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20+ Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in Southern California

Updated for 2020

It’s that time of year when the holidays are upon us and we tend to focus more on what’s truly important in our lives – spending quality time with our family and friends.  Halloween is over and Christmas is right around the corner.  However, in the meantime, there’s this little unsung holiday known as “Thanksgiving” that also deserves a shout out and little more than a passer-by.

Volunteer Thanksgiving Events in Southern California

Since Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away, it means it’s time for our 8th Annual Southern California Thanksgiving Events Roundup.  Throughout the month of November, there are many holiday inspired events that emphasize the importance of gratitude and thankfulness.  Take a look through our list of upcoming events across the southland and enjoy the season with your family!

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in Los Angeles

72nd Annual Pilgrim Place Festival, Claremont  – VIRTUAL

Pilgrim Place is a non-profit retirement community in Claremont and home to more than 350 people who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others.  The Annual Pilgrim Place Festival normally offers two days of shopping, fun, children’s games and food.  You will find vintage clothing, precious and costume jewelry, baked goods, plants, crafting, household items and more.  Handcrafted items include quilts, stained glass, knitted, sewn, woven and paper-made goods.  Shoppers may meet artists and purchase paintings, sculpture and everyday items directly from the artists.  Attractions include riding the Festival boat and train.  Kids can learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle everyday items at their sustainability and “glue-in” booths.

This year the annual festival has gone virtual and you can purchase artist creations online all month long!

Big Sunday’s 10th Annual Thanksgiving Stuffing Event, Los Angeles (11/22) – IN PERSON & VIRTUAL

At Big Sunday, they operate under the belief that “everyone has some way that they can help somebody else.”  Each year they collect and pack big bags full of Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of people, including vets; homeless families; women in domestic violence shelters; group homes; low-income families with autistic children; food pantries; schools and more.  They need people to donate food, as well as to pack everything up. 

Big Sunday’s Annual Thanksgiving Stuffing Event is happening online this year, on Sunday, November 22nd from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.  You can watch and cheer them along from home!

Then on Nov. 23 – 25, Big Sunday will need help putting the finishing touches on the bags as well as distributing them.  Financial donations are also greatly appreciated.

Los Angeles Mission, Los Angeles (11/26) – IN PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Los Angeles Mission.  Sign up to volunteer and serve Thanksgiving meals to those who would otherwise go without.  An orientation is required to volunteer for any opportunity at the Los Angeles Mission, including their street events.   Volunteers must be at  least 13 years of age. If you are not able to attend in person, donations may be made online.

Thanksgiving Day Run & Food Drive, La Canada Flintridge (11/26) – VIRTUAL

The Thanksgiving Day 5K Run/Walk has been a local tradition and a community favorite with families, athletes, and community supporters of all types for two decades. The race is professionally timed and normally meets at Memorial Park in La Cañada.  The Kids’ Mile Run is a family fun event geared for children 12 and under. Parents are encouraged to run alongside registered children at no additional cost. Kids will receive a t-shirt before the race and an award as they cross the finish line. 

The Community Centers Thanksgiving Day Food Drive is the largest Food Drive in the Foothill communities.  Canned and non-perishable food is collected during the month of November at locations in La Cañada, La Crescenta and Montrose.  Non-perishable donations are distributed by the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station to local families in need. In 2017, the food collected served over 160 families.

*Because this year is a virtual event and we will not be meeting in the park, you can do the race when it’s convenient for you on a course that you choose!

Gobble Gobble Give, Los Angeles (11/28) – IN PERSON

Gobble Gobble Give delivers food, clothing and toiletries to the homeless in eighteen cities across the country on Thanksgiving morning.  We’ve been doing it for 22 years, feeding more people in more cities every year.

On Nov. 28, help deliver over 30,000 meals to LA residents in need and across the country.  The LA event takes place at the iconic Regent Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, beginning at 8:00 am.

