CINCINNATI - Thanksgiving is a time of year when people give thanks, but it can also be a great time to give back to those who are in need.
Here are nine great ways to give back this holiday season. But the list doesn't stop here. Tell us in the comment section below how you're giving back this season and be sure to send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org showing how you're volunteering.
1. Feed Hunger with Who Dey
The Freestore Foodbank's plan to serve more than 40,000 people over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays comes with a price that donations help offset. Donations from Tri-State residents go to help provide families with a full meal for the holidays, clothing, housing assistance, transportation and more. Bengals fans can help out when they head to the game at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 25. Make a financial donation or drop off canned good donations at the entrances to PBS as you head into the game against the Raiders. Also, you can make a simple donation as you stop by local Kroger stores to pick up the ingredients for your Thanksgiving meal. There are $1, $3 or $5 donation options at stores' checkout aisle.
For more information, go to http://fsfbmedia.org/beta/events/news-and-events/.
2. Give like a saint at St. Vincent de Paul
Since St. Vincent de Paul's annual holiday drive began 22 years ago, more than 400,000 meals have been collected and distributed to local families in need — and you can help make this year one of their most successful. The organization accepts donations of canned goods and cash at local Kroger stores as well as donations through its website. A $1 donation will provide seven meals for families. This year's goal is 70,000 pounds or 219 barrels of food, which is enough to feed nearly 2,150 local families for one week.
For more information about this year's initiative and where to donate, go to http://www.svdpcincinnati.org/News_and_Events/Food_From_The_Heart/.
3. Feed many at the Fall Feast
More than 8,000 meals are expected to be distributed at 2012's Fall Feast at the Duke Energy Center, and it takes helpful hands to aid in the cause. Volunteers are needed for the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, as well as the Share-A-Meal event. This year's Fall Feast includes free dental checkup, a coat giveaway, free health screenings, haircuts, vision tests, live music and great food — so there are plenty of ways for volunteers to offer their talents. For more information, go to http:// fallfeast.org/.
4. Shed your winter wear to help Goodwill
Runners may heat up pretty quickly during the 103rd annual Thanksgiving Day Race through Cincinnati and Goodwill is here to help the racers cool off and help a good cause. For the third year in a row, Goodwill is sponsoring donation stations both at the start of the race and at mile two marker. The stations are a place for racers and attendees to shed their winter wear to help benefit others in the Tri-State. For more information, go to http://www.cincinnatigoodwill.org/news/?p=909.
5. Adopt a family
Many people may be focusing on their Black Friday bargains, but many local families can also benefit from your deal hunting. The Salvation Army is sponsoring an Adopt-A-Family program where sponsors are paired with a family or senior in need to help provide holiday Christmas gifts for them. While you're scooping up post-Thanksgiving savings, you can help stock someone else's Christmas tree, too. For more information and to sign up, go to http://www.use.salvationarmy.org/use/www_use_cincinnati.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/4228EDB7B46EC947852577B60053A4B5?Opendocument.
NEXT PAGE: Read how you can help animals, troops and the hungry.
6. Help a soup kitchen
Donations of time and food are appreciated at soup kitchens around the Tri-State.
- The Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills kitchens always need groups to sponsor meals — a task that includes obtaining food and preparing it to feed at least 150 people. Also, the Walnut Hills Pantry needs volunteers to bag groceries for distribution, stock the pantry shelves and pass out food to the guests. The kitchens welcome volunteers to assemble and bring in holiday gift bags to hand out to guests. For more information, go to http://www.overtherhinekitchen.org/volunteer_help.html.
- In Northern Kentucky, the Parish Kitchen in Covington always needs monetary donations to help feed the hungry that pass through its doors. The kitchen's website accepts donations of any value to help fund their efforts. To donate, go to http://www.parishkitchen.org/Donate.
- Many other local soup kitchens are in need of help or donations, so stop by your local one to see how you can help.
7. Support the troops
Many dedicated men and women of the military are overseas and missing out on their Thanksgiving celebrations back at home, but several organizations are working to make sure the soldiers are receiving love and support around the holidays. Groups like Packages From Home, Any Soldier, Operation Shoebox and Operation Gratitude and just a few of the organizations that work to send care packages to military stationed abroad. While the troops may not need your leftover turkey and stuffing, they do value the thought at a time when they are away from friends and family.
8. Play like cats and dogs
A furry friend can use your help. Volunteers help make SPCA Cincinnati the best it can be and many spots are available to help with the dogs and cats as well as within the organization. While SPCA Cincinnati receives a large amount of support from volunteers, the individuals who share their time receive the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of both animals and humans. Each volunteer must attend an orientation before helping, so make sure to schedule it in before you go. For more information, go to http://spcacincinnati.org/volunteer.php. For a list of shelters around the Tri-State and how they can use volunteers, go to http://www.cincinnatidogpages.com/Shelters.html.
9. Go to the doctor
Many people who are sick may be missing family celebrations and the excitement of the holidays, but volunteers can help brighten their day. Many local hospitals, like Children's Hospital, allow volunteers to help families and patients — no medical degree required. At Children's Hospital, volunteers can play with children in the activity centers, bring toys and activities to outpatient clinics, offer breaks to parents and visit patient rooms. Volunteers from all backgrounds and walks of life donate their time. Children's, as well as other hospitals, can find a time that suits your schedule. For more information about Children's program, go to http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/giving/volunteer/ways/ways/.
How do you plan to give back this holiday season? Tell us in the comment section below.