Every Thursday morning, I leave my apartment just before 8 a.m. and walk to a local elementary school to meet M., a second grader who’s reading below grade level. I spend 45 minutes reviewing phonics, vocabulary, and spelling; he spends 45 minutes trying to tell me stories about his baby brother, Batman, and how he loves dinosaurs. It’s easily the highlight of my week.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect, to celebrate the blessings we have and how we can share them with friends and family. One of the things I’m most thankful for is the opportunity to work with M. through Reading Partners; he reminds me of how to look at the world with fresh eyes and keep chipping away at challenges. It’s small, but showing up every week feels like I’m helping build a better world.
For our Cookbook Club and Baking Club members, sharing recipes and riffs is just part of how they build community. From volunteering at soup kitchens and fostering puppies to donating to can drives and sponsoring a cow, they give back in a variety of thoughtful ways.
Curious to learn from their small-but-mighty efforts, I asked the clubs how they give back to their communities. They chimed in with dozens of stories—and we’re sharing 15 of our favorites to help inspire you:
“Through our grocery store―we provide a full meal for a local family. We also adopt a few foster children every holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas) to make sure their holidays are happy. We also bake and deliver cookies to all our neighbors every Christmas. For us, as a family, it's important that our wee people learn to take care of others in the community.” —Lisa Keys
“I went out and bought ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner to donate to five anonymous families in need. It’s my favorite holiday, and everyone should be able to have a healthy, delicious Thanksgiving.” —Jess Hali
“We bring warm clothes for an organization who work with the homeless (winters are cold here).” —Ju Lee Eroua
“I live next door to a Sunrise Retirement home, and across the street from a church that has a farmers' market on Saturdays. At the end of the market, I go to the fruit and veggie guy, and ask to buy their extra flats of strawberries or other perishable fruit at next to nothing. I load it in my car, and literally drive it across the street to the Sunrise. The residents LOVE the farm fresh produce. I let the lady at the front desk distribute so I don’t have a guest 'forget' they have an allergy, etc. I’ve given them peaches; cherries were a big hit. My hope is that next summer, maybe some of the more mobile can be escorted across the street to the market and enjoy an outing.” —Valerie Walker
“We donate to Second Harvest Food Bank. In the past, my husband and I delivered groceries and prepared meals to people with terminal illnesses every Saturday morning. We did this once on Thanksgiving but did not again, because finding volunteers on Thanksgiving is easy; it is having them commit to the whole year that is difficult.” —Tara Roberts
“We’re supporters of No Kid Hungry. We make our annual contribution the day after Thanksgiving. Just because, sadly, hunger will return after the Thanksgiving table has been cleared.” —Anne-Marie Normandeau
“I do many charity fundraisers throughout the year for many different causes. I am focusing more on working with organizations who bring awareness to mental illness in foster care and group homes because I grew up in foster care, and mental illness is also close to my heart.” —Tim Schafer
“I don’t give back in a food way, but for the last year-and-a-half I have been collecting female hygiene products, primarily through social media. I collect tampons, pads, individual pain relief packets, sanitary wipes, and gallon freezer bags, and assemble (hopefully) enough in each bag to get a homeless woman through that time of the month. Once put together, a local outreach center distributes them for me. I saw a video about how difficult it can be to have your cycle when you don’t have access to a consistent bathroom, or shower, or place to lie down, and it really resonated with me.” —Nicole Kriedeman
“My son lives in a supported community and every holiday we host any and all residents that can’t go home or have family around for the holidays. We love having them join us and they enjoy the sharing of a holiday meal with friends.” —Mary Jo Shackelford
“I compile meal bags and we each keep several in our cars. Cans of soup and vegetables, pasta, peanut butter, healthy snacks, etc., enough to feed a family of four for a couple of days. Every person we see panhandling gets a bag, no questions asked, and we do this throughout the winter.” —Jenniffer McConnell Carlage
“Not human-related, but we took in a foster puppy, who will be staying with us until she gets adopted.” —Doris Ho
“I volunteer for the global Slow Food movement and Slow Food Youth Network branch. I am a local chapter leader and also part of the regional executive committee. Our mission is grant access to 'good, clean, and fair' food to everyone, throughout international projects that empower farmers, producers, and consumers alike. Right now our biggest focus is on the relationship between climate change and the food we consume, and how everyone can make a difference choosing local, seasonal, and sustainably-produced food.” —Serena Boschi
“Every year my church hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner for internationals to introduce them to the American tradition, and the year I was in charge we managed to roast six 24-lb. turkeys and make salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, buttered corn, dinner rolls, and two kinds of pies for 150 people!” —Joy Huang
“We are making Family Meal Kits for Operation Food Search. The kits contain a dinner meal for a family of four, and we include breakfast and a fruit as well. We decorate the paper bags and also include a card or picture for each kit. Everything is non-perishable and the family cooks the meal at home. The kits are delivered in pop-up pantries and sometimes to families at a pediatrician's office. Operation Food Search is an amazing organization and $.98 of every $1 goes to food and helping others in the community, which is pretty incredible.” —Anne Bolhofner
“I work both at a food bank and Backpack Snack Attack a program that provides food for kids on the weekend. We deliver to local schools. It makes me more thankful.” —Patricia Lally
How do you give back to your community? Share in the comments section below!