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Easy Ways to Make a Difference on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is all about saying thanks, but what if you want to do something more than that? Lots of people make the holidays a starting point for giving back, donating their money, things, or time.

If you’re looking for some ways to give back this Thanksgiving, these ideas may be a good start on your path to making a difference.

Donate a Thanksgiving Meal
In today’s rough economic times, some food banks are struggling to make ends meet. With more families coming to them for the basic necessities, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with the overwhelming demand.

Make Thanksgiving a time to clean out your pantry, and instead of just throwing away those three boxes of mac and cheese that you never got around to eating, give them to a family that needs the food.

Even better, buy supplies for two Thanksgiving meals—one set for your family and one for a local family who otherwise wouldn’t have anything. You can locate a local food bank at Feeding America.

Give Back Through Your Ingredients
As you prepare your menu, think about the ingredients you’ll need and do some research to find out if any of the brands you want to use will donate a portion of their proceeds to a specific cause. Haagen-Dazs ice cream, for example, donates 40 percent of their proceeds to help honeybees that are disappearing from their hives (and it tastes awfully good on a slice of pumpkin pie). The brand has aligned itself with Colony Collapse Disorder, so the money you spend on a pint of ice cream is helping to save the honeybees! Newman’s Own brands also donate some of their proceeds to educational and charitable organizations, Check out the labels on the products you need for your meal to see if they support organizations in need.

Of course, another way to give back to your community is to support local growers for Thanksgiving by shopping at produce stands and farmers markets.

Deliver Some Goodness
Lots of soup kitchens or food banks deliver to people who can’t leave their houses on Thanksgiving Day, so consider volunteering to be the delivery guy (or gal) for a day. Seeing the reaction of those you deliver to should be enough of a hook for you to commit.

Search for local food banks at Feed America or call local radio or television stations to ask about food banks looking for volunteers. Even if you don’t have the money to donate a dinner or any cash, you could spend a few hours making deliveries.

Go Fetch
Of course, we shouldn’t leave out our four-legged friends! With so many people traveling for the holidays, animal shelters may be short-staffed. Volunteer to walk dogs or play with kittens for a few hours on Thanksgiving. Not only is it an easy do-good task, it just might help you burn off that extra slice of pumpkin pie. To find an animal shelter in your area, you can use Pets 911.

Run Like a Turkey
Speaking of extra pie … how about preparing for all those Turkey Day calories by running for a cause? The entry fees for many 5Ks, half-marathons, and marathons go directly to support a number of different philanthropic organizations. Even though Thanksgiving is a holiday, you don’t have to take a holiday from your workout or your desire to give back. To find a race near you, use this Race Finder.

Ring a Few Bells
Through its Red Kettle Campaign, the Salvation Army collects millions of dollars each year to fund dinners, clothes, and Christmas gifts for families in need You’ve probably seen them every year as you head into stores to shop for gifts. Why not become one of those bell-ringers this year? Or if the comfort of your own home, all day football fever, and leftover turkey is just too much for you to part with, consider ringing a virtual Salvation Army bell online.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own daily lives. But with the holidays fast approaching, now’s the time to find some easy ways to give back. You could end up spreading holiday cheer without having to spread yourself or your finances too thin.


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