Please Don’t Volunteer On Thanksgiving: A Former Shelter Worker Tells All

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I understand where you’re coming from, all you good-hearted, liberal-thinking queer women who want to spend Thanksgiving as volunteers at a homeless shelter—or some other place set up for people less fortunate than you. Dishing up pie and turkey to the needy seems like a good way to spend a holiday during which we all (except perhaps Native Americans) are supposed to evince gratitude. Plus you don’t relish another year spending those long hours stuck with your family. Deep down you might be hoping that when you’re at the shelter you’ll meet An Interesting and Compassionate Person, also a volunteer, standing next to you and your vat of mashed potatoes in the kitchen line. You chat while she, he or ze dishes out the stuffing, and she, he or ze loves Wye Oak, Audre Lord and Mad Men too! You both turn out to have the same—at times inappropriate—sense of humor, and as the day winds down, share a secret laugh at something the others in the kitchen line don’t find funny at all. And of course that person is also someone who never feels so much like a misfit as when she, he or ze is with her, his or hir own family, the reason she, he or ze volunteered on Thanksgiving in the first place. Maybe the two of you, would, after your shift, go out together for a beer at the last non-gentrified bar in the neighborhood, exchange numbers and eventually pair off into your own little family, so you won’t have to worry about your Thanksgiving plans ever again.

I used to work at the homeless shelter that on Thanksgiving was the place for people in my city to volunteer and for politicians and high-ranking clergy to indulge in photo opportunities. Every year, for that one day, the shelter was overrun with a battalion of volunteers, so many they needed some of their own—the ones who had been there on previous Thanksgivings—to help direct their herd through the kitchen and the dining room. The other counselors and I would look at each other and laugh. We understood that these people meant well, but there were so many of them sometimes they were just doing busy-work. Everything that needed to be done—which was a lot: Thanksgiving was a huge undertaking at the shelter—had already been attended to. Remember that picture during the presidential campaign of the lizard-like Paul Ryan “washing” a clean pot at a shelter where the meal was over and all the homeless had already left for the day? I couldn’t muster the outrage that others did because that photo reminded me of every Thanksgiving at the shelter.

Which famous faces showed up to “help” at my shelter the fourth Thursday in November? Everyone: the mayor I had once protested with Queer Nation, but who, to his credit, has also come to the shelter on days of the year when no photographers were present. Despite his nine years in office, during which he always said the right things about the homeless, he never implemented policies that helped them in any substantial way. And more recently the now lame-duck Republican senator, who, with one hand, voted to cut benefits like food assistance that were meant for the same people to whom, in the shelter, on Thanksgiving, he used his other hand to offer plates piled high with turkey and trimmings. Helping to push through affordable housing measures would have been a better use of the Mayors’, the Governors’, the Senators’ time, not to mention a more lasting boon to the homeless, but it wouldn’t have made for such a camera-ready moment.

I remember when the Cardinal, the same one who Queer Nation also held protests against and who later resigned in disgrace for reasons that had nothing to do with his homophobia, sauntered into the dining room to serve stew. His manner toward the residents was like that of Louis XVI toward the peasants—and now I think: what if he had instead stopped the archdiocese from selling prime property to luxury condo developers (because if the church had any plans for that money they were crushed by the massive child abuse settlement incurred some years later)? What if he had donated a few of those closed churches and empty rectories as permanent housing for the homeless? My strongest memory of that day might then not have been after the Cardinal left, when a fellow queer (a lot of us worked at the shelter) turned to me to say, “Wasn’t that the biggest thrill of your life, seeing him here in person?” We rolled our eyes in unison.

My point is: on the day before Thanksgiving, the day after and the 362 other days of the year (including Christmas) hardly any volunteers, well known or not, showed up to help. So please, kick back this Thanksgiving and enjoy a good meal guilt-free (or attend an anti-colonial protest) with friends if your family get on your nerves. Then go volunteer at the shelter another day—weekly or monthly, because like any other activity—biking, dancing, fucking—you’ll be more skilled if you do it more than once a year.

