The next month is a guaranteed frenzy of holiday parties, epic meals, buying, spending, and gifting galore. The annual Thanksgiving feast is followed by the annual shopping circus that is Black Friday, which is typically followed by company holiday parties, friend holiday parties, New Year’s Eve parties, etc.

In the midst of the tinsel and credit card charges it can be easy to to miss the real meaning of the holidays, giving back to those in need and supporting your local community. Nearly 24 percent of Austin residents live below the poverty level, with over 27 percent of them being children, and many of them will not have the means or opportunities to have a warm hot meal on Thanksgiving or sufficient items for the approaching cold weather.


If you would like to get involved in some very worthwhile, fulfilling volunteer efforts this holiday season, here are a number of ways you can make a difference in Austin. We encourage you to also leave comments with additional opportunities and ways to give back in Austin.


Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels distributes almost 3,000 meals a day to homebound older adults and people with disabilities in Texas. Receiving a special meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a visit, can make the day extra special for many people.  You can donate online right here. Just $25 can give someone 10 meals and other services. You can also purchase needed items such as blankets, toothbrushes, socks, etc. and deliver the items on December 13th. More information can be found here!

Toys for Tots

One of the greatest joys in life is making a child smile, and what better way to do in than giving a child in need a shiny new toy? Toys for Tots collects toys from pick-up sites all over the city to be delivered by Santa on Christmas morning. You can contribute by taking toys to a local drop-off site, donate money for toys , or volunteer your time in the form of assisting in the storage and transportation of toys.

Create a Homeless Care Package

We sit in traffic for hours every day and often encounter homeless citizens collecting change on the side of the highway. A simple way to give back is to create a Homeless Care Package. You can create packages to keep in your car to be handed out on the spot, or deliver them to local shelters. Good ideas for the packages include warm socks, mittens, toothbrush, toothpaste, bottles of water, Chapstick, lightweight snacks including granola bars, trail mixes, or gift cards to H-E-B or Walmart. Find more ideas for your care package here.

El Buen Samaritano

El Buen Samaritano is preparing to host their Annual Hands for Hope Thanksgiving Event this coming Thursday. The event gathers traditional Thanksgiving foods and distributes them to families in need in the Austin community. You can help by volunteering your time at their Food Pantry in the assembly and distribution of the meals. Online, you can purchase feathers and gift a turkey, three feathers is only $30 and provides an entire Thanksgiving meal for a family. Find more information or donate here!

Thunder Cloud Subs Turkey Trot

This Thanksgiving day, our local sandwich shop Thunder Cloud Subs is hosting the annual Turkey Trot, a 5-mile family fun run in which all proceeds go to Caritas. This non profit is devoted to aiding in housing assistance and services for the homeless, working poor, and documented refugees. You can sign up to run the race here. Not a runner? You can donate in the name of Fundraising Teams here or volunteer your time here.

H-E-B Feast of Sharing

The Palmer Event Center will be open this Thanksgiving for the H-E-B Feast of Sharing, a holiday dinner which will serve over 25,000 meals to families in need. Volunteers are needed for multiple stations and for shifts from 3:00-6:30 pm and 6:00-9:00 pm. Sign up here!

Operation Turkey

Started in 2000, the idea behind Operation Turkey began with founder Richard Botangas delivering leftovers from his own Thanksgiving meal to people on 6th street. Today, Operation Turkey operates at a much larger scale, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to prepare and distribute beautiful Thanksgiving meals to the homeless. You can donate your time by helping in the cooking or distribution of meals here, or donate money towards the meals here.

Coats for Kids

Even though we live in Texas, the weather is dipping down and winter is quickly approaching. Coats for Kids donates over 35,000 coats annually to Central Texas kids in need. The community coat drive is going on from November 17th – December 10th, and you can drop off a coat at any Jack Brown cleaners. You can donate here or volunteer for the cause here.

Austin Pets Alive

Let’s not forget about our furry friends on this holiday season! In order to maintain Austin as a no kill animal zone, Austin Pets Alive depends on your donations to care for and re-adopt abandoned pets. You can donate much needed items to their wish list (including kitty litter, kitten food, hand santizer, blankets, and more), sponsor a pet here, or volunteer your time.


We encourage you to leave comments with additional opportunities and ways to give back!

– Contributed by Page Jensen-Slattengren