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Unique Thanksgiving volunteer ideas

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the good that we’ve experienced over the prior year, and to show our gratitude for those who’ve helped make our lives easier. You can help make this holiday special for the people who’ve made a difference for you, or better yet, honor someone who's helped make a difference for someone else. Here are a few out-of-the-box ideas.

Engage in group thanks.

Serving others around the holidays is one of the most satisfying and rewarding ways to volunteer. Why not do it differently this year, by gathering the whole family together to serve? Your local food pantry or soup kitchen could use your help organizing donations and preparing, serving or delivering meals. By volunteering together as a group, you’ll make a much bigger impact and likely strengthen your family bond.

Put it in writing.

Few gestures make as strong a statement of gratitude as handwritten thank you notes. After your turkey dinner, take a moment to write your congressperson or local official to thank him or her for their service. There are several templates available online to help get you started. Like what you’ve written? Submit it to your local newspaper editor for your entire community to see. You could also write a personal note to a parent, a friend or anyone who’s made a positive impact on your life or your community.

Take a hike.

If the local turkey trot isn’t exactly your idea of a good time, create the good by gathering a few friends for a long walk around town, or a hike in the woods. Bring a kitchen garbage bag and a set of gloves. Then pick up trash along the way. Or take it to the next level with an organized neighborhood cleanup plan. You can help garner interest for your event by publishing it in your local paper or online community forum.

Say it with food.

Baking a holiday pumpkin pie? Why not take a few extra minutes and bake a second? Then deliver it to an unsuspecting, and soon-to-be-grateful neighbor. See a single parent struggling to keep the kids under control while dining out? Surprise them by alerting their waiter that you’d like to anonymously pick up the tab. Or pay it forward by nominating a family to receive a full Thanksgiving meal. If you have friends or acquaintances that can’t make it home to their families this season, you can create a surrogate family for them by hosting a thanksgiving potluck. Or better yet, plan a potluck with a purpose.

Do it for, or with, the kids.

If you have the time and the space within your home, you could make a lifelong memory for an orphaned child by hosting him or her over the holiday. On a smaller scale, you could offer to babysit for a neighbor or family friend as a way to say thank you for their support throughout the year. Then have their children write thank you cards to present when their parents return, or help them make a free thank you eCard to send via email.

For more ideas to say “thanks” check out some of these do-it-yourself projects or find opportunities in your community with this volunteer search.

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