Giving Back Never Tasted So Good

Kat Stoeffel

You can’t help but feel good on Thanksgiving—and it’s not just from the turkey. Getting the chance to take stock and feel thankful leads thousands of Americans to volunteer in their communities every year during the holiday season. Here are three charities who rely on volunteers to put on showstopping Turkey Day celebrations.

Children’s Aid Society, New York

The mission of Children’s Aid Society has remained the same for 150 years: To close the gap between what children need and what they have. Today, that means providing educational, social, and health services for more than 100,000 low-income children and their families.

Thanksgiving Day

The Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem is the site of an annual celebration. “It’s a feast fit for kings,” says Children’s Aid Society’s chief operating officer William Weisberg. Twenty-five hundred kings, to be exact. The families who receive services from the nonprofit have been enjoying meals prepared by chefs from New York’s finest hotels for the past 20 Thanksgivings. After tasty fare like juicy turkey and creamy mac and cheese, kids get to play games and listen to music from DJs, while their parents enter raffles for frozen turkeys, strollers, baby food, and more. Learn how your family can get involved at childrensaidsociety.org.

Food & Friends, Washington, D.C.

Healthy meals and nutritional counseling are on the daily menu at Food & Friends, a nonprofit that serves more than 2,800 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses. Volunteers and staff cook and deliver meals tailored to meet their clients’ specific nutritional needs six days a week.

Thanksgiving Day

Food & Friends believes that breaking bread is as important as eating it, which is why at 1 p.m. on every Thanksgiving Day, a fleet of volunteer drivers pulls out of the Washington, D.C., parking lot and disperses across Maryland and Virginia. Behind the scenes, volunteers have been working all week to prepare the meals. Every delivery has enough food for four people—including a whole turkey—allowing clients to host their own holiday dinners to thank loved ones for their support. Find out how you can become part of the volunteer team at foodandfriends.org.

Union Station Homeless Services, Pasadena, California

This agency helps more than 2,000 men, women, and their children become self-sufficient. Residence buildings of Union Station Homeless Services provide shelter and meals, while career development programs help people get back on their feet, with tools like interview training and professional attire.

Thanksgiving Day

Southern Californians have flocked to Pasadena’s Central Park for the outdoor Thanksgiving dinner for 30 years. People in need and volunteers eat side-by-side at communal tables under the park’s palm trees. Volunteers contribute turkeys and pies to a spread that feeds 8,000, and the day’s festivities include fun activities like crafts, face painting, and volleyball. “Some families have been helping for years—it’s become part of their tradition,” says executive director Marvin Gross. See how to lend a helping hand at unionstationhs.org.

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