In addition to the plate of roast turkey that fills your belly on Thanksgiving, helping the needy nourishes the soul. Making the holiday happy for others is perhaps even more rewarding than having a happy holiday of your own. There are more than a dozen charities around Minneapolis-St. Paul that could use some extra hands-on Thanksgiving.
The Twin Cities have no shortage of volunteer opportunities on Turkey Day, from serving up hot meals and delivering food to people's doors to collecting winter coats. You don't have to be a chef—or have any experience whatsoever, for that matter—to get involved.
The Salvation Army is extra busy during the holiday season, sending their volunteer elves to ring that famous bell outside of shopping centers all over America, cooking up meals for the hungry, and collecting warm clothes for the cold. There are a number of ways to help, from donating those extra layers you have lying around to driving Thanksgiving food baskets from door to door. The Twin Cities Salvation Army hosts several free meals around the city on Thanksgiving every year.
Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly aims alleviate isolation and loneliness among elderlies. They deliver meals to those who have lost their ability to travel and visit with others who just want a little bit of company now and again. Loneliness can be more tortuous than ever around the holidays, so older generations crave companionship. Become a friend to them, help them with their Thanksgiving dinners, or just write a letter. You can also volunteer to drive them to the center in Oakdale, where the annual Thanksgiving meal is held.
Catholic Charities operates a homeless shelter that accommodates nearly 500 people in the Twin Cities region. The organization hosts several annual events throughout the year, among them the big Thanksgiving and Saint Nicholas feasts. Volunteers are always needed to help prepare and serve the dinners, which are held at its headquarters, Higher Ground.
People Serving People is a family-focused homeless shelter in Minneapolis. It serves meals to the needy on a daily basis, but could use some extra staffing for the big Thanksgiving feast. If serving isn't your thing, People Serving People offers a slew of other opportunities that could strike your fancy.
Union Gospel Mission is a Christian ministry that serves the Twin Cities' homeless and poor. You can help by picking up some Thanksgiving dinner groceries and dropping them off at the donation center in St. Paul. The Mission typically hosts a dinner on Thanksgiving, too, which you could help to prepare and serve.
Meals on Wheels delivers Thanksgiving dinner to thousands of homebound, disabled, and elderly people every year. The organization delivers meals year-round, actually, but its holiday meal takes extra preparation, which means helping hands are always welcome. Volunteers can choose to deliver or help prepare the meals.
Some organizations actually get overwhelmed with the number of people who want to volunteer on holidays. The best way to help without being in the way is to donate goods or, better yet, host a donation drive at work or school. Drop what you've collected off at Simpson Housing Services, a local homeless shelter.
Speaking of donations, Second Harvest Heartland is always looking to stock its shelves. During the holidays, especially, anything helps. All you have to do is drop off a few nonperishable items to the food bank and it'll do all the distribution for you.