You probably won’t be in food service—in the shelter where I worked, the residents who were part of the sober work program did those jobs every day that wasn’t Thanksgiving—but ladling out corn and peas probably wouldn’t be the best use of your abilities anyway. If you’re a lawyer, spend some time with homeless people who need legal help. If you’re a teacher, find out which skills the homeless people at the shelter would like to learn. And even if your talents don’t seem to line up neatly with the needs of those you meet, after you talk to and listen to a few homeless people, you will have a whole list of possibilities—a ride to a job interview or to the courthouse, accompaniment to a doctor’s appointment or social security office. After a year of sitting in traffic and waiting rooms you might find that volunteering isn’t the simple one-time, feel-good exercise you thought it would be. You might find some of the people you are trying to help irritate the fuck out of you. You might find some of them frighten you. You might decide your efforts would be of better use if you worked full-time on the issues that cause homelessness in the first place—and change your career path accordingly. You might find that Interesting and Compassionate Person you hoped to meet is, only a year later, you.

You can volunteer to help homeless queer youth in NYC at New Alternatives. The Ali Forney Center, a drop-in center for homeless queer youth, also in NYC, was devastated during Hurricane Sandy. You can donate to the Center. To volunteer there (they have a temporary new home) you can email volunteer [at] aliforneycenter [dot] org. You can best help other folks affected by Sandy by going here. There are links to both volunteer and donate . There are, of course, a lot of other organizations across the country that help the homeless and needy and that could use your time. Just do your homework first, since some of them have religious affiliations which prevent them, for example, from giving out condoms (to a population very susceptible to HIV infection).

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Writer, producer and performer who occasionally projects "radical" slogans on the sides of buildings-- -- and is starting to make films. I am looking for other queer women writers and gender nonconforming writers who are interested in adapting their nonfiction work or poetry into short, simple (but beautiful!) films that will be part of one feature-length film made up of shorts: "Ten Tiny Films". @renjender on Twitter

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  1. Thanks for writing this! I volunteer for two community organizations and I see this all the time.
    Often people think their feel-good voluntourism vacations and weekend activism is helpful in changing the world, it is, I don’t want to knock it. But helping others is not something to put on a cv or to use as social capital — it is to make a positive, long-lasting impact on lives and communities. If we are to volunteer, we should pick a cause and devote whatever we can to it as a whole person – not just when its convenient or comfortable. Otherwise, where does the change happen?

    • Ughhh voluntourismmm… it is most hurtful when it involves children. In places where voluntourism is a big industry some orphanages and children’s homes are kept destitute because it brings in more money. It is really psychologically damaging for children who have already lost or been separated from their families to have privileged college students come with the intention of making ” meaningful connections.” They shower these kids with affection and then leave a few weeks or months later, constantly reinforcing their abandonment. They don’t receive proper feedback on behavior because volunteers just feel soo bad for them. Sorry to anyone who has done it, but its true. I agree with the author that a lot of people volunteer without thinking enough about why they’re doing so and whether they are truly doing good… But I wouldn’t necessarily discourage all holiday volunteering.

    • Apparently, you have no idea how busy people who have a family and work full time really are. You have the nerve to put down individuals who are willing to give time that is so valuable to them. They are trying to really help out people who really are in need of help. Doesn’t the statement “Every little bit helps” mean anything anymore. It is people like you who discourage good hearted beings to help and give whatever time that they have to give. Who the HELL do you think that you are???

      • Yep. So busy you can’t help but the one day a year when help isn’t needed. You get your cookie. Bully for you.

  2. To be fair, it varies. My college has a student-run homeless shelter, and the overnight before Thanksgiving is one of the hardest shifts to fill, because people are at home for the holidays.

    • Of course many people are at home to be with their families. Thanksgiving is really a time to be with your family and the people who you love. God bless and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  3. I used to work with the homeless and I spent a holiday at our center serving dinner to the community mostly to avoid my own family and hopefully meet new people. It was nice, but also small scale and lacking in the photo-op department. I volunteer at Planned Parenthood during the holidays wrapping presents, and I have been Santa’s elf at breakfast with santa for inner city kids. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time in between work and school to give back, but I try to use the days when I am most blessed to share my fortune with others. Obviously I think volunteerism ought to be observed everyday, but I don’t think everyone is there for the picture in the paper or the addition to the resume, or at least I wasn’t.

    • Yes, your are correct. I do not know ANYONE who gives and volunteers to have their picture in the local newspaper or whatever. I believe that there are so many good hearted people who are thankful for what they have and really want to give to those who are less fortunate than themselves.

  4. I don’t necessarily agree with you.. I think some volunteering is better than none.. and there is always a second motive to doing anything whether you volunteer on holidays or during regular days..

    • Agreed. I go when time permits. I volunteer at my children’s schools at least 2 days a week, between raising five kids, work and writing, time isn’t always there. But holidays are a time when we do have extra time and kids have time off. I believe it’s important to share these experiences with our children. We create and teach generations to come. From past experiences Thanksgiving day was a day when they were the most under staffed. Any day is a blessing. But certain days more than others. And, we have no family other than what’s in our home now. I wish I had them to argue with.

  5. SO MUCH SOCIAL SERVICES TRUTH!!! Though damn, if I wasn’t just thinking to myself, “Volunteering at Thanksgiving would be a great way to avoid my family AND meet women” this very morning.

  6. This article should be titled: Please Don’t Volunteer At a Homeless Shelter on Thanksgiving, instead of telling people not to volunteer anywhere. I’m 1000% sure that there won’t be an overflow of volunteers at the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. There are thousands of people who REALLY need bodies out there right now.

  7. (btw I just meant the title – like for people just skimming who won’t read the article — I know you guys mention Hurricane Relief at the very end!)

  8. That is so fucking dumb . Fuck everything including putting makeup on in the morning. Please just smell and sit outside of Starbucks on a snowy day.

  9. I understand the desire. Some of us may find ourselves without family on the holidays. Especially on that first year after you decide to be you and we’d like to volunteer because it’ll make you feel less alone but all the spots are full. State run nursing homes are a good place to look. I sued to volunteer there during the holidays. It’s a sad place so I suppose they get less offers for volunteers in general but the residents couldn’t be happier to see your smiling face.

  10. On behalf of the many people who have thought about spending their day off doing something other than stuffing our faces, thanks for equating us with homophobic churchmen, money-grabbing mayors, and Paul Ryan.

    • She’s not, she’s simply pointing out that for some people there’s a lot of hypocrisy involved in volunteering, and for those who are truly wanting to be altruistic and give back it’s actually a lot more helpful to do it on a less popular day.

      I think a lot of the negative responses here are coming from people who don’t want to think about why they’re volunteering- that maybe deep down it’s for selfish reasons like escaping family, feeling better about yourself, meeting people etc.

      Is it really so offensive to be asked to help instead on another day of the year?

      • ah, thankyou for putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I was having the same reaction to the comments but didn’t know how to say it.

      • Wait, are you saying people shouldn’t ever volunteer if it’s for selfish reasons?

        Because, really, who gives a fuck why someone is volunteering? We’ve all heard ye olde “Intent isn’t magic” lecture, yeah? Well, it works both ways.

        That said, pick a time and an activity that would actually be helpful.

      • I think you’ve confused a bunch of people reading here with unsympathetic characters from Ayn Rand novels.

      • It’s hardly a great revelation that people do good things for selfish reasons, nor is it a surprise that people can do something “good” like volunteering and also do “bad” things like discriminate against LGBT folks or fail to support housing for low income people. The author questions the motives of these volunteers from her lofty position as a staff member who isn’t there for such shallow reasons as escaping the family or looking good in public – no, she is there because she is paid to be there.

        I just didn’t see the point of this piece. If it was to tell people to phone before turning up somewhere to volunteer, I am surprised that people don’t do that kind of minimal check. If it was to encourage people to volunteer… well, I would have to assume some sort of aversion persuasion was going on. If it was to get people to think about why they are volunteering, frankly, who cares? If a deed does some good, does it make it “less good” if the motivation was not entirely altruistic? I volunteer with an animal rescue, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less why the other volunteers want to help out. If some politician wants to adopt a cat or make a big donation to gain social capital, I am happy for them to do so. There are more than enough people out there doing nothing.

    • This is my 1st thanksgiving without my parents, thought I would get outside of myself & help others. Thank you Ren for reminding me of why I’m not worthy of getting out of my house & doing good for my community. Your JUSGEMENT of the judgemental is sad. You need to seek counseling & refrain from speaking to the masses. May God touch your heart very soon!

  11. err, to everyone arguing above, why not phone the organisation in advance and ask whether the holiday is a time when they are short on numbers and in need of volunteers? if it is, you’re good to go, if not, then you can think about some other more appropriate ways to give back to the community this holiday season.

