Before the shopping and eating, make a plan for holiday giving this Thanksgiving.

Share story

From the beginning, Thanksgiving has been about celebrating family, community and sharing with neighbors.

Some families will spend today serving a hot meal at a homeless shelter or running a charity 5K before sitting down to a delicious meal. Others may be plotting a Friday shopping spree or just watching football.

Whatever you do, take a few minutes and think about your own holiday giving.

The needs in our community are great, and, yet, so is the spirit of giving. Consider the record sum — nearly $1.7 million — that readers gave last year to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy, all of which went to local nonprofits.

Seattle’s ecosystem of giving continues to grow in interesting new ways. Meet Ethan Phelps-Goodman of Seattle Tech 4 Housing. A leader of one of Seattle’s newest nonprofits, Phelps-Goodman thinks of giving in terms of “work