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Thanksgiving Family Opportunities for Caring
By Dr. Caron Goode

Teaching children to care can start with any service project of your family's choosing. When our family moved across the country from our parents, siblings, and cousins, our first holiday was lonely without the conversation and company of three generations. Determined to start our own tradition, my daughter, stepson, husband and I discussed what we wanted to do, why we liked it, and made our list. These activities were some of our best times. Here is our list to get your family started on their caring opportunities.

Help Prepare or Serve a Meal.
In every community there are organizations that dedicate themselves to preparing and serving a holiday meal for others. This meal may be served in a community center or homeless shelter, and many volunteers are needed before, during, and after the event. Before the event, volunteers are needed for shopping, handling donations, food preparation, set up, and decoration. During the event, people are needed to serve and run food from the kitchen, assist elderly or disabled guest, and serve drinks. Any event like this, no matter how big or small, requires a lot of clean-up. Therefore, volunteering for the late shift can offer your family the best of both worlds. You can enjoy your traditional celebration and still do your part for the community meal.

Donate Food or Funds.
If your family is going out of town for the holiday or wants to donate material goods instead of time, all charitable organizations welcome volunteering on this level. If this is your choice, gather your family together and discuss how and what everyone, including the children, is willing to give and which organization you want to support.

Make Double.
Even though you may not be able to attend a community meal, that does not mean you can not contribute to the bounty. Check with your local organizations and see if you can donate a pie, side dish or turkey to their meal. Doubling your efforts will make the holiday more enjoyable for you and for the people who get a slice of Aunt Sallie's famous pumpkin pie!

Celebrate Your Own Harvest.
Organize a food drive for your local food bank. This can be done on an individual or family basis or through your church, community service organization or scout troop. Then set aside time on Thanksgiving to gather with those who participated and celebrate your own harvest.

Visit a Hospital or Nursing Home.
Many people in hospitals and nursing homes find themselves without family on the holidays. Call and make plans to visit with someone who is confined to a facility on Thanksgiving Day. All it takes is a call to the hospital or nursing home, and arrangements can be made to share your time with someone who might otherwise be alone this holiday.

Work Off That Turkey.
Your family may decide to use their post-meal time for more than pre-game football. Before your family gathers, get together and decide on a project you would like to undertake for someone in your neighborhood. Perhaps your elderly neighbor has a fence that needs painting or yard work that needs to be done. Your offer of help may be the thing that makes another person feels blessed.

Caron Goode's (EdD) insights are drawn from her fifteen years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness. She is the author of eight books and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents www.acpi.biz, a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents. A mom and step-mom, she and her husband live in Whitney, Texas. Visit Caron at www.inspiredparenting.net.

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