Turkey Trot Los Angeles, Downtown LA (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Join thousands of runners and walkers for the annual Turkey Trot Los Angeles on Thanksgiving morning.  They have a Widdle Wobble, a half-mile kids and family run/walk.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this event supports The Midnight Mission – an amazing 4 Star Charity that offers a path to self sufficiency for those experiencing homelessness. Donate or create a fundraising team during registration and help us reach our goal of raising $50,000, which equals over 33,000 meals.

*This year, the Turkey Trot Los Angeles has stepped up its game and has gone virtual!  

Burbank YMCA Turkey Trot, Burbank (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Run, walk, or push a stroller through Downtown Burbank and participate in the Burbank YMCA Turkey Trot.  100% of the proceeds support the YMCA Financial Assistance Program benefitting community residents.  Enjoy pre-race expo as well as a Kids Fun Zone.

*Due to the County of Los Angeles Health Department guidelines and protocols, we will be hosting this year’s Turkey Trot as a Virtual Race to ensure the safety and well-being of all our participants, staff, and community.  

The Midnight Mission, Los Angeles (11/26) – IN-PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

Sign up to donate to give Thanksgiving meals to those who will come by for a Thanksgiving meal at The Midnight Mission.  The Midnight Mission offers a path to self-sufficiency to men, women and children who have lost everything.  Their emergency services, 12-step philosophy, job training, education and work programs offer a compassionate bridge to productive lives.  They help remove obstacles to self-sufficiency and provide the accountability and structure that people who are experiencing homelessness need to rejoin their communities.

*If you are not able to volunteer this year, please consider making a donation instead.

Westside Thanksgiving Community Dinner & Celebration, Los Angeles (11/26) – DONATIONS ACCEPTED

This non-profit organization has over three decades of tradition serving the community a wonderful free sit-down Thanksgiving dinner.  During the celebration, they also provide free haircuts, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, medical, optical, and dental services, vaccination, a resource fair, and a children’s carnival.  The Celebration relies entirely on donations from the local community.  Families can get involved by volunteering, donating food and/or clothing or making a financial donation.

*While we can’t gather and cook and eat and celebrate this year, we can still be grateful and share our blessings with our neighbors.  We’ll be gathering gift cards and blankets to distribute to needy people in the community.  We need your help!  The easy safe way to help is by donating on line. Your donation will be used for gift cards this year.

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Park, Pasadena (All Month Long) – IN PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

This year, Union Station Homeless Services is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of Dinner in the Park, the incredible community event that has provided thousands of holiday meals and hope for our homeless and hungry community members,
including homeless men, women, children, seniors, and very low-income families.

*Due to this year’s unique circumstances, Dinner in the Park will be different, but just as impactful.  There are 5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 with Union Station

  • Thanksgiving “All the Fixings” Meal Boxes – Wednesday, November 18
    For clients who have access to a kitchen and want to cook their own meal at home, you can help us create Thanksgiving “All the Fixings” Meal Supply Boxes, filled with all the ingredients needed for a delicious meal. Boxes come complete with great tips and tricks from our amazing Food Services staff!
  • Thanksgiving Prepared Dinners – Wednesday, November 25
    For clients who want to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal but don’t have access to a kitchen or don’t wish to cook, we’ll have scrumptious portioned and prepared Thanksgiving Dinners. Chef Marissa and her team will be sharing some of her most sought after dishes for the holidays!
  • Thanksgiving Day Community Events – Thursday, November 26
    A large scale community dinner in the park isn’t possible this year, but we can still give thanks and celebrate together! We will be serving private, festive sit-down dinners for our residents at the Adult Center, Family Center and Centennial Place.
  • Donate or sponsor Thanksgiving Dinner in the Park
    Corporate and community partners can help end hunger and homelessness in our community!
  • Thanksgiving Food Drive and Volunteer Opportunities available

Drumstick Dash, North Hollywood (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Move your feet so others can eat by participating in the Drumstick Dash!  This annual 5K/10K running event to pay for nearly 200,000 hot meals for homeless men, women and children throughout the San Fernando Valley.  This family event allows participants to run, walk, or even push a stroller.

