Yay, Thanksgiving! Your aunt’s legendary stuffing! Black Friday sales! Football (GO, BIRDS)! Whatever your family tradition may be, Thanksgiving is as good an opportunity as any to give thanks — and give back. (It’s also a good opportunity to learn about the complicated history of the holiday.) Show your gratitude for our city by turning thoughtfulness into action, and taking on opportunities to do more good.
Whatever your age, budget, or time frame, here are some ways to create Philly traditions that support our neighbors.
Give a turkey
While U.S. inflation is very steadily slowing down, food prices are still at above historical average rates. So when you pick up your turkey, consider picking up an extra to donate. You can drop off it at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday, November 21, for 102.9 WMGK Radio and CityTeam’s 22th 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 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 23, at 9am. Held in the Wissahickon, there are options for a 5K run and 1-mile walk. The event benefits Face to Face Germantown, which offers a variety of programs for people experiencing homelessness. Register ($25-$35) here.
Serve hot meals
There are many wonderful organizations doing their best to make sure as many Philadelphians as possible are able to enjoy a hot meal this Thanksgiving — and they need some helping hands.
Everybody Eats is hosting their fourth annual Thanksgiving Give Back at Broad Street Ministry, with two other distribution locations in Camden and Chester. The event will offer food, clothing and more to those in need on Wednesday, November 22. Sign up to volunteer here.
Rock Ministries will also be hosting their annual Thanksgiving community meal at their church in Kensington. They invite folks to volunteer for a shift to serve food, and you can also contribute to the meal by donating desserts, bottled water, serving trays and to-go containers.
Unable to volunteer in person, but still want to do your part for the big meal? Philly House — formerly known as Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission — 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. Start fundraising as an individual, join a team or simply make a donation.
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 waste food
Got unused food after the big meal? Schedule a food pickup with Philly Food Rescue of Share Food Program, an organization that fights food insecurity and waste by distributing food through their expansive network of local nonprofits, after-school centers and food pantries. Learn more about becoming a food donor, what you can donate and scheduling a pickup with Philly Food Rescue by downloading their app.
Grant a wish
When giving back, it’s important to remember that by donating items based on what folks have said that they actually need, you ensure that organizations are receiving a variety of essentials, and you enable the populations they work with to empower themselves by making their own choices.
Project HOME is once again running their HOME for the Holidays campaign. Residents have created personalized wish lists; you can select a family’s wish list here. Then, after you’ve purchased the items, Project HOME asks you to drop them off at their JBJ Soul Homes location in Fairmount.
Nationalities Service Center provides comprehensive services and support to immigrants and refugees. Think about all the ways that adjusting to a new country and culture may be challenging, and welcome your new neighbors by ordering items from this Amazon wishlist, and this list of hygiene items to fill NSC’s pantry.
Make sure people have warm clothing this winter and holiday season by participating in a winter clothing drive. Treehouse Books, a giving library and literacy center in North Philadelphia, asks that people drop off gently used formal and everyday coats, shoes, hats, dresses, and suits at their site in North Philly.
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.
Learn the real history of Thanksgiving
Many Americans realize that the story of Thanksgiving that we celebrate every November is, at best, incomplete. The real history of the day is more complicated, and far less Norman Rockwell than the image of pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down peacefully to break bread.
This interview with David Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving, gives a brief account of the early days of European-Indigenous relations. To find out more about our own Indigenous populations, the Lenni-Lenape Peoples, check out and support Indigenous People Day Philly, which shares news and events related to our local community.
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 will boost their holiday — and yours, too.
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash