Thanksgiving has become … complicated. Kids may no longer be fed the same pilgrims-and-Indians propaganda of yore, but it can still be a thorny time of year for many, especially when the holiday comes on the heels of another contentious election, and you and Uncle Bob still don’t see eye to eye about the outcome of the 2020 one. It’s also a particularly challenging time of year for people in Philly experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, and loneliness.
For all of the challenges the holiday poses, it also comes with plenty of opportunities to do more good. Whatever your age, budget, or time frame, here are some ways to create Philly traditions that support our neighbors.
Donate a turkey
Turkey prices have increased this year, making affording one even more of a hardship. So when you pick up your bird, consider purchasing an extra one to drop off at the Kimmel Center on November 22 for 102.9 WMGK Radio and CityTeam’s 20th annual Turkey Drop, which provides Butterballs et al. to those in need. Can’t make it to the Kimmel? Drop off a turkey at one of 12 participating ACME locations on November 22 instead.
Stock a community fridge
Donating to a community fridge is a helpful thing to do year-round — and can be especially impactful during the holidays.
Jane Ellis, founder of the Germantown Community Fridge and teacher at Greene Street Friends School, requests that leading up to Thanksgiving, community members donate perishable and non-perishable items similar to what you might see at your dinner table. Think stuffing, mashed potatoes, (frozen) turkeys, and more. Traditional donations of canned foods and produce are always helpful, too.
Find your local community fridge here. In addition to dropping off food, consider volunteering to help clean a fridge. And remember to check a fridge’s website or Instagram page for information on what can and can not be donated.
Run in a turkey trot
Whether you’re an avid runner or someone who likes to jog or walk, consider joining the PHLY Turkey Trot, taking place on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, at 9am. Held in the Wissahickon, there’s a 5k run and 1-mile walk option, with the event benefiting Face to Face Germantown, which offers a variety of programs for people experiencing homelessness. Register ($25-$35) here.
Serve hot meals
Once again, Philly House — formerly known as Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission — will be hosting a Thanksgiving event and will need more than 80 volunteers to make it happen. They’ve already launched their annual Prepare a Plate Thanksgiving fundraiser, which will cover the cost of meals and the construction of an outdoor heated lounge for people to enjoy on Thanksgiving day. Sign up for various positions, purchase items from their Amazon wishlist, and donate here.
Everybody Eats is also hosting their third annual Thanksgiving Give Back, at the New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Camden. The event will offer food, clothing and more to those in need on Thanksgiving day. Sign up to volunteer here.
And consider contacting a food bank near you to see if they’re in need of volunteers. This guide from Philabundance is a great resource for finding local organizations you can support.
Don’t let food go to waste
Got unused food after the big meal? Schedule a food pickup with Food Connect, who will pick up excess from your house and donate it to organizations such as Philabundance and Main Line Health to distribute through their networks. They accept donations of fruits and vegetables, cans or boxed goods, any food prepared by a commercial kitchen, and more. View the full list of what you can donate and schedule a pickup on their website.
Assemble care packages
Volunteers will assemble and distribute pre-packaged meals, hygiene kits, masks and hand sanitizer, and winter clothes. You can drop off hygiene products, PPE, or winter clothes during business hours at the Columbia North YMCA leading up to Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers can also sign up to volunteer at the YMCA on Thanksgiving.
Holidays can be an especially isolating time for those in assisted living facilities. Find a nearby facility (this directory is a great start), address your letters to ‘any resident,’ then get started writing cards or having kids make colorful artwork. Be sure to send your letters with ample time to arrive before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Spend time with friends and family
Your in-laws may drive you nuts, your siblings may be a lot to handle, but spending time with friends and family (and framily!) can be an invaluable way to give back to yourself.
Invite someone new to your holiday meal this year, or just take time to send a text, email, or letter to someone you’ve lost touch with. Doing so won’t just boost their holiday — but yours, too.Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash