Salvation Army Thanksgiving Photo

Due to the pandemic, volunteering in person may not be possible this holiday season, but there are still plenty of ways to give back to the Columbia community.

For centuries, Thanksgiving has been about sharing with others and being thankful.

Tracing its roots back to the early 17th century, Thanksgiving was first celebrated when the Wampanoag Native American tribe shared its agricultural techniques with the Plymouth colonists, later known as the Pilgrims, that yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621.

Today, we find ourselves amid a global health crisis, and we’re realizing the value of a number of privileges we have and others don’t. In the spirit of Thanksgiving amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vox has put together a list of organizations and programs for those who want to give thanks by giving back to the local community in a safe manner.

Missouri River Relief

What began as one river clean-up event in the small town of Easley, Missouri, in October 2001 slowly grew into Missouri River Relief, a nonprofit organization with the mission to engage communities along the Missouri River through educational programs, river cleanups and recreation. Amid the pandemic, the organization’s educational component has morphed into a virtual program, says Josh McCarroll, development director of Missouri River Relief.

“If I've learned anything, this pandemic, it's just how important the river is to those communities. We've seen folks really start to engage more with the outdoors as a way to cope with all of the uncertainty going on,” McCarroll says.

The best way to learn more about the organization and make donations is through its website at

CoMo Gives

The CoMo Gives campaign, run by the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, provides a secure online portal to connect local donors with Columbia and other central Missouri nonprofit organizations. Donors can donate to multiple organizations with a single credit card payment at between Dec. 1-31.

The campaign includes 142 nonprofit organizations like Columbia Safe Kids Coalition, Central Missouri Humane Society and Heart of Missouri United Way. The Community Foundation of Central Missouri has also launched a Challenge Grants initiative where it will give $17,000 in funds to organizations that win certain challenges. The campaign’s goal is to provide financial support to nonprofits that have been hard-pressed during the pandemic. The minimum donation to participate in the Challenge Grants is $10.

The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri

The food bank’s mission is to relieve hunger and to provide regional disaster support to 32 counties in the area. The organization is a part of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, and is able to convert every dollar of donation into $21 worth of groceries through its partnerships.

It is the only food bank in the state to provide food to 140 other organizations including soup kitchens and pantries, at no cost. You can donate to the organization's COVID -19 response or donate to its programs which include the Buddy Pack program, the VIP Veteran Pack Program, Senior Boxes, Mobile Pantries and the Central Pantry in Columbia.

The Salvation Army Columbia

The Salvation Army Columbia is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help the community by providing housing, curing hunger and overcoming poverty. The Salvation Army is an international charitable organization formed in 1865.

During the holidays, the nonprofit helps the disadvantaged people in the community by donations via “red kettles” in which bell-ringers (or volunteers) collect money. This year the organization has an “Online Red Kettle,” which accepts donations from Oct. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021. The Angel Tree program, this year a virtual angel tree, allows donors to buy gifts and clothes for families in need. The Salvation Army provides holiday meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas by distributing dinner boxes that feed families of six and includes meat, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, biscuits and cake mix.

Native American Rights Fund

The Native American Rights Fund, headquartered in Boulder, Colo., was formed in 1970 and its mission is to provide legal assistance and representation to American Indian tribes, organizations and people. The nonprofit was initially launched after officers from the Office of Economic Opportunity realized that American Indians had special legal problems as they were governed by the “Indian Law” which consisted of complex treaties and federal regulations.

The Native American Rights Fund, originally received funding from the Ford Foundation, has since defended rights of American Indian tribes on several occasions. The organization is accepting online donations and has a list of ways to give and simultaneously receive tax benefits and income.

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