5 Places Where You Can Volunteer Your Time on Thanksgiving Day

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family to go home to and "put up with" on Thanksgiving. If you don't have any Thanksgiving plans or just don't feel like eating a whole turkey by yourself, you might consider giving some of your time to some people who could use it.

Dallas is home to several charities who need volunteers to help them fulfill important, worthy causes for the less fortunate especially on this hallowed American holiday. We promise you'll feel much better donating your time and efforts to helping someone who really needs it than trying to eat an entire turkey dinner for four people. Also, being charitable doesn't go straight to your thighs.

Operation Turkey
No one in a nation as prosperous as America should have to go without turkey (or a tofurkey, if they insist) on Thanksgiving. It's inexcusable that anyone in the world should have to go any length of time without food no matters who's in charge. The 100 percent volunteer group Operation Turkey spends the entire year making sure that at least our corner of the globe has enough food to go around on Thanksgiving.

The group first started collecting donations for Thanksgiving dinners after the year 2000 when founder Richard Bagdonas decided to give out the food he had for Thanksgiving to homeless people he saw sitting on the street on his way home. Ever since then, the group set up branches in 30 cities across the nation including Dallas in 2015 when they reached their highest ever goal of 30,000 Thanksgiving meals.

Volunteers are needed to do everything from preparing the meals to delivering them to needy families all across the city. The group also encourages families with children to bring the little ones to help prepare Thanksgiving meals. Volunteers can sign up for a spot in this year's meal delivery on the group's official website.

Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot
This annual Thanksgiving tradition has become something of a rite of passage for Dallas joggers. However, if you're not the type to get up at dawn and run until your legs fall off, you can still lend a hand for a worthy cause.

The annual 5K run/walk and 8-mile race raises money for Dallas' YMCA locations which provides a number of important programs such as after-school and summer programs to increase the health and welfare of children all over DFW. It's not just the racers who raise funds for these and other important programs. Volunteers are also needed to help run the Thanksgiving day and get the racers to the finish line. Volunteers can pick up a packet at one of the five YMCA locations or contact the Turkey Trot's volunteer organizers on the marathon's official website.

Mission Arlington
If you're mulling over the prospect of having to cook an entire meal for your family, just stop it. There are people who would give what little they had for such a bountiful feast. So instead of shoveling together an entire buffet for a small group of people, why not make one for someone who will be more than grateful for it?

Every year, Mission Arlington puts together Thanksgiving baskets and meals for needy families all over the city and this year, they plan to deliver them to more than 25,000 people. Mission Arlington needs volunteers to not only prepare the food but also to deliver them on Thanksgiving day. According to their website, volunteers can meet up at the Mission's headquarters at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving day to deliver meals and turkeys until well into the afternoon. All you have to do is show up.

Dallas Life
Maybe you don't have your own car to deliver meals to people who need them on Thanksgiving Day. Don't worry. You can still use your awesome DART train planning skills to head out and volunteer on Thursday.

The Dallas Life Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides homeless people with meals, a warm place to stay and other programs and resources, offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal to people who can't afford one and they always need volunteers on the last Thursday of November to make it happen. According to the website, volunteers are needed to prepare the dining area with decorations, serve food, prepare serving trays and clean up after everyone's eaten. This Thanksgiving tradition usually fills up with volunteers so the nonprofit group asks that volunteers bring no more than four people in their party.

Thanksgiving isn't just a time for eating. It's also a time to get together and show people how much you care just by spending some time with them.

The nonprofit homeless aid group OurCalling serves a meal on Thanksgiving to the city's homeless population, but they don't just provide them with tasty food. Volunteers can sign up to serve food and clean up the dining area after the meal is done, and they can also volunteer their time by offering prayers and playing games for those who could benefit from the comfort of a stranger. Volunteers can sign up for a team on the group's website.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.