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Credit: Flickr/Anders Ruff Custom Design

With all the hustle and bustle surrounding Thanksgiving — family visits, turkey dinners, long weekend getaway plans — it’s easy to forget that Thanksgiving is actually a day for giving thanks

Showing gratitude for the bounty in our lives can be as easy as taking a moment to give thanks for all that we have. But if you want to turn those thankful thoughts into charitable actions, there are many opportunities to make Thanksgiving even more meaningful for you and your family.

These five ideas will help you share the good life with others this Thanksgiving.

Give Back with a Charitable Donation

Make a donation to a charity whose work you believe in. If you’re not sure where to give, think about what you’re thankful for. Whether it’s sports, nature, your health or the arts, many areas you feel grateful about likely have associated charities looking for support. With over 80,000 charities in Canada, there is something for everyone.

You can also contribute to a cause you believe in together with your family and friends. As you gather for your Thanksgiving meal, encourage your guests to take the money they would put into hostess gifts or decorations and donate it to charity instead. Set up a Giving Group to showcase your cause and invite them to join you in supporting it.

You could also liven up your giving — and your Thanksgiving gathering — with charitable games. Add a charitable component to card games, trivia challenges, charades or any game your group loves to play. Every player donates an “entry fee” to your Giving Group. Then, the winner gets to choose which charity benefits from the contributions.

Attend a Charitable Event

Many of the events happening around town during the Thanksgiving long weekend have a charitable purpose — and a tie-in to the holiday.

For example, if you’re looking for fresh ingredients for your cranberry sauce, why not check out the Richmond Nature Park Society’s cranberry sale on Saturday, October 11. All proceeds go toward supporting educational and public programs in the park.

If you need an excuse to burn off some calories before or after your Thanksgiving feast, consider participating in the Granville Island Turkey Trot on Monday, October 13. The 10k family-oriented run (or walk or stroll) supports the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Help Feed Others

Thanksgiving gatherings — like many holiday gatherings — are often all about the food. And while it’s wonderful to be thankful for the food we are able to share with family and friends, there are easy ways to widen the circle and share a meal with those who may not otherwise be able to do so.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank offers many ways to get involved — through food and monetary donations, and volunteer opportunities. You could also ask your dinner party guests to bring a contribution to the food bank to your gathering.

If you’d rather feed others directly, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen. Numerous soup kitchens around town serve up hot meals to those in need not only at Thanksgiving but all year round.

Pay it Forward

Thanksgiving might not traditionally be associated with gift giving, but if you’re attending a special dinner or group gathering, it’s always nice to bring your host a token of appreciation.

This year, make your gift unique and meaningful by paying it forward with charitable dollars that your recipients can give to any Canadian charity of their choice. A charitable account like the one offered by Vancouver tech company Chimp allows you to send charitable dollars to your friends and family. They’ll be prompted to access your gift by setting up their own free account. Then, they can choose how they would like to literally pay it forward to the charity of their choice.

Share Thanksgiving with a Newcomer

Starting over in a new country is never easy, but you can ease the process for a newcomer and their family this Thanksgiving through a new matching service called Share Thanksgiving. Simply sign up by answering a few questions about your family and capacity for hosting, and you’ll be matched with a family that resembles yours.

This free service, launched by a group of volunteers, aims to make Canada the most welcoming country in the world.