    Ren I really liked what you wrote about finding volunteer work used our talents and abilities. I used to work in a community organisation where my job helped people but just totally different from what I enjoy and am good at. I felt so guilty when I found myself disliking what I was doing because I thought I should enjoy making a difference. I realised then that I wanted to contribute using what I am trained for and love (law) and I have moved toward that, but always felt selfish about it. Your comment about putting one’s talents to good use makes me see it differently though :)

  12. I agree a bunch of the author’s points, but I can also understand why some people might feel a bit slighted, especially given the way some of the points were phrased.

    I also agree with what people have said here about times and places and means for helping. I would also add ‘people’ to that list – it is not just those who are homeless who need aid. For example, my girlfriend and I participate in a local grocery store program where we buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a low-income family (specifically, a family barely scraping by, experiencing hardship) who might night have the means, resources, or time to prepare a big Thanksgiving meal. We will never meet whoever got the dinner we bought, but I hope that it made someone’s Thanksgiving somewhere happier and a slightly easier time for them. If you think that’s selfish hypocrisy, I don’t really know what to tell you other than ‘You’re wrong.’

    Melissa at Shakesville talks about teaspooning (not to be confused with regular spooning!), and while she discusses it in terms of political activism, I think that philosophy can be applied to volunteering (whatever means, whatever size) as well.

    • Sarah – I was reading through the comments and I felt the strong urge to thank you for donating a generous thanksgiving meal to a low income family anonymously as I was once one of those families who couldn’t afford to go grocery shopping on any regular week let alone thanksgiving but one year I recall (my 11 year old self) getting off the school bus 20 years ago with my sister and saw this huge cardboard box filled with everything one would need to cook a full thanksgiving meal sitting by our door!! My sister and I quickly looked around clearly confused but as poor kids from the trailer park didn’t question too long before dragging the box into our home because it was too heavy to lift with all the goods inside. We waited for our single mom of two to come home from her second job before we dug in the box and it became clear she had no idea where the donation came from and began crying as it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us before. It was the first time my mother ever cooked us thanksgiving dinner and it was the best I can remember! We never knew who donated to us to this day but it was the most selfless and kind gesture our family has experienced and it is a fond memory of a struggling past. So thank you for keeping that memory alive for others as it is inspiring and appreciated by those families more than you could ever imagine. I plan to do the same now that I’m an adult but I didn’t know until I read your post that maybe it was through our local grocery store. Thank you for sharing and doing all you do. Wishing you and everyone all the best! Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Just call the shelter first! Where I volunteer we actually need volunteers on holidays because the regulars sometimes go out of town or have other obligations. Actually, a lot of our volunteers are college students who have to leave the dorm and go home over breaks, and they can’t get back up here otherwise. The men at the shelter make beds, do laundry and clean everyday as “rent” and if volunteers can come in and do those things, it can mean the residents actually get a holiday off. Sure, not everyone can go prepare food in the kitchen like in the movies, but someone can run to the store and get coffee when they run out or mop the floor or sort donations. I guess what I am saying is, some places really need help on holidays, so just call and ask, and then go back next weekend too when it’s just a regular day.

  14. I wrote a whole rant about this but in the end deleted it because *HULK SMASH RAGE* or something. And then I wrote it again. Enjoy!

    I think the ultimate irony is that in pointing out other people’s attitudes towards volunteering you are highlighting your own hypocrisy.

    “The other counselors and I would look at each other and laugh” because all those “well-meaning”, “good-hearted”, “liberal-thinking” people who are, I think the phrase is, ‘fairweather’ volunteers are somehow less than the hardcore ones like you? I’m sure your motivations for doing what you did were completely justified and it’s not like you got anything else out of it, like oh, I don’t know, patting yourself on the back, laughing at people who pat themselves on the back, writing articles about laughing at people who pat themselves on the back.

    I would have appreciated this article if it was only about skeezy politicians who use these places about photo ops, but it seems that you’re also trying to shame regular people who don’t do what you think is enough or for the ‘right’ enough reasons.

