GivingCity’s 2017 List of Thanksgiving volunteering opportunities

Operation Turkey 2

The year 2017 might just be the year Austin takes its giving to the next level.

So far this year, you’ve marched and rallied, advocated for and the causes you care about, hit a record-high on Amplify Austin day, donated and volunteered to help disaster victims, and more. But the year isn’t over yet. In fact, we’re about to go into the biggest giving season of the year.

There are four big reasons why Austinites love to volunteer over Thanksgiving:

  1. It’s about food. Food is security, love, nourishment, home, family… all wrapped up into one delicious bite. And Thanksgiving is all about food! So it makes sense that when we’re imagine sitting at the Thanksgiving table, we want to make sure everyone experiences that feeling.
  2. Everyone can do it. The tasks are simple enough for a child yet there’s enough to do for the whole family. Whether it’s scooping out mashed potatoes or sorting food cans, most everyone can participate. Which is great because you’ll probably have a lot of family in town and you’ll want to do something meaningful together.
  3. You’ll be part of a community. You’ll work alongside people you don’t know but because you’re working together on something meaningful, you’ll feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. That’s what giving is all about.
  4. You can meet the people who benefit from your service. It’s a rare volunteer experience that does all these things AND allows you to smile at the people you’re serving. Whether you’re handing out groceries at El Buen or delivering hot meals to people on the street, you’ll experience their gratefulness.

NEW THIS YEAR! Austin and Round Rock will both host activities on National Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, November 18. Check those out below for fun project you can do with the little ones!

See this list of Thanksgiving volunteering opportunities — listed in chronological order — and sign up soon. These popular events fill up fast!

el-buen-bags-by-monicaEL BUEN SAMARITANO:   Fundraising now, volunteer opportunities early November

Every year, El Buen provides a Thanksgiving meal to more than 1,000 families, but they do it a little differently than most: They provide the groceries to the family so they can prepare it themselves.

El Buen believes in helping families acculturate to this American holiday by providing them with all the ingredients they need for a traditional Thanksgiving meal — a turkey, pie, canned vegetables, and all the trimmings. After all, eating the meal is only part of the holiday — prepping and cooking it is part of the experience — and it allows the family to enjoy the meal, and each other, at home.

DONATE: Right now, El Buen is asking for donations. Just $20 will provide a full Thanksgiving meal for one family.

VOLUNTEER: Stay tuned here to sign up to volunteer in November and help register families and hand out groceries. Visit El Buen Samaritano and for more information contact Jessica at or 512.439.8907


food bank sortingCENTRAL TEXAS FOOD BANK: October – November 23

Families come together over the holiday, which means their food needs increase. Food pantries and service agencies play a vital role is providing these families the food they need to fill the gaps, and Central Texas Food Bank serves 300 of them throughout 21-counties.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, volunteer to sort food donations at the Food Bank to prepare for distribution through its partner agencies across Central Texas. Warehouse volunteers help ensure all of the food we distribute is safe, healthy and high quality by inspecting, cleaning, sorting, boxing and making food donations ready for distribution.

Volunteer shifts are typically 2 ½ to three hours long and are available Monday through Saturday. Each shift can host up to 120 volunteers, with limited space for youth volunteers, ages 8 years old and older.

VOLUNTEER: Sign up and view available shifts at CTFB’s sign-up page.



Generation Serve — formerly known as Little Helping Hands — will host its first ever Family Volunteer Day at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex. The event will be a free, city-wide event for families to come learn more about our community’s needs and sample service projects in eight  different service areas like animal welfare, environment, helping people, helping kids, helping seniors, health and wellness, and more.

Activities will vary by service area, but Generation Serves says the event is a chance for families new to volunteering to “sample” service activities rather than the organization’s usual, hours-long projects. The idea is to sample service activities around the room that meet the needs of nonprofit organizations from all over Austin.

VOLUNTEER: Families must pre-register for a specific shift at


Round Rock Family Volunteer DayROUND ROCK FAMILY VOLUNTEER DAY: November 18

Family Volunteer Day is open to the public and projects will benefit 10 area nonprofits. This event of offered by The Volunteer Center and will take place at the Baca Center in downtown Round Rock. Families, children, and groups of all ages are welcome to help with crafts, hope jars, projects, creating shelf safe meal packs for the holidays and more.

VOLUNTEER: To register as an individual or group, sign up here. Lunch will be served at 12 noon at no cost.



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.

VOLUNTEER: Visit the event page to sign up. Sots are filling up fast!


austin empty bowl


The Austin Empty Bowl Project is the perfect combination of art, food and community, and it all benefits the children’s hunger programs at Central Texas 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.

DONATE: If you’re not a potter but you’d still like to contribute a bowl, visit one of the participating pottery studios before November 17 and let them know you’d like to decorate a bowl to be donated to the Empty Bowl Project. Great for families and groups.

VOLUNTEER: Volunteer sign-up was nota available at the time of this post, but we’ll update it when it is. In the meantime, make a note to yourself to not miss this event.


HEB Feast of Sharing photo by Arlen NydamH-E-B FEAST OF SHARING: November 21

Feast of Sharing, taking place at the Palmer Events Center, is the largest community Thanksgiving meal in Austin. H-E-B provides 14,000 meals to hungry Austinites with the help of 1,400 volunteers who plate and serve food, do crafts with children in attendance, and many other tasks. All volunteers should expect to be up and moving around for their whole shift, and many jobs require carrying trays of food or drinks.

Volunteers must be 14 years old or older. Some tasks require a minimum age of 18. All volunteers must sign up individually through beginning on October 11th. People can volunteer either 3-6:30pm or 6-9pm.

VOLUNTEER: All the information about parking, minimum ages, and volunteer roles is available at Hands On Central Texas.


operation turkey


Volunteer to serve a hot meal to people experiencing homelessness across Central Texas, from Round Rock and Cedar Park to Austin and San Marcos.

There is no age limit to volunteer and everyone is encouraged to help.

DONATE: Every $5 donation feeds two people, and this year’s goal is to serve 50,000 people in 15 locations across the country. Make your donation online.

HOW TO SIGN UP: Sign up to volunteer the day before Thanksgiving or the day of by visiting Operation Turkey.




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.

HOW TO SIGN UP:  Volunteers will need to a driver’s license and more. Register now to make sure you’re ready on Thanksgiving day. Learn more here.


Here are a few others that don’t have information available yet or are already full:

SALVATION ARMY, serving meals on Thanksgiving Day and the day before. This opportunity is so hot, it’s already full!

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!

PHOTO: Operation Turkey founder Richard Bagdonas and current leader Brian Tolbert getting ready to hand out some turkey.

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