Your guide to Thanksgiving volunteering and community service opportunities across Colorado

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Darlene Wedgeworth dumps canned vegetables into a staging box. The Epworth Foundation’s annual Feed a Family Thanksgiving dinner giveaway, Nov. 18, 2017.

With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays quickly approaching, community service is on many people’s minds. 

Whether you have time, money, skills, or supplies to contribute, here’s a list of ways to get involved – and give back – to a cause that you find meaningful. Many of these options are family-friendly and possible to do no matter where you live. So decide what you care about and do good this holiday season!

Volunteers prepare dessert during a Thanksgiving feast at the Denver Rescue Mission, Nov. 27, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Provide a Holiday Meal  

Food insecurity is a prevalent issue in Colorado and many families fear going hungry this holiday season. Make a difference by donating funds or goods for baskets, assembling and delivering baskets to families in need, or serving a holiday meal at a soup kitchen in your area.

Courtesy Children's Hospital Colorado
This week Children's Hospital Colorado appealed for new blood donors amid the coronavirus epidemic

Donate Blood  

There is an ongoing and critical need for blood donors across the state. Help save a life by donating to Children's Hospital Colorado or your local hospital of choice, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, CSL Plasma, or host a mobile blood drive through UCHealth or Vitalant.

Most blood banks require donors to be at least 17 years old, but younger children can get involved by helping to organize and promote a community drive.

Courtesy photo.
Care and Share volunteers organize food.

Host a Canned Food Drive

 According to folks at local food pantries, 2023 has been an especially lean year for donations. So this holiday season, make an impact by stocking the shelves. Consider organizing a canned and dry food drive at your office, church or temple, gym, or other place of gathering. Or, if you’re the type to host a large family or Friendsgiving, ask guests to bring a donation to dinner. You could also host a virtual food drive through Food Bank of the Rockies or volunteer your time at one of many food banks across the state.

If you’re looking for places to donate the goods, check in with your local public school, religious organization, or google “where to donate food near me.”

Or, if you’re looking for a more hands-on way to combat food insecurity, volunteer at a mobile food market or other event with We Don’t Waste.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Libraries, like this one inside Northeast Denver's Montbello campus, can benefit from your generous donations.

Collect Books, School Supplies, Coats, or Toys

 If you have a large group coming to dinner, ask guests to bring school supplies, books, coats, or toys to donate. Or, consider organizing a drive with friends and family, or through a community organization.

Want to know more about donation options?

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Spot the dog is currently the Denver Animal Shelter's longest-held dog. He's a sweetie. Sept. 6, 2023.

Volunteer at an Animal Shelter or Foster Pets at Home

 Local animal shelters are always looking for folks to play with animals, walk dogs, and clean cages. Some also need help taking pet portraits to post on online adoption websites. Call your local shelter to find out how you can help!

Many rescues also need folks who are willing to transport pets, fund medical care for sick and elderly animals, and foster animals in their homes.

Jacob D. Spetzler/For CPR News
Hunter Grosvenor (left) and Jake Scott (right), both Crested Butte Conservation Corps emplyees) clean up trash at a newly designated campsite up the Slate River drainage on June 19, 2021.

Be an Environmental Steward

 If spending time outside and being active is your kind of volunteerism, consider wrangling a group of friends or family to conduct an outdoor cleanup of a local park, creek, trail, or other natural area. All you need are some gloves, a trash can or bag, and some good walking shoes!

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kendall Bergstrom holds an array of hygene bags bound for people hanging outside of the Denver Rescue Mission. Five Points, March 16, 2019.

Make and Distribute Care Packages for People Experiencing Homelessness

 If you live in an area with unhoused citizens, consider assembling and distributing care packages for the holidays. You can ask friends and family to donate goods or donate money for you to purchase goods in bulk. Care packages could include hygienic supplies like toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, wet wipes, and lip balm, as well as non-perishable snacks, hand warmers, socks, hats, and gloves.

Once you’ve assembled the care packages, recruit some helpers to walk or drive around and distribute the goods.

Colorado has become one of the top-performing states in the country in how educators cover reading instruction. (Jenny Brundin/CPR News)

Volunteer as an Educator or Mentor

 For those who love connecting with others, consider volunteering as an educator or mentor! While some opportunities require specific skills, many simply ask you to show up and build relationships with children, teens, or adults.