    I would say every little helps, and even if it’s only once a year it’s better than nothing. If someone doesn’t do it for the rest of their life because they’ve paired “off into [their] own little family, so [they] won’t have to worry about [their] Thanksgiving plans ever again.” so what?!…I notice you’re a ‘former’ worker? Does someone have to do something 365 days a year, every year for the rest of their lives for them to be worthy of your respect?

    It’s really disingenuous to tell people not to volunteer at this time of year. A lot of organisations and shelters work extra hard this time of year (one near me is ONLY open this time of year), or others like Pride only take place once a year- and they do have people volunteering all year round but they need loads of bodies on the day otherwise it could. not. happen.

    Basically what I read was “Don’t do something that’s actually good and helpful once a year because we who are actually virtuous will roll our eyes at you, because we do it 24-7 bitch and not ONE of us feels the slightest bit good about it. Also organisations will have TOO MANY EVUL PEOPLE VOLUNTEERING and can’t possibly find some way of scheduling who and how many turn up and saying no to any of them”

    I hope to never be part of an organisation where someone would look at me with the same lense that you view these volunteers.

    • Well said. I honestly felt so bad after reading her article- just cause I wanted to help out somewhere. Mostly because it is the holidays when people feel most alone.
      Thanks for another way to look at it.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. This article actually makes meet not want to volunteer now. Why should I give up my free time just to be judged by the regulars? Well, because in spite of bitches like the author, my intention is to take my family with me to try to help others in need, and perhaps find a place I can return regularly, not to run away from my family. This country is so fucked up now that we can’t even volunteer without being judged by the ‘righteous ‘

    • Well said, thank you. We should never put down anyone for doing good. We are not the judge of all and don’t know people’s hearts or motives. We should be encouraging not degrading!

    • Thank you. Although I do agree with much of Rens article, every person who volunteers at any time of the year should be encouraged to continue. If more citizens would give some of their time to help those less fortunate, this would be a much better world. On the other hand, we need to push politicians (like Paul Ryan) & church leaders who only show up for a photo-op, to spend more of their time looking for solutions for the homeless & those barely getting by, instead of passing judgement on them.

  15. I’ll admit, I volunteered to help serve food at a shelter on Thanksgiving Day with my Grandmother when I was in elementary school or so, but I love the idea of volunteering to help out on other days of the year. Thanks for writing this!

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  17. I think this article is definitely not considering a very huge factor. On holidays, people can spend their time eating plenty of food, drinking, not caring at all about others. To give up their own time in efforts to help others on days that mean a little more than other days is something that should be welcomed… Not scoffed at. They are showing that they want to celebrate that holiday helping those instead of doing their daily routine. I understand maybe volunteers aren’t around all year for some facilities but granted, people work, go to school, etc etc too. Be thankful.

  18. While I agree that it’s a good idea to be generous and selfless more than just one or two days out of the entire year, I also agree with the folks who’ve mentioned that the tone of this article was condescending. Some people choose to volunteer year-round for various organizations, and that’s wonderful. For those who choose to volunteer sporadically, that’s great, too. It’s called volunteering because it’s voluntary. People get to choose if and when they would like to help others. Why put expectations or requirements on it if it’s called volunteering?

    The other issue is, why are we shaming people who’d rather not indulge in themselves during the holidays? Let’s be honest, Christmas and Thanksgiving have become all about consumerism and stuffing our faces like pigs. Thankfully, more people are becoming disillusioned by it. Rather than going out shopping to buy more crap that they and their families don’t really need and putting themselves further in debt, some people prefer to spend the holiday season as a time to reach out to others who might legitimately be in need.

    I totally understand the point that shelters don’t need everyone to show up to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day, but soup kitchens and homeless shelters are often the first places to come to mind when people think of volunteering. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to volunteer at other places at other times of the year, but I don’t think it’s necessary to shame or ridicule people who want to help during a holiday. Maybe we could view it as a positive sign that some people set aside a little time out of their schedule not to be selfish and self-centered, if only for a day or two out of the year.

  19. I agree with those who stated how condescending this article is. I don’t know why Ren (the author) considers herself so above everyone else but do think it shows more of her own negative self than of the people trying to do something good on Thanksgiving. Isn’t Thanksgiving about being thankful for what we have and surrounding ourself with the love of friends and family? What is so wrong with thinking of others who may not have all that we have?

