Thanksgiving is an ideal time to volunteer and reach out to assist the homeless and hungry in your community.
If you are in the Washington, D.C., area in 2019, there are plenty of charitable organizations that need volunteers to prepare, serve, and clean up holiday meals, as well as perform a variety of other tasks. There are many ways to help if you're looking to give back this holiday season, which includes making a donation or participating in fundraising events.
The following agencies are a great place to start, as they coordinate volunteer programs throughout the year in cities and counties around the region.
In addition to these year-round organizations, you can participate in a number of volunteer opportunities throughout November and Thanksgiving week in 2019.
When it comes to giving back to the poor and hungry, So Others May Eat (SOME) goes above and beyond all year in Washington, D.C. Volunteers are needed daily throughout November and the year to help prepare and serve meals, organize and manage incoming donations, help with childcare, and various other tasks. All of the events are posted on an online calendar, so you can sign up in advance.
On Thanksgiving Day, SOME hosts a 5K Trot for Hunger to raise money for people in need with food, housing, access to healthcare, employment training, and addiction treatment programs. In addition to the 8,000 race participants, there are also games, live entertainment, and a fun run for kids. You can give back either by participating in the event or volunteering with the set-up, race day registration, or water distribution.
Food and Friends is an organization that provides meals year-round to people with life-challenging diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. During Thanksgiving, the organization prepares full turkey dinners that need to be delivered on Thanksgiving Day, allowing recipients to host their friends and family when they otherwise would be unable to.
There are various opportunities to help out, and many volunteers are needed to help prepare and distribute the 3,500 meals that are given away.
Slice of Life is a major fundraising event for Food and Friends. Volunteers are needed to sell pies during the month of November, and also to manage one of the pie pick-up centers on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.
During Thanksgiving week from Monday through Thursday, volunteers are needed every day to prepare meals and pack groceries. On Thanksgiving Day, additional volunteers with cars help to deliver the prepared meals around the Washington, D.C. area.
The Capital Area Food Bank is the largest public nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the region, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Lorton, Virginia. Thanksgiving is a demanding time for all food banks, and volunteers are especially needed during this period to help sort donations and distribute food.
Once you register as a volunteer on their webpage, you can look at the available time slots on their volunteer calendar and sign up for as many shifts as you like. There are opportunities to help in either office location, so you can choose whichever is most convenient for you.
If your schedule doesn't allow you to donate your time, you can always drop-off food, order from their Amazon wishlist, or make a monetary donation.
Every year, Bread for the City organizes Holiday Helpings to provide full turkey meals to low-income households in the D.C. area. In the 2019 holiday season, they expect to help out up to 11,000 families. Preparing and delivering all of those meals take a lot of manpower, and volunteers are needed throughout the holiday season to lend a hand in the food pantry, process donations, and put together the holiday meals. Choose the D.C. site that is most convenient for you (one in Shaw neighborhood and the other in Anacostia) and pick a time slot on their online calendar.
If you have a large social circle and want to help raise money, Bread for the City provides fundraising kits so you can host your own drive. And if running your own drive is too much of a commitment, you also have the option to sponsor a family (or families!). Every $38 raised is a full holiday meal for one household.
The international Christian organization is known as the Salvation Army—with locations in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland—strives to improve the lives of the needy by providing a holiday meal known as the Feast of Sharing. This free Thanksgiving dinner is held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. on the day before Thanksgiving, November 27, 2019. A full meal is provided to nearly 5,000 community members, and volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food and clean-up after the meal.
Additionally, you can donate money or host your own Red Kettle to gather donations from others this holiday season.
Each year the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, D.C., prepares a free holiday meal for the homeless in the Washington metropolitan area. The 23rd Annual Everything But The Turkey event unites hundreds of people to prepare more than 13,000 servings of festive Thanksgiving food for people in need, serving up all the holiday favorites except for the turkey—green beans, yams, stuffing, collard greens, and coleslaw. Community partner DC Central Kitchen prepares the turkeys and distributes all of the food to local homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, senior facilities, and community kitchens.
Families with kids and young professionals can even choose volunteer shifts catered to their groups. On Sunday, November 24, 2019, the morning food preparation shift also includes crafts and storytelling for young children. The afternoon shift on the same day involves a light brunch and networking opportunities for young adults who want to meet socially-conscious peers.
A variety of organizations sponsor turkey trots, runs, and walks to raise money for the needy in the D.C. metro area each year. You can participate in your own or organize a group and get some great exercise at the start of the holiday season while collecting donations for a good cause. Find an event in D.C., Maryland, or Northern Virginia. In 2019, there's plenty of turkey trots in the Washington, D.C., area such as the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger at Freedom Plaza (sponsored by SOME) and the Alexandria Turkey Trot in Del Ray.