Thanksgiving brings volunteer opportunities for students

Lauren Velez

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many Austinites are looking to get into the holiday spirit by giving back to the community. Students who want to get involved have many volunteer opportunities available, ranging from turkey preparation to running 5 miles. Here are a few of The Daily Texan’s suggestions:

Operation Turkey

For the 15th year in a row, Operation Turkey is hosting a two-day event to serve food to the homeless. Students interested in volunteering can help out Wednesday or Thursday, but giving time isn’t the only way to help. The organization will also be collecting donations of food, clothing and toiletries to give out to the homeless while
serving meals.

Students who volunteer Thanksgiving morning can arrive at 8 a.m. and will be done in less than four hours. Executive director Brian Tolbert said they will need help all
day Wednesday. 

“Wednesday is our Turkey Tailgate, where we smoke and prepare 500 turkeys,” Tolbert said. “During the day, we’ll be getting food prepared and sorted. That night, we’ll move the food from the Turkey Tailgate to the locations where we’ll be distributing the food.”

El Buen Samaritano

El Buen Samaritano is an Austin organization dedicated to providing education, health care and financial services to Latino and other local families. Ivan Dávila, director of communications and community engagement, said that, while the food pantry is closed on Thanksgiving, they are always in need of volunteers during the week to help sort donations.

“We would love help in our food pantry,” Dávila said. “We always need about five people per day to help us with stocking, bagging and distributing the groceries.”

Thundercloud Turket Trot

Students also have an opportunity to give back while completing their Thanksgiving morning workout. Thundercloud Subs is hosting its annual Turkey Trot, a 5-mile run in downtown Austin. All proceeds go to Caritas of Austin, which aims to end homelessness and hunger 

Mike Haggerty, co-owner of Thundercloud and director of the Turkey Trot, said students who don’t want to run can help by volunteering at package pick-up stations.

“We run two locations of pick-up: one at Luke’s Locker and the other at First Texas Honda,” Haggerty said. “Pre-registered runners come to get their number, T-shirt and
a race guide.”

Capital Area Food Bank of Texas

The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas will be opening its doors all week to volunteers interested in helping with the food bank’s product recovery. Students will help
inspect food coming in from grocery store donations or food drives. Paul Gaither, director of marketing and communications for Capital Area Food Bank, said they are always in need of volunteers who can help out with this activity.

“We look at things like expiration dates and damaged or opened packages,” Gaither said. “From there, we sort that food into 30-pound boxes that can be distributed.”

Gaither said students can visit the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas website to see which shifts are available for volunteering at food pantries near them. 

Meals on Wheels and More

Meals on Wheels and More, an organization that aims to deliver food to Austin’s hungry population, has a lot of volunteer opportunities for students. Lydia Kelley, director of volunteer services, said that, while their volunteer roster is full for Thanksgiving Day, they still need help other days during the holiday season.

“We’re always looking for volunteer drivers who can help us deliver meals to the needy,” Kelley said. “They can come to training in the morning and then deliver meals right after that. Volunteers can also help us with other services, like pet food delivery and grocery shopping.”