    I have recently moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone and across the country from my family. I had the idea of spending my Thanksgiving volunteering for those less fortunate since it would be a way to still be thankful and feel the community spirit. After reading this, I am very discouraged. I will still call around to places but am not sure I want to spend my time volunteering for an organization that feels I am terrible person for just doing so on Thanksgiving, when I actually have the time away from my exhausting job.

  20. Hello. I was just recently released from prison this month and while I have a family I feel my time would be better spent at a shelter because I identify with these individuals more than I do with my own family. I was alone and without family for nine sets of holidays. I didn’t receive cards or letters and I understand what these people are feeling. I was going to allow this to be the beginning of my volunteering. Do you still recommend against it. Thanks Marten

    • Do not change your plans because of some know-it-all angry writer! If there is nothing to do but talk to people and make them feel a little less alone then you should do it! You can also make connections & volunteer on a regular basis. Anytime you are doing anything for others (no matter how small or even “busy work”) you should. Never let a bitter person change your mind. Go, help & make up your own mind on how to continue helping others as well as yourself.

  21. The thought comes to mind to be grateful for what you have on Thanksgiving Day … even if it’s too many volunteers! Perhaps you can find a way to take advantage of that outpouring in a more positive way.

  22. Spot on! Its more to create value from habitually sharing fortune, skills, resources than cramming it in to one day for selfish (vs selfless ambition). “Giving thanks for abundance, is greater than the abundance itself”. – Rumi

  23. I am sorry that the person that wrote the article seems to think that volunteering is one big photo-op for everyone.Our small church works with other churches in the area to do meals for the homeless as often as we can.we either buy the food and prepare it.Or. Use the food at the shelter that has been donated for the meal.These are people that have already worked an 8 or 10 hour day but still find the time to volunteer 4 to 6 hours to help out others.They my be dead on their feet.But at the end of the meal.When everything has been cleaned and put away.They are smiling and talking about when the next meal will be.We .Do what we can. When we can.Its as simple as that.We don’t do this for us.We do it for people that cant do for themselves.Part of the word Homeless says it all.Less.People having nothing.Or .Next to nothing.Would we not hope.That if we were in the same position.That they would do the same for Us.

  24. This is a sad article. Actually, it’s rather rude. I work all day EVERYDAY (even weekends), I’m a transplant from another state, my parents are dead and I have no siblings. I only have the days where my job is shut down to help others. The holidays are lonely for me and I WANT to spend my holidays bringing joy to others. I’m not looking for a man or to satisfy some need to be seen helping others. I just want a moment to experience compassion, love and warmth. It’s not right to judge when you don’t know what someone’s real story is. If this is the only day people volunteer, regardless of the reason, don’t shame them for only coming out on this day. Thank them and MAYBE this experience will enrich them so much that they get that little voice in their head from time to time to help out on other days.

    Side note, even in spite of my heavy work schedule I donate clothing, money and food regularly. But I feel that I don’t get to interact enough so I look forward to the holidays when I have more free time to do this. But this type of judgmental thinking is a deterrent for some. Sad….

  25. What a really negative perception and commentary on people who genuinely wish to contribute on Thanksgiving rather than engorge themselves for a ‘holiday’ that is pure bullshit.

    • I love how defensive so many comments are. Being called out and then told how they can actually help… yet they still make it about themselves, rather than the people they’re allegedly wanting to help.

    • I read just a few paragraphs of these morons writings who cares to help somebody you can’t always help somebody and there isn’t always a good motive but who gives a s*** so you get out and help why not if you have a flat tire in a bad neighborhood and some moron stop to help you because he feels a need to be helpful instead of you getting raped and murdered you get on your way because some kind man or woman decide to change your damn Tire what do you give a s*** their motives you’re a fool.

  26. How very rude and insensitive of you. To think that you have the right to judge good hearted people and mock them for their kindness towards the less fortunate. I am wondering just who you really think that you are??? Apparently an ungrateful, judgemental individual who knows nothing about sincere, kind, giving individuals. God help you and your pathetic soul.

  27. Awful, hateful, bitter. Just because you think volunteering at Thanksgiving isn’t optimal, it is still people trying. You are spreading hate. YOU are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  28. You’re a nasty, bitter, ugly old woman. Why do you write and publish! It doesn’t do this world a bit of good. If I ever run across you or “ze” again, I will turn the page. I hope that you get the help that you need!

