NOTE: This is our 2015 list. See our 2016 List of Volunteer Opportunities!
We love that every year we have to post this earlier and earlier because the slots fill up so quickly. If you’ve volunteered for Thanksgiving before, make this the year you try something new!
This year you can choose from serving a meal, signing up families, organizing groceries, washing dishes, and more. Remember, the best volunteers show up on time, with a positive attitude and ready to dig in.
Might we also suggest… The churches and places of worship in your neighborhood host food drives, serve their neighbors, collect warm clothing and more. All you have to do is visit the church’s website or contact the organization’s office during normal work hours and ask how you or your group might help.
Remember, sign up early or lose your spot!
EL BUEN SAMARITANO: OCT – NOV 21 (times vary)
El Buen serves thousands of Austin families by providing the groceries for them to cook their own meal from home — an important part of the American Thanksgiving tradition. You can help register families in the weeks before Thanksgiving and/or hand out groceries on distribution day, usually the day before Thanksgiving. Bilingual volunteers are golden! El Buen’s website doesn’t have the information up yet, but check back here for more information as the date approaches.
SIGN UP: Many volunteers needed with all opportunities before Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers are screened and trained. Learn more here.
THUNDERCLOUD SUB’S TURKEY TROT BENEFITING CARITAS: NOV 20 – NOV 26
With almost 20,000 people participating, the Thundercloud five-mile race is one of the largest Turkey Trots in the country! All proceeds benefit Caritas of Austin, which supports local refugees, low-income and homeless people. ThunderCloud has raised more than $2.5 million for Caritas since the event began in 1991.
Of course, you can sign up to run five miles on Thanksgiving morning, but the event needs more than 650 volunteers, too. Sign up to help with packet distribution, man a water table at the race and more.
SIGN UP: Use a handy sign-up tool to claim your spot.
AUSTIN EMPTY BOWL PROJECT: NOV 22 or donate bowls by NOV 20
One of the first of its kind in Texas, the Austin Empty Bowl Project was founded in 1997 and has grown in both the number of bowls from local potters and the number of attendees. It’s the perfect combination of art, food and community, and it all benefits the children’s hunger programs at Capital Area Food Bank and Meals on Wheels and More. Attendees purchase a handcrafted bowl for $20, local restaurants fill it with soup and you stay and enjoy the music. Plus you get to keep the bowl!
Volunteers on the day-of must be at least 16 years old and be willing to spend at least two hours working at the event. For potters, your bowls must conform to certain specifications; they also ask that you complete a donation form.
SIGN UP: Visit Austin Empty Bowl Project for more information.
MOBILE LOAVES & FISHES: NOV 23 – THIS OPPORTUNITY IS FULL!
We’re a little early on this one, so check back again. But each year, Mobile Loaves & Fishes serves hundreds of our homeless neighbors by providing them food and clothing. It also creates innovative solutions to chronic homelessness by empowering the whole community to show its support.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, it usually offers a “Feast of Giving.” Volunteers will help with setup and take down, plate meals, serve meals, fellowship with attendees, monitor tables, refill drinks, cleanup, etc., and are expected to be there for the duration of the job they sign up. Specific times will be given when volunteers sign up for jobs.
SIGN UP: Fills quickly. For more information, contact Trudy Six at MLF.
H-E-B FEAST OF SHARING: NOV 24
This annual event serves more than 14,000 meals to anyone who comes in, and it all takes place in downtown Austin at the Palmer Events Center with the help of more than 1,400 volunteers.
Volunteers are needed for two shifts, 3:00-6:30 p.m. 6:00-9:00 p.m. with multiple volunteer assignments including row captains, table waiters, pie servers, greeters and more. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old.
SIGN UP: This thing runs like clockwork, so people love being a part of it. More here.
OPERATION TURKEY: NOV 25-26
What was started in Austin by Richard Bagdonas in 2000 is now in 10 cities across the country, serving more than 20,000 meals, clothing, and toiletries to the homeless and less fortunate Thanksgiving Day.
There’s no age limit to volunteer and they encourage everyone to lend a hand to prepare, package, and deliver meals. Certain locations in Austin limit the number of volunteers on Thanksgiving Day so you must sign up quickly to ensure you get your first choice of location.
The day before Thanksgiving, help prepare food for distribution at the Turkey Tailgate at Third Base on 183. More than 450 turkeys are smoked that day! You can also help collect and sort donations of clothing and toiletries.
On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers distribute food to homeless friends from 8am until noon.
SIGN UP: Hundreds of volunteers needed, but this fills up quickly. Learn more here.
MEALS ON WHEELS AND MORE: NOV 26
Each year, Meals on Wheels has hundreds of home-bound Austin clients signed up to signed up to receive holiday meals. Not only are you delivering their Thanksgiving meal , but you are also giving them the comfort and company everyone should have on Thanksgiving. Great for families and friends, sign up to deliver as many meals that day as you can handle.
SIGN UP: They don’t have info posted yet… but don’t let that stop you. This one fills up very quickly. Learn more here.
GOBBLE GOBBLE GIVE: NOV 25-26
Like Operation Turkey in that it delivers meals on Thanksgiving Day and operates in a number of cities. In Austin, last year more than 200 volunteers helped provide a hot meal, clothing and toiletries to more than 805 people in need. Volunteers help warm, package and deliver the food. No sign-up opportunities as of this post but watch here to learn more.
You might also try…
SALVATION ARMY, serving meals on Thanksgiving Day
FOUNDATION COMMUNITIES, operates 13 affordable housing communities and may have opportunities still open to purchase, cook and serve a holiday meal for a family.
CARITAS, its Community Kitchen serves on Thanksgiving Day and always needs volunteers.
Did we miss any this year? Please share with us in the comments below. There are new volunteer opportunities every year, so please help us keep this list as thorough as possible!