11/30/2013 01:40 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2013

Ways To Volunteer That Really Show Your Thanks

It’s strange how on Thanksgiving we spend so much time thinking about what we are thankful for, only to seemingly forget most of the other 364 days a year.

We feel an overwhelming gratefulness for the blessings of our lives, and if we stayed in tune with that sentiment year round, surely we would all be happier, healthier people.

But how do we remember everything for which we have to be thankful, and how do we put that gratitude to good use?

Remember that whatever you have, many people aren’t as fortunate. As your Thanksgiving weekend winds down, ask yourself, “What am I truly most thankful for, and how can I help someone else achieve that same thing?”

Here are some ideas on how you can give back based on what you are luckiest to have in your life. Maybe by next Thanksgiving you will have given someone else a chance to give thanks too.

If you’re thankful for your...

  • Health
    Getty Images
    Help someone get healthy who otherwise wouldn’t know how. In the South Bay of Los Angeles, the Beach Cities Health District has a program for volunteers to visit a senior citizen in their home and help them get through an exercise program. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, the Bone Builders Exercise Program allows volunteers 55 and over to lead group classes with exercises specifically aimed at preventing osteoporosis. If such programs don’t exist in your city, try your own grassroots effort: Lead a walking group in your neighborhood. Post fliers telling people where and when to meet, and as you get to know your group, call them before walks to keep them motivated.
  • Wealth
    You’ve got a great salary that keeps you and your family secure and without want. But remember, to have a salary you have to have a job, and to have a job, you have to be able to interview for one. Take the nice clothes you don’t wear anymore and donate them to a place like Career Closet in San Jose, CA, which provides used business clothing to people who need it for job interviews. Bottomless Closet NYC not only provides the clothes, but also interview prep and career training for disadvantaged women trying to enter the workforce.
  • Home
    Grant Halverson via Getty
    Everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity, but most are intimidated by the idea of building a house. However, there are plenty of ways to involve yourself with Habitat for Humanity that are less physical and require less time commitment. You can volunteer your time in a Habitat for Humanity office or fundraising event, help paint or landscape an existing home or work at one of its ReStore locations, which sell used furniture and building materials to fund its projects.
  • Dog
    Dougal Waters via Getty
    If you’re grateful for your furry best friend, the obvious volunteer opportunity is to walk a dog at the SPCA or Humane Society. But some people shy away from the heartbreak of shelters and animal rescues. If that’s you, put your own dog to good use. Therapy Dogs International provides all kinds of ideas for ways your dog can make a difference. Get your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen so you can take it to hospitals to visit patients. We love their program called "Children Reading to Dogs," whereby kids who are too shy to read in front of others can practice with your pup.
  • Kids
    As your kids trot off to school with a healthy and delicious lunch in hand, remember that thousands of kids in the U.S. don’t have the money for school lunch, and that when they don’t have that lunch provided for them on the weekends and holidays, they go hungry. The Food Bank of Western New York’s BackPack Program generously provides hungry kids with a backpack of nutritious and easy to prepare foods each Friday to get them and their family through the weekend. If you can't find a program like this near you, the Food Bank of Western NY takes donations online.
  • Love
    Nathan Harrison via Getty
    He or she may drive you crazy sometimes, but all in all you’re grateful for your significant other. When love goes wrong, abused women and children need help. You can donate your old cell phone to someone at risk of domestic violence. Organizations like Secure The Call collect old phones, reprogram them to be used as be used as emergency-call-only phones, and distribute them to those who may need to call 911. We hope they never need to call, but are happy to recycle our phone this way just in case.
  • Education
    The foundation of any education is the ability to read, yet a staggering number of American children are grades behind their required reading levels. Reading Partners makes it incredibly easy to help children practice their reading. Sign up online, pick a school closest to you, do an online orientation and shadow another volunteer once. You’re all set to read with a child once a week -- and make an enormous impact on their future.
  • Earth
    Klaus Vedfelt via Getty
    If you’re grateful for Mother Nature, show her. The best part about volunteering for the environment is that you get to be outdoors, often enjoying your favorite hobbies. Look up a local beach clean up through the Surfrider Foundation. You’ll make new friends and likely find a surf buddy for after the cleanup. Or if you aren’t near the ocean, ask your local Sierra Club what volunteer activities they’re planning next. A trail restoration project is a great way to do good, get some exercise, and soak up the sun.


What HuffPosters Are Thankful For
What HuffPosters Are Thankful For