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Show Your Thanks

Why not volunteer to lend a hand this holiday season?

While some of us are undoubtedly gearing up to storm headlong into the breach, credit cards in hand, charging toward the glass doors of the local big box store of our choice on Thanksgiving evening to cash in on unbelievable holiday savings—there are, believe it or not, others to whom that fantasy does not appeal. Some of us intend to sink into the couch and gaze at football and beer commercials. But that doesn’t float everyone’s boat, either.

No, someone out there is looking for another kind of fulfillment. If you are able, during this season of gratitude, why not take the opportunity to do something good for someone who could really use your help? Something selfless. Be a volunteer.

It may seem like a challenge, but it’s really not. There are the classic sort of holiday volunteer opportunities out there, like helping to serve Thanksgiving dinners at any number of local soup kitchens—just remember, people will be hungry the day after Thanksgiving as well, and the day after that…serving must go on—so helping out in that capacity is a year-round open invitation.

And remember, food banks and pantries can often use help stocking shelves, unloading food, working on food drives, you name it. The Food Bank of Western New York ( lists pantries throughout the area. Remember always, too, that if you can’t help out in person, you can often help with your checkbook.

Deliver a meal to an elderly or homebound neighbor, or rake the lawn for them. If you’re into party planning, why not see if a local nursing home could use volunteers to decorate the place and bring some color and companionship into the residents’ lives? Bring the kids. Many elderly have mixed feelings towards people between the ages of say 18-70, but put them in the presence of a child and the effect can be magical for young and old alike.

Here’s a great one, for those inclined to pick up a pen, or compose some prose on a keyboard: Write letters to veterans. Take a moment to thank them for their sacrifice. Include your contact information, and listen to them. We can all learn from their experiences. The VA hospital is located at 3495 Bailey Avenue.

Don’t forget those who are serving time in jail. They are in the process of paying a debt to society, serving time in a dehumanizing system. Most have loved ones on the outside whose grief is real, everyday. Show them understanding, and you may better understand yourself. Contact the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (518) 457-8126 or (

For other opportunities to give of yourself, visit the Volunteer Center at the Service Collaborative of WNY ( It’s a beautiful way to show how grateful you are for the community we share—and by helping out some, you help us all.

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