Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities: 10 Ways to Give Back This Year

The problem with wanting to help the so-called less fortunate on Thanksgiving is that it's usually the only day of the year most people feel like volunteering. While researching this year's roundup of Thanksgiving-related volunteer opps, we discovered a number of local nonprofits that are already filled to capacity -- not with hungry people, but volunteers.

Nonetheless, most organizations still need help actually procuring the meals, so if you suddenly find yourself willing and unable to lend a hand on Thanksgiving, consider making a donation to any one of your favorite charities instead -- chances are they can use your help. And of course, if you still feel like doing some good for your fellow humans, remember that every single person needs at least one good meal, every day of the year.

10. Otay Group

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You could call the Otay Group the little nonprofit that could, and it does -- feed the homeless, that is. Otay stands for "organized trips around youth," and it's a core group of just seven friends who need your help feeding the hungry, not only during Thanksgiving, but all year 'round. otaygroup.com.

9. Toberman Neighborhood Center

The Toberman Neighborhood Center serves families and community members in the Harbor Area, so if you happen to live near Carson, Long Beach or any of the other areas along the Port of Los Angeles, this non-profit is for you. And if you're not sure about volunteering your services throughout the year, the annual Thanksgiving food drive is a good place to start. toberman.org.

8. Gobble Gobble Give

This national event is one of the best-organized publicly mobilized ad hoc Thanksgiving efforts around, serving New York, Las Vegas, Austin and San Francisco, not to mention Los Angeles and Santa Monica (yep, our region doesn't have just one Gobble Gobble Give, but two). Volunteers meet beforehand to assemble care packages with heated meals, plus an assortment of brand-new toiletries, clothing and blankets, too. Everyone is done by 1 p.m., leaving room for volunteers to spend quality time with their own friends and family on Thanksgiving Day. gobblegobblegive.org.

American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1 (Public domain)
American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1 (Public domain)

7. Hope of the Valley

The Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission wants to "make homeless history" at the 2012 Thanksgiving banquet, which actually takes place the day before Thanksgiving. While the event already has enough volunteers, the charity still needs help getting sponsors to contribute $250 per table to help feed more than 1,000 people on Thanksgiving Eve.


6. One Incredible Family Inc.

Groups gather at the Westchester Masonic Center in Playa Del Rey for the 19th annual homeless feeding and banner creation on Saturday, November 24. Meal preps begin at 6:30 a.m., followed by assembly and packaging in the afternoon, and finally, delivery in the early evening. One Incredible Family Inc. still needs help with delivery, as well as donations of drinks and pre-cooked turkey and pies. oneincrediblefamily.org.

5. Westside Thanksgiving

This community dinner and celebration has been going strong since 1982, welcoming not just the homeless, but low-income families, seniors, students and singles as well. Dinner is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on Thanksgiving Day. But it's not all about the food -- it's also a full day of free services, including basic medical consultation, eye exams, haircuts, children's entertainment and clothing giveaways, too. westsidethanksgiving.org.

4. Food on Foot

Since 1996, Food on Foot has been distributing more than 200 meals a week in Hollywood, with an annual Thanksgiving Day celebration to boot. Each guest gets a new sleeping bag and bus tokens in addition to a Thanksgiving meal. The nonprofit still has a few spaces left for volunteers, so register now. foodonfoot.org.

3. Westside Food Bank

This volunteer organization provides meals to clients of social service agencies on the Westside, with most of the food coming from donations. For its first annual turkey drive, the Westside Food Bank still needs nearly $7,000 to purchase 500 turkeys at $15 apiece. westsidefoodbankca.org.

2. Union Station Homeless Services Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park

Pasadena's massive potluck already has enough volunteers, but Union Station Homeless Services still has quite a few items on its Thanksgiving dinner wish-list, including cans of green beans, gravy, mushroom soup, bags of lettuce and more. Drop off food at 412 S. Raymond Avenue anytime before November 22 and on Thanksgiving Day. Use the car drop-off lane on Fair Oaks Boulevard, south of Green Street. unionstationhs.org.

George Henry Durrie (public domain)
George Henry Durrie (public domain)

1. Temple Beth Hillel's Thanksgiving Feed the Hungry Dinner

Like a lot of the others, this Jewish reform congregation already has enough helping hands, thanks to the temple community and volunteers at the East Valley Regional Food Bank. But Temple Beth Hillel still wants to encourage guests to come, and it appreciates any monetary donations made payable to Temple Beth Hillel Brotherhood to help defray costs of the annual Thanksgiving dinner. tbhla.org.

Tanja M. Laden manages Flavorpill Los Angeles and blogs at Pop Curious. Follow her on Twitter at @PopCuriousMag and for more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts and like us on Facebook.


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