Giving Thanks and Giving Back: A Family Spends Thanksgiving Volunteering…at a Country Line Dancing Bar

Local church youth group volunteers making some plates to go

This guest post is contributed by Jung Fitzpatrick, a former AmeriCorps VISTA member, and staffer here at Idealist.org.

When I called my mom about going home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she told me she was going to volunteer at the Brandin’ Iron. (You may know the BI from a quick mechanical bull riding scene in Borat.)

BI was going to serve a Thanksgiving meal to the hungry.  What else was I supposed to do but say, “Hey, count me in!” I loved the idea of volunteering with my mom.

On the day, my mom and I along with my brother, Sean, and his friend, Will, all headed to BI.  My mom country line dances every week at the BI and heard about the volunteer opportunity from there.  As it turns out, Catholic Charities organizes the event and partners with BI every year to provide free Thanksgiving dinner to those in need.

We joined a diverse set of volunteers from both organizations, a church youth group, and the local community serving an equally diverse range of folks: young and old, individuals, and entire families.

Sean, Will and BI staffer Juan

During our shift, Sean and Will hadkitchen and trash duty, while my mom and I dished up the turkey and trimmings (mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and bread) and dessert (pumpkin and apple pies).  We all helped with clean up.

I help organize the Idealist.org grad fairs, so I know and appreciate how much work goes into putting on an off-site event with volunteers.  It’s a bit like organized chaos–not everything has been perfectly planned out and not all volunteers have the same information (“Do we have any more stuffing?”) but somehow it all works out.

Besides doing a bit of good with my family, it was really wonderful to see how collective effort can bring smiles and fill bellies.

It was also a great example of the importance of partnerships across sectors, in this case the nonprofit Catholic Charities with a family-owned business, Brandin’ Iron, and the work of local volunteers to meet the needs within their own community.

At the end of the day, the folks from Catholic Charities estimated that we fed 482 people and made 200 to-go plates for later and for others who could not make it there. And of course, the thanks we received were countless and I think we all felt grateful to be able to help in some small measure.

Last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the White House, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor Initiative to raise awareness of hunger issues and to provide people in the United States with the resources to mobilize against the hunger crisis.

Here are their suggestions for getting started fighting hunger in your community:

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