Thanksgiving is an ideal time to volunteer and reach out to assist the homeless and hungry in your community—or in the area you're visiting during your November holiday vacation.
If you happen to be in the Washington, D.C., area this year, 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 include 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 over 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. The organization hosts holiday gatherings at which volunteers assist with preparing and serving meals, playing games, and hanging decorations for program participants. You can also volunteer to assemble special Thanksgiving dinner baskets to feed struggling families. Or you can attend the 18th annual Trot for Hunger 5K run/walk on Thanksgiving Day morning in Freedom Plaza—the event helps people in need with food, housing, access to healthcare, employment training, and addiction treatment programs.
If you're looking to give back to those suffering from life-changing illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer, Food and Friends is an organization in Washington, D.C., that provides meals to support adults and children living with terminal or debilitating diseases and ailments. Volunteers assemble and deliver over 3,500 Thanksgiving meals, and in November, the Food and Friends organization sponsors "Slice of Life," a program that sells thousands of pies for the holidays to support local residents battling illnesses.
The Capital Area Food Bank is the largest public nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the region, with offices in D.C. and Lorton, Virginia. You can assist this holiday season by making a monetary donation or by delivering for the Senior Brown Bag program, which prepares Thanksgiving baskets for needy senior citizens. The Capital Area Food Bank needs volunteers to assist with a variety of projects on Thanksgiving and other special events throughout the year.
Each year, Bread For the City in D.C. organizes Holiday Helpings, a food drive, a cash drive, and a telethon to provide Thanksgiving meals to low-income families. As a volunteer, you can collect canned food and cash donations or help out at the processing facility by loading and unloading trucks of food. The organization provides comprehensive services for the needy, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services.
The international Christian organization 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 each Turkey Day known as the Feast of Sharing. This free Thanksgiving dinner is usually held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. for almost 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 personalized 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 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. Community partner DC Central Kitchen distributes the food to local homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, senior facilities, and community kitchens.
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 are 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.