Lonely Thanksgiving: Lend a helping hand during the holiday
Editor's note: Thanksgiving. A time for the entire family to gather around the table, smiling and laughing over a golden turkey as if life is just one big Publix commercial. Fortunately, some people actually get that experience. But many others don't. Maybe you and your family live in totally different states. Maybe you just don't have a family. Maybe you have chosen a family of friends. Or maybe you just don't want to talk to your family at all. We got you covered. All week, we're bringing you our Guide to Lonely Thanksgiving. Our critics and writers have offered their best advice for going the holiday alone, from TV to reading to eating out. It doesn't have to be a pity party. If you do it right, you can be thankful for your solitude, too.
Having nowhere to eat Thanksgiving Dinner can inspire one's inner altruist. What better way to reaffirm your faith in humanity than by gathering with strangers to help those in need.
The real problem is that if you haven't lined up a place to volunteer on Thanksgiving by now, the pickings get mighty slim, said Geri Costello, community relations manager of 211 Tampa Bay, a local social services connections agency.
"You really need to have signed up in October if you want to serve meals on Thanksgiving Day," Costello said.
Opportunities remain if you're willing to stay close to home. Costello suggested that people looking to help turn to their local faith-based organizations and offer to lend a helping hand during the holiday.
"Neighborhood organizations would be the best bet at this point," she said.
If you can't find an organized place to give back, you can also keep busy by combing through your belongings looking for items to donate to Goodwill and the Salvation Army to benefit the needy.
Getting out of the house is another impetus to volunteer, so experts also suggest you grab some rubber gloves and a trash bag and become a one-person neighborhood or beach clean up to get through the holiday.
If you can wait until after Thanksgiving to give back, there are plenty of chances from making up Christmas food baskets to serving hot meals to the homeless.
Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa is full up with volunteers for Thanksgiving Day, but could use a few dozen hands on Black Friday and over the holiday weekend to prep ingredients and do kitchen work. Sign up at metromin.org/volunteer.
Agencies in Pasco and Pinellas counties that need help over the weekend can be found at 211connects.org.
There's no shortage of ways to give back if that's your goal for this season of thanks - even if the choices are limited on the day. At least now, you'll know for next year.