you haven't done this before, it consists of:
    • Reading and following the instructions on how to roast the turkey.
    • While the turkey is roasting in the oven, start working on the other foods which you plan to have for the Thanksgiving feast (for example, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing for the turkey, etc).
    • Start preparing the dessert/s which you plan to have for the huge feast. Most likely, you will have either a pumpkin or an apple pie.
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    Set the dinner table. Place a nice, clean tablecloth upon the table. Get out some fine cutlery, and glasses for the drinks. Perhaps you may even have some mugs out for coffee afterwards too.
    • Put some candles on the table. Candlelit dinners are very elegant.
  7. Image titled Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving Step 13
    Welcome your guests. In particular, make a fuss of the person you're standing in place for, the one who usually does most of the work. Seat them at the head of the table and let everyone else know that they must take good care of this person!
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    Volunteer to say Grace. Encourage everyone to eat up and enjoy themselves.
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    Offer to do most of the cleaning up. Just be sure to enlist many helpers or it will take forever.


  • Sending care packages to troops is another way to volunteer your efforts and resources for Thanksgiving.
  • Thanksgiving is celebrated on different dates in Canada and the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, while in the United States, it is celebrated on the third Thursday of November.
  • A turkey needs to thaw for days (not hours) before it is ready to cook. Plan ahead!


  • Timing is everything. Overcooking is too easy when you take your eye off things!
  • 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).
  • If you're planning on having wine, or any other kind of alcoholic beverage, make sure any of your guests have a reliable means of getting home (assuming that they drink the wine, etc., and had a little bit too much).
  • Beware of any fire hazards, resulting from using candles, etc.
  • Beware of any food allergies which someone may have. If volunteering outside the home, ask the people in charge what they do about this and follow their instructions.

Things You'll Need

  • A dinner table.
  • A tablecloth.
  • Candles.
  • Wine glasses.
  • Fine cutlery.
  • Dinner plates.
  • Dessert plates or bowls.
  • Coffee mugs.

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