Giving Back at Thanksgiving

Helping just one other person or family can and should be a priority at this time of year

It’s getting to be that time again. The leaves are just about done changing color and gracefully making their descent to earth, we’re reminding the kids to grab their coats and hats before heading out the door to school — and we find ourselves surrounded with pumpkin-flavored everything. The holiday season is just around the corner.

Thanksgiving is a great time for being reflective, for taking into account that which we have, as opposed to that which we desire. It leaves us space to express gratitude for the many blessings and joys in our lives while we gather around a table and share a meal with those closest to us. What better way to express that gratitude than giving back to others?

“Families who received a basket last year were able to provide Thanksgiving dinner with less financial and emotional stress.”

A Charlotte, North Carolina, congregation has done just that.

Founded in 2005 by Scott Hofert and Matt O’Neil, along with their spouses, Watershed Church has been no stranger to community service. With its Justice Initiative (the outreach component of the church), Watershed is an excellent example of how a group of people share out of abundance and overflow.

This year, as in many years past, Watershed has continued the spirit of giving back to the community by providing Thanksgiving meals for area families.

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“We have a school partnership with Shamrock Gardens Elementary [an elementary school with varying socioeconomic demographics]. We [put] together baskets of food for Thanksgiving dinner for families from the school who could use some extra support for the holiday. We have 60 families with anywhere from three people to six or more people,” said Ashley Sullivan, head of administration and communications at Watershed Church.

For this congregation of several hundred members, 60 families was a very bold commitment — yet the group has been committed to its cause and mission of “Embodying God together.” So how did it accomplish this?

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Sullivan told LifeZette that with the help of volunteers, on Saturday, Nov. 19, folks walked to the grocery store across the street from the church’s campus and purchased turkeys and food items using donated gift cards. The volunteers then assembled baskets of food and delivered them to the families of Shamrock Gardens Elementary School, all within a few hours.

“Families who received a basket last year were able to provide Thanksgiving dinner with less financial and emotional stress,” said Sullivan. That is something we can all appreciate during this hectic time of year.

This experience has been positive for those on the receiving end — and for those who give, as well.

Providing meals for others doesn’t have to be complicated.

Event volunteer Dani Engle said, “This has been a great experience for [my family]. I grew up mostly every holiday needing a food box. Without helpers, we wouldn’t feast for Thanksgiving or have toys for Christmas. So this has been a great moment to connect my kids to more of a personal and empathetic understanding [of the experience of others].”

It doesn’t take a church or nonprofit to give back — all it takes is embodying the faith and boldness Watershed has chosen to embody. How can you give back this holiday season?

1.) Reach out to a local school or children’s organization to see if they know of any families in need.

2.) Call your local grocery store and ask for gift card donations. (Most will give a small amount without a tax ID number. If not, you can likely use the number for the school or organization with whom you have chosen to work.)

3.) Take your family and friends to pick out items that could really bless a family in need.

4.) Assemble gift baskets and deliver.

Providing meals for others doesn’t have to be complicated and, as with Watershed, doesn’t take a ton of time — just a few hours. It’s not just something we could do — we are called to do it. Giving during this time can bless not only those in need but ourselves as well, as we learn how to serve God by serving our communities. This year, take the time to adopt the tradition of helping families in your communities, choosing to slow down and give — instead of rushing through the holidays.

Show God’s love in unexpected ways and create for yourself an environment of generosity — even if it’s just one family.

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