    • Hehe how does everyone always come to this 2012 article anyway? Is it because they’re googling “volunteering at Thanksgiving?” Spend it with your friends or family or chosen family or Netflix, Kerry, and next year don’t leave it so late to get involved with an organization.

      • I don’t know but there is no need to shame people that want to help, even if their help isn’t optimal

        • Totally! It’s just so weird that people find this old article to leave spiteful comments on so often around this time of year.

    • Yeah, that’ll show them that you’re a loving, giving person who deserves a cookie for volunteering on Thanksgiving but at no other times of the year! Go get ’em, Kerry!

      Nothing makes a better statement like coming to a website 4 years after an article is published and declaring FUCK YOU CHARITIES, I’M DONE WITH YOU because you read an article one place that encouraged you to help charities out during the rest of the year when they actually need them.

  29. I wanted to volunteer because I thought it would be hard to find people to give their time on holidays. I am not “queer”, my husband is currently in jail for strangling me. I was trying to find something product I’ve to do to avoid being depressed due to my own living situation – all of my resources are gone so I am looking at homelessness again for next month. Not every person or situation is the same.

    • It sounds like you’re having a very hard time. You’re on a website for queer women, and this article for four years old, but we’re rooting for you and hope you do find some solace and love this Thanksgiving :)

      The article doesn’t apply to everyone, nor did it claim to, and I hope you can understand that there’s no need to be defensive in your case.

  30. I guess I just Dont understand how you can take something like helping and giving to others on any given day of the year is wrong or selfish. I understand doing things just to be seen doing them is selfish but some people have time issues. Sure maybe you can’t volunteer as much as you would Like but how dare you make people less than for it sounds to me like “you Dont need this fake help” well who do you think you are how dare you speak for a whole group of people from your other comments you should know better shame on you for trying to make yourself feel better by trying to bring others down Dont we have enough of that!? Enjoy your holiday.

  31. I understand where the writer is coming from but I don’t think you should discourage people from doing this. I stumbled upon this because I was actually trying to find somewhere to volunteer my time. Some people only have holidays to volunteer. I work a lot and would love to volunteer more but have absolutely no time. This holiday, instead of cooking with family, I want to spend time with those who do not have anyone. Not everyone’s intentions is to add the experience on their resume or meet someone. Have you ever stopped and thought about the people who actually get inspired by their one day of volunteering and actually continue to do so even after the holiday? Or somoene who used to be homeless and wants to give back because they have lived in these people shoes? So for those reading, please dont let this post deter you from doing what is in your heart.

  32. I don’t have a family to really celebrate the holidays with. I used to volunteer at the men’s mission in Cleveland. We served meals..played bingo for Christmas gifts for them to give to there loved ones..I brought clothes new from lands end when I worked there for them to go on job interviews. My life has changed 100 degrees since those days. I no longer work so my availability is any….I miss seeing the faces of those men and how happy they were that people do care about them…I want to give back…I need to give back. My parents no longer speak to me..I have not seen my brother in over 10 years and my sister 2yrs…my oldest son moved out of state and my younger son 27 young…has his own life to live….family…mine is as dysfunctional as they get and I would much rather spend my time helping others. My boyfriend is a truck driver and not usually home for holidays because without him our stores would have no produce! My life the last two years has been filled with disappointment and challenges….now I want to put my life on track and help others do the same. I truly have a passion to help others and would love the opportunity to help others. Thank you and God bless.

    • What you wrote was touching because it’s obvious that you want to help for the sake of others, not for what you would get out of it. I am always praying that my motives for doing anything good will be because I love others. It’s so hard to stay true to that, even when you’re surrounded by Godly people. I hope your family is reconciled one day, Christine. God Bless

      The best sermon I’ve ever heard on the meaning of work for the Christian by Dr. Timothy Keller — “Our Work and Our Character” — can be found on YouTube.

  33. Wow. You are definitely the rudest, nastiest, unhappy bitch In existence. Bashing volunteers who would like to give back and help others on a special day than enjoy time with their loved ones? Are you really this miserable of a human being? Get over yourself honey, you’re not that special. Happy Thanksgiving! ?

    • Is the “happy thanksgiving” meant to be ironic or… do you just like being a rude, nasty, unhappy bitch to people too… ?