*While the current situation has prevented us from producing our annual Drumstick Dash, the need for hot meals is still great, if not greater.  That’s why we are pleased to offer a virtual run alternative with double the impact.  The Beachbody Foundation has committed to match all donations (up to $500,000) for runners who register for the Free 30 Day Breakaway Virtual 5k!

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Hope of the Valley, Sun Valley (11/26) – IN PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission serves the largest Thanksgiving dinner in the Valley.  In addition to serving meals, there is a street fair where guests can receive sleeping bags, fresh fruit and vegetables, hair cuts, and much more.  Check their website for more volunteer opportunties.

8th Annual Palisades Funding Turkey Trot, Pacific Palisades – CANCELED

Families are invited to participate in the 8th Annual 5K/10K Palisades Funding Turkey Trot happening Thanksgiving morning.  This event benefits the Hearts with Hope charity that brings medical, dental, and administrative care to children living with congenital heart disease throughout the world.

One Incredible Family Inc., Culver City – CANCELED

One Incredible Family’s focus is on Los Angeles County where they serve the elderly, the homeless, children whose lives have been impacted adversely by HIV / AIDS, and children who are abused, neglected, abandoned, orphaned, runaways, learning-disabled, at-risk or disadvantaged.  Volunteers are need to help prepare and serve full Thanksgiving meals to over 1,500 homeless individuals and families at numerous shelters throughout Los Angeles.

40th Annual Harry Sutter Memorial Turkey Trot Fun Run, Torrance – CANCELED

The City of Torrance Community Services Department hosts the Annual Harry Sutter Memorial Turkey Trot Fun Run on Thanksgiving morning.  All participants receive a commemorative shirt, and after the fun run, there will be a drawing for lots of great prizes.  Also, bring and donate canned foods which will be distributed to people in need throughout the South Bay.

Hollywood Food Coalition, Hollywood (Year-Round)

Hollywood Food Coalition relies on energetic people like you who are interested in volunteering.  They need volunteers primarily to serve their six-course nightly buffet meal (from 5:45-8:30pm), to help prepare the meal in their modern kitchen (from 1:30-6:00 pm), and to pick up donated food (two hours, at variable times).

They have another volunteer program called “The Pick-Up Artists”.  Great food is being tossed into the trash every day and Hollywood Food Coalition is trying their best to rescue at least some of it.  If you are interested in helping them pick up food from television and film shoots around Los Angeles, please fill out the volunteer form on their websbite and someone will contact you with more information.

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in Orange County

Orange County Rescue Mission Turkey Trot, Tustin (11/26) – VIRTUAL

This special event is normally held on Thanksgiving morning with the goal of raising enough support to provide over 30,000 meals for the hungry and homeless of Orange County.  Enjoy a flat and fast USA Track & Field Certified 5k that starts and ends at the Village of Hope.  Can register online or the day of event with cash or check.  Children welcome!

*Our goal for this year remains the same – to raise funds to provide 30,000 meals for the hungry and homeless of Orange County. Your participation will continue the work of ending homelessness, one life at a time by joining our virtual event!

Dana Point Turkey Trot, Dana Point (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Located in the beautiful Dana Point Harbor, the Dana Point Turkey Trot is celebrating 41 years!  Their flat, scenic race features a 10k, 5k and Kids Gobble Wobble.

*To accommodate the modifications put in place and ensure that our racing family remains healthy and safe, we’ve decided to change course and burn those pre-Thanksgiving meal calories, virtually!  Click above to learn more.

