Why You Shouldn’t Volunteer in the Canteen This Thanksgiving

The soup kitchens will be very busy on Thanksgiving and the next day. Not only with their regular clientele, but also with an abundance of volunteers who are always willing to help on those specific days. Volunteering is great, but maybe take another look at your schedule.

Training volunteers takes time and resources, ”Eileen Heisman of the National Endowment told USA Today . For a long-term volunteer, this is a good investment. But if you’re going to disappear in two days with a dozen other people, it might be better to just stay home.

Perhaps you parents understand it this way: sometimes my oldest child likes to be a “helper” when I interact with his little brothers and sisters. So he meets me and asks if he can help in one way or another, and if I say yes, I have to teach him how to do this work, thus doing more work for himself than if he just left me in rest. “This is not a helper ,” I tell him. “This is being help th.”

Instead, use your generosity in a different way. Cash is a great way to make a donation, especially as canteen and food banks make deals with suppliers that generate additional income for them. Buying food from the food bank is fine, but if you give them the money, they can feed a lot more people.

Or mark spring and summer on your calendar when there are not enough volunteers. “Treat yourself to volunteering on dark days, late spring and early summer,” says Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan , a fellow writer who has been a longtime volunteer and independent contractor at the Greater Pittsburgh Public Food Bank. The influx of one-time volunteers, she says, is a big part of what makes the holiday season “incredibly stressful” for the people who work at the food bank.

She mentioned a few other ways to donate her time before the holidays or otherwise:

  • Call your elected officials . “Advocacy is effective throughout the year,” says Pagel-Hogan. “Ask them to support initiatives that not only tackle hunger but also meet other needs such as recipes, utilities, transportation.”
  • Talk to businesses that may donate food or money and help them find a way to donate on an ongoing basis, not just once a year.

Food-related volunteering isn’t the only kind either: Pagel-Hogan regularly brings her kids to the local pantry to help clean up the space, saving the organization money and time. The key is to find something that really helps the organization do its job, not something that makes you feel good but ultimately doesn’t help.


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