The season to be of service
Thanksgiving has always been more about celebrating gratitude than a big meal for me. This year I find myself focused even more on what I do that day rather than what I eat. Given the number of weather-related catastrophes in recent months, I want to express my gratitude for what I have by volunteering for Operation Warm Wishes, a nonprofit that began with its first Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless in 2008. Established by community activist Tyron Jackson, his passion for helping others and making a difference is the reason why the organization has grown from an annual Unity of Community Thanksgiving Spectacular to a robust yearly event calendar that includes a free laundry day, Christmas Pancake Day and a Turn It Around Homeless Camp.
Another nonprofit organization that caught my attention recently is Second Harvest Food Bank which has facilities throughout the United States. In addition to the vast numbers of people this nonprofit serves, here in Orange County an extra special program exists because of a 9-year-old girl’s desire to volunteer at the food bank. Izzy’s Corner is all about kids helping kids learn about hunger and how they can make a difference in the lives of needy children. According to the nonprofit’s website, “Izzy’s Corner is a kid-friendly space inside Second Harvest’s food distribution center that provides a volunteer experience unlike any other in Orange County.”
Last month, a 4th grade girl, Nikki and I decided to check out Izzy’s Corner for our volunteer project. Touring the distribution center located near the Great Park was such an eye opener—seeing the volume of food coming into the warehouse, the sorting, boxing and distribution of a reported 21 million pounds of food annually is a staggering thought.
After the tour, we rolled up our sleeves to work in a special area designed for volunteers aged 7-13 years old and their accompanying adults. Talk about “all hands on deck” it was heartwarming to see how much could be accomplished in such a short amount of time. The only complaint Nikki had was that we couldn’t stay longer and get more done.
Teaming up with children on volunteer activities increases the rewards of helping others and it’s great for them to learn what giving is all about. You can google volunteer opportunities for kids and choose an activity that matches your particular interests. And, just around the corner is National Family Volunteer Day on November 22 established to kick off the holidays with giving and service—a perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy!
Originally published in the Orange County Register Laguna Woods edition, November 9, 2017