  34. Hey Ren, ever heard of empathy? Some of us don’t have the invite anywhere so we’re giving our time up. Not all of us have the cookie cutter childhood or families. Also, some of us have honest, selfless intentions with or time chosen to volunteer. You sure have a devastatingly pathetic outlook. Since your opinion is that people shouldn’t volunteer on’s another humanity a favor and don’t write anymore articles.

    • How bout you do this whole AS community a favour and not attack the author of a 4 year old piece?
      But that would require reading more than the headline so I don’t know where that leaves ya.

    • How bout you do this whole AS community a favour and not attack the author of a 4 year old piece?
      But that would require reading more than the headline so I don’t know where that leaves ya.

  35. Sounds more like a “queer nation rant” rather than a legitimate gripe about those who only volunteer when it’s convienant to do so. So basically what is being said is that , If you can’t volunteer 365 days a year, you shouldn’t bother ? I and surely others can see your true motivations behind your rant , and I’m pretty sure it isn’t lack of legitimate caring volunteers. Making fun of people while serving the needy isnt thanksgiving. Surely not the thanksgiving I grew up knowing. You don’t sound very thankful at all, but rather hateful. Stop judging others who choose to volunteer , under the guise that it doesn’t fit in your ” queer nation ” if they can’t do so as much as you. I’m thankful that there are volunteers like you , and like I. That’s why I chose the career I’ve chosen , because it gives me an opportunity to help and give back “without the bragging tactics that you’ve displayed here in your article. But still not convinced the basis of your article has anything to do with helping or lack of. I hope you have a happy thanksgiving and I thank you for sacrificing your time as a volunteer. “Eyes just rolled for no reason”

    • I’m so glad we have spiteful people like you to troll four year old articles. Thanks for stopping by! :D

  36. Ren,

    You may be long gone by this time but I do want to bring up a few things. First, I did enjoy your humor and your highlighting of gender and sexual preference issues that you skillfully tied into this article, it was an enjoyable read. Although your argument is certainly weak regarding your reasoning to why people should not volunteer because it bothers YOU? I realize that this is only your opinion but labeling the article “A Former Shelter Worker Tells All” certainly pretends to speak for shelter workers. The only reason ANYONE decides to help those less fortunate is to gain the satisfaction that it gives knowing that they are not taking the things that they have (health and formidable living standards) for granted. People are willing to give the one thing that everyone has a finite amount of and that is regarded as the currency of life. Their TIME.

    I stumbled across this article while looking for volunteer opportunities this Thanksgiving (2017). It isn’t because I don’t want to sit around with my family all day, or because I have some higher notion of myself and need the PR that it brings. I am looking so that my wife and I don’t spend another holiday alone, being that we have no family here in SoCal where I am stationed with the military. I thought that because we have no family or friends to spend the holiday with, we should put our time to good use.

    I do realize that too many hands in the pot can diminish returns (pardon the pun), but considering that both my wife and I work 70+ hours a week, this is about the only time that we have to volunteer seeing we both have the holiday off. If told to go away, that my help isn’t needed in the kitchen, then that’s what I’ll do.

    Being a shelter worker, could you not have found something for those trying to help something to do? You should know as well as anyone that maybe just a good conversation can help those in need out. Doesn’t always have to be serving material goods. And maybe, just maybe, those trying to help could use it just as much if not more than those who they are trying to help. I realize that I am a bad decision or a catastrophic event away from needed the aid of a shelter myself, and without my friends and family I may have been there already.

    Bottom line is that if people are willing to help, find ways to make that happen. Lest one day everyone heeds your advice and those who need the help are unable to get it, even for a day.

  37. THANK YOU for writing this. As a social worker who is constantly trying to find help for my clients I am completely over-supported by well-meaning volunteers and donations on Thanksgiving and Christmas…. and then completely come up short every other day of the year when my clients are still really in need. I usually have to save the donations from these holidays to try and stretch them through the year…and if it’s food…that obviously doesn’t work.
    I’m glad people feel good about themselves when they give…but…this isn’t about them.

  38. I love to spend Thanksgiving as volunteers at a homeless shelters because I think that I support the people with my attention. But I have never thought that it could be over support from my side, so I decided to make a project on this topic and here is what I found about volunteering. Next time I will be more attentive to the people feelings.

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