Of course Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. But don’t let the holiday slip away without getting the family into the true spirit of the day – being thankful. There are so many ways to show appreciation for the things that make us happy and to give a little good back to the world. Read on for 20 ideas on how to show gratitude this Thanksgiving in San Diego.

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 4.22.41 PMImage Credit: Laurie Moy via Flickr Creative Commons

1. Buy a Thanksgiving Meal for a family in need. While you shop up a storm at the local supermarket, you can also help other families in need. Most of the big grocery store chains offer the opportunity for you to donate an additional amount to buy Thanksgiving meals for people in need. Or even to purchase a pre-packaged bag of food that will be shared with a family for Thanksgiving day. Check your local supermarket for more details.

2. Create an online gratitude space from San Diego start-up Gratitude Bucket. Show your appreciation in a high-tech style at this online space where you can create a gratitude note board for the people who mean the most and then share it with the world.

3. Volunteer at the San Diego Food Bank. Donate your time to the San Diego Food Bank and help inspect, sort and package food for distribution to help feed more than 5 million people a year. Kiddos ages 6 and over are welcome to get into the volunteering spirit (with an accompanying adult), and you can give back with as little as three hours of your time.

4. Write family appreciation letters. Start a new holiday tradition by getting each family member to write a letter to one of their siblings telling them why they love them so much. Reveal those letters after Thanksgiving dinner and watch the hugs flow. Paper Tales in Point Loma has a great selection of stationary sets and paper that will motivate the kiddos to start writing.

5. Make a Thanksgiving meal for San Diego’s homeless. Put your culinary skills to good use with Just Call Us Volunteers. This group of food lovers give back by preparing healthy and delicious holiday meals. You and the kiddos can volunteer for food prep, serving or clean up shift. Or extend the feel good good factor and help at any of their twice monthly meals.

mamas kitchen

Image Credit: Leah Singer

6. Buy a Thanksgiving pie to benefit Mama’s Kitchen. For only $25, you can get a mouth-watering Thanksgiving pie made by a local gourmet baker while at the same time helping Mama’s Kitchen provide free, nutritious home-delivered meals to families who are struggling with cancer or AIDS. Each delicious pie provides over seven life saving meals for someone in need. You can also purchase a “Love-A-Client Pie” (a donated pie) for just $25, which feeds our critically ill neighbors who would otherwise go hungry.

7. Adopt a Marine this Thanksgiving. San Diego Marines are often far away from home and about to face their first Thanksgiving alone. Show some holiday hospitality by hosting two Marines for Thanksgiving day at the Adopt a Marine drive. They have an 8-hour release for you show them a great time in San Diego. Keep in mind you’ll need to provide transportation to and from the base for the day.

8. Show your teacher some appreciation. Besides the family, your kid’s teacher is one of most important people that will care for your precious one. So pick up a couple of delicious freshly baked cupcakes from Sprinkles La Jolla and show some teacher appreciation courtesy of you and yours. We guarantee you’ll brighten their day.

9. Run for a cause in Father Joe’s Village Thanksgiving 5K Run / Walk. Start Thanksgiving day right by joining 10,000 participants and spectators at the Father Joe’s Village Thanksgiving 5K Run / Walk.  All proceeds go to towards helping Father Joe’s Village prepare and serve over 1 million meals to San Diego’s homeless. Anyone 6 and over can join in the fun and stick around for the post event festival for live music, awards, a costume contest and a beer garden.

10. Think long term and volunteer with Volunteer Match. If you want to keep the feel-good giving vibes happening throughout the year, then check out the volunteering options at Volunteer Match. This site connects people with organizations looking for one off or more permanent volunteering posts. You can search by interest or even whats kiddo friendly.

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Image Credit: Sarah Jane via Flickr Creative Commons

11. Grab the kids a fashion accessory that does good. Pick up a L.I.F.E. bracelet from your local Whole Foods and you’ll have a fashion accessory that gives back. Each brightly-colored beaded bracelet is backed with leader and handmade by the Maasai tribe. Whole Foods then supports community development in Kenya with each purchase.

12. Get involved with the Toys for Tots Drive. Support disadvantaged kids by teaching your mini gratitude warriors the importance of giving. The Marine’s Toys for Tots drive collects new unwrapped toys to share at Christmas to families in need. With more than 200 drop-off points around San Diego, you’ll find it easy to share the holiday love.

13. Pay it forward coffee style. Head to your favorite local coffee shop (Bird Rock Roasters, perhaps) and surprise the next person in line by buying them a coffee and challenge them to pay it forward.

14. Go on a appreciate San Diego adventure. Teach the kids there is more to appreciate than toys and spending money with an adventure day designed to explore all the great things about our home town. Check out Seagrove park in Del Mar, head downtown for a trip to The New Children’s Museum, or swing over to Balboa Park to run wild in the butterfly garden.

15. Brighten up a senior’s day. Teach even the youngest of kiddos how to give back to the community by joining a local playgroup held in a nursing home. The Senior Care and Share program has monthly playgroup meet ups in Chula Vista and Rancho Penasquitos where the young and elderly come together for an hour of fun and sharing.

Screen shot 2015-10-16 at 9.22.21 PMImage Credit: Cate S. via Flickr Creative Commons

16. Start a family gratitude board. Head over to Artist and Craftsman Supply in downtown to grab some chalk paint and foam board and create your very own gratitude blackboard. The whole family can help spend dinner time filling up the board with all the things they are appreciative of. Now that’s some quality family time!

17. Volunteer with the San Diego Humane Society. If you have an animal lover out there, volunteering with the San Diego Humane Society might be the perfect match. Volunteers 14 and up can help clean kennels or walk dogs. Little ones can also participate by taking part in a Pet Pals session.

18. Feel good while you eat at Cafe Gratitude. This Little Italy vegan restaurant is a hot bed of gratitude. Choose from aptly titled menu items like “Giving,” an ancient grain pizza or “Happy,” a Mediterranean raw wrap. And when you’ve finished your food, answer the question on the plate asking why you’re grateful.

19. Get the kiddos to donate their unwanted toys and clothes. The Polinsky Center, a county of San Diego shelter for kids whose parents are unable to care for them, is always looking for toys, clothing, games, supplies and household items. Teach the kids the meaning of giving by bundling up any unwanted or unused items. Be sure to check their wish list for the most-requested items.

20. Take part in the great kindness challenge. Join the Kids for Peace organization and take part in their annual January Great Kindness Challenge. This week-long celebration encourages little ones to demonstrate kindness and share the love. With chapters throughout San Diego accepting new members, you’ll be sure to find the right group for you and you can take part in their huge range of programs like the Global Friends drive or the Peace Day Challenge.

What are your favorite ways to show gratitude?  Lets us know in the comments below!

— Lenya McGrath