Plymouth Rock ‘N’ Run, Yorba Linda – CANCELED

Held on Thanksgiving Day, the Plymouth Rock ‘n’ Run is held at the Yorba Regional Park and follows the perimeter of the park and the Santa Ana River Bike Trail.  They offer 5k, 10k and 1k runs.  At 9 a.m., it’s about the kids!  Kids will get dressed up for their 1k fun run.  Fun event highlights include free finish line photos, team/group discounts, finisher medals, free parking inside Yorba Regional Park, and much more!  Proceeds from Plymouth Rock ‘n’ Run directly supports Reeve-Irvine Research Center (RIRC) at UC Irvine, America’s largest and most progressive spinal-cord injury research facility.  RIRC is dedicated to advancing cures for spinal cord injuries, neuromuscular disease, and neurological disorders towards improving the lives of those who have experienced the debilitating effects of such injuries and illnesses.

We Give Thanks, The Honda Center, Anaheim (11/26) – DRIVE THRU EVENT

The mission of We Give Thanks is to enhance the well-being of the less fortunate in Southern California by making ongoing efforts and contributions to their well-being.  In addition to providing a Thanksgiving Day feast to the homeless and less fortunate, the annual event has become a meeting point where anyone not wanting to spend this festive time of year alone can come and enjoy a great meal, entertainment and friendship.  Volunteers can sign up to help prepare and serve meals to over 13,000 people in need on Thanksgiving Day

*Due to current restrictions, this year’s We Give Thanks event will be a drive-thru at the Honda Center, Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 9am-noon. We’ll supply a turkey dinner for you to enjoy in the safety of your own home.

Someone Cares Kitchen, Costa Mesa (year round)

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen has served more than 300 meals per day for over 20 years to those who are in need.  They are always looking for volunteers to help with serving, preparing, and clean-up.  The Soup Kitchen can accommodate groups of up to 10 people with prior notice and there is a minimum 15 year age requirement.

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in the Inland Empire

Drive Thru Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway with Neighborhood Survants, Victory Chapel, San Bernardino (11/23) – IN PERSON

At Neighborhood Survants, our mission is to empower our local youth and community leaders with the tools necessary to become the difference-makers of tomorrow.  Volunteer to help hand out Thanksgiving Turkeys to families in need on November 23. Call for volunteer details.

Eat & Be Well Event, Jack Bulik Park, Fontana (11/25) – IN PERSON

Eat and Be Well is a one-day event celebrating the Thanksgiving season by supporting the underserved of San Bernardino County. Through collaboration between public agencies, businesses, volunteer groups, and the people of our community, Eat and Be Well provides those in need with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Attendees are also connected with social services that can help change their lives.  Sign up to volunteer as a family!

Bear Bear Turkey Trot, Big Bear – CANCELED

A family-friendly run to benefit local food pantries and Open Air Big Bear, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting non-motorized athletic activity in the great outdoors.

Claremont Turkey Trot, Claremont (11/26 – 11/29) – VIRTUAL

Sign up for the 13th annual 2020 Claremont Sunrise Rotary – Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk and 1K Kid’s Fun Run on Thanksgiving morning.  This event has gained the reputation for being a scenic and ideal route through the Claremont Colleges and Village, with a downhill grade on the last leg.  Serious runners and families alike are welcome.

*This year’s even is a virtual event in which you can run, walk, bicycle, treadmill or walker-push on a course of your choosing any time between Thanksgiving morning and Sunday evening Nov. 29 at 6:30 pm.

Upland Turkey Trot, Upland (11/26) – TBD

Join the City of Upland Recreation and Community Services Division, along with the Upland High School’s Boys & Girls Cross Country Team, to come out and exercise before the big meal at the 13th Annual Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk & 1K Kiddy Trot!

Running Wild’s Wild Turkey Trot 5K, Palm Springs (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Thank you for joining us for the Wild Turkey Trot Virtual 5K to be completed at your leisure between now and the end of the year. Your entry and registration include a long-sleeved tech t-shirt, zany turkey hat, race bib, and beautiful finisher medal. These items will be mailed to you, dropped off locally or you may arrange for pick up in Rancho Mirage if you prefer. Postage for delivery outside of the U.S. will be at an additional fee. Gather your family, friends, and pets and enjoy a safe 3.1-mile walk or run through the neighborhood course of your choice. What a great way to kick off the holiday or keep fit as we social distance. Zoom or Facetime your race with your friends and relatives! Be creative! Proceeds support the Mizell Center Meals on Wheels Program.

Redlands Turkey Trot 5K, Redlands (11/26) – VIRTUAL

Join the 8th annual Redlands Turkey Trot 5K run/walk and Kids 1K Fun Run around the University of Redlands.  All participants receive a t-shirt and awards are given to the top male and female in each division.  Proceeds benefit great local and international charities. It’s the perfect start to your Thanksgiving morning.

*This year’s race is virtual!  Each participant will do their own race at their own place! Participants will still receive a t-shirt but there will be no awards as this is not a timed event.

Riverside Turkey Trot, Riverside (11/26) – VIRTUAL

The 6th Annual Riverside Turkey Trot is a run/walk featuring a 15K, 5K and Mini-Trot Kids Race through the historic streets of downtown Riverside.  The participatory run/walk for people of all fitness levels.  This family friendly event inspires people to come together, get healthy and have fun before eating a Thanksgiving feast!

*The Turkey Trot will be hosted virtually this year, which means you can run anytime, any distance & anywhere!  Your bib and t-shirt will be mailed Thanksgiving week.

San Bernardino City Mission, San Bernardino (11/26) – IN PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

Volunteers are needed at the Mission Tuesday through Saturday.  Children are welcome to serve alongside their parents with guidance. Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Organize a food drive
  • Pack Family Food Box meals at the Admin Offices/Donation Center in Highland.
  • Deliver Family Food Box Meals to the Seniors, Shut-In’s and recently unemployed in San Bernardino and Riverside.

Victor Valley Rescue Mission, Victor Valley (year round) – IN PERSON & DONATIONS ACCEPTED

Volunteers bring essential services to the Victor Valley Rescue Mission.  Each year, thousands of people offer their time, talent, and goodness of heart to outreach projects, to help make a difference in the lives of the hurting and the homeless.  Opportunities are on-going, year-round, and constantly changing.  Call for more information.

Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in San Diego

Gingerbread Lane Event, Old Town Artisan Studios, La Quinta – TBD

Old Town Artisan Studios provides art experiences for all people despite age, disability, or financial condition.  They believe art is healing and has an everlasting positive impact on each of us.  They are looking for volunteers to help serve at their annual Gingerbread Lane event.  Old Town Artisan Studios will be converting their 3-acre art campus into Gingerbread Lane – a winter wonderland with multiple trees, trimmed garland, twinkling lights, a marquee 17-foot tree next to Santa’s workshop all wrapped in the music of the holidays!  They will be offering gingerbread cookies and hot cider in the culinary area, cookie decorating tables and clay ornament painting.

19th Annual Father Joe’s Villages Thanksgiving Day 5K Run, Balboa Park (11/26 – 12/1)

Help us provide meals for hungry neighbors in need by participating in Father Joe’s Villages’ 19th annual Thanksgiving Day 5k. This year, we’ve gone virtual but we’re still raising critical funds to provide warm, nutricious meals each day through our public lunch program and to residents in our programs. With your help, we continue to serve thousands of meals as part of our work to end homelessness, one life at a time.

Particpate by doing the 5K your way! Run, walk, bike, hike, or fundraise your way through from November 26th-December 1st. By reaching fundraising milestones, you can also earn cool swag and prizes – all while helping feed those in need!

San Diego Run For The Hungry, San Diego – TBD

Run or walk for a great cause bright and early Thanksgiving morning to the support the San Diego Food Bank.   Can’t make it on Thanksgiving or just want to sleep in?  You can also register as a “Sleep In” participant and still help feed local families in need. How cool is that?!!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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