By Amie Guerra

What comes to mind when thinking about Thanksgiving? Food! Every year millions of Americans celebrate this national holiday with family, friends, food, and maybe even football.

But for a million or so Americans experiencing homelessness, Thanksgiving is a much less celebratory day. In the spirit of being thankful, the National Homelessness Coalition has created the Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Campaign to educate people on how they can help and what they can donate.

The Woods-Mullen Shelter and the Long Island Shelter – both operated by the Homeless Services Bureau of the Boston Public Health Commission – will serve meals to hundreds of homeless men and women on Thanksgiving Day. Remarkably, around 2,000 hot, nutritious meals are prepared and served for homeless guests of these shelters and other affiliated programs every day of the year.

A highlight of any Thanksgiving Day meal is the delicious turkey, but the fixings are just as important. This year, guests will enjoy organic produce fresh from the Serving Ourselves Farm at Long Island Shelter, including potatoes, squash, turnips, carrots, greens, and herbs. Since Mayor Menino founded Serving Ourselves Farm in 1996, it has provided job training to homeless adults as well as increased the accessibility and affordability of organic produce via Boston farmers’ markets and a community supported agriculture program (CSA).

The Farm’s success in giving opportunities for homeless men and women to move toward independent living relies on the generosity, conviction, and support of many in the community. Help foster this mission to end homelessness by volunteering throughout the year individually or with a group. Volunteers can help by working on the farm during the season, sponsoring and/or serving meals to our shelter guests, or conducting a donation drive. Learn how to get involved here.

By volunteering your time, you will be joining more than 62 million volunteers across the country in improving the civic health of our nation. You may also get to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits associated with giving back, like a longer, more satisfying life. Read more about the benefits of volunteering according to the Corporation for National and Community Service here.

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Amie Guerra is the volunteer services coordinator with BPHC’s Homeless Services Bureau.