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Give a Little of Yourself This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many – a time to focus on family, friends, food and fun before the shopping frenzy kicks in. Why not kick it up a notch this year, and share even more fun times by giving a little thanks to your community. Joining forces with your family and friends will make your charitable activities even more meaningful and festive.  
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Purge and Donate

Clean out your closets, cabinets, garage and basement and gather clean items in good repair to donate to a favorite charity like the Salvation Army,  Goodwill or a homeless or women’s shelter near you. To make the project more fun, stage a friendly competition to see who can come up with the biggest heap of donations. Caravan your collected items to your selected charity and then celebrate with your team afterwards.

Participate in a 5K

Often called “turkey trots,” many communities stage 5K races/family walks on Thanksgiving Day or weekend to support community charities. You pay an entry fee, often at a discounted price for a team, and most communitywide races hand out a race day shirt or a medal upon completion, for bragging rights and as a souvenir of your effort. Gather with your team early for a light breakfast, get into the Thanksgiving spirit if it suits you with a crazy hat or a complete costume and step off together when the whistle blows.
If 5K is too many steps for you, most organized races also offer a 1-mile fun run route, perfect for families with small children. Or you can participate while standing in place by volunteering for race day activities like registration, water station, finish line hand-outs, official timer, etc. If you don’t already know of a race in your community, a national database will help you step out in the right direction.  

Send a Package to Troops Overseas

The holidays are particularly lonely and stressful for service men and women away from their homes and families. A care package helps them know they are remembered and appreciated.
Gather with your friends and family to purchase everyday necessities such as soap, shampoo, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs and brushes, packaged treats like granola bars, crackers and cookies, single-serving canned foods, candy and gum. Toss in a few paperback books, small games or activity books to help the troops fill up their free time. Include handwritten notes, telling the military member how much their service means to you personally, and to our country.
The United States Postal Service offers a free Military Care Kit with supplies to ship packages overseas, including boxes, packing tape and customs forms, and offers discounted postage. The USPS and the military do not recommend sending packages addressed to “Any Soldier,” so if you don’t have a specific service member in mind, adopt a soldier to make sure your donation reaches a military person serving overseas.

Visit an Animal Shelter

Shelters for dogs and cats waiting for adoption are always in need of volunteers. Find a respected shelter in your community and phone first to ask about their greatest needs. Shelters typically need food, toys, feeding dishes, clean used blankets and towels and of course, cash donations, as most are non-profits. Many shelters welcome visitors to spend time with the dogs and cats or help in tasks like exercising the animals, feeding, watering and cleaning cages. And who knows, you may even return from your mission with a new furry friend.
If the rush of the season doesn’t give you enough time to plan a charitable activity by Thanksgiving Day, you can still brainstorm ideas this month and come up with a holiday giving plan. Use Thanksgiving Day to discuss great ideas, bond with your team members and plan your thanks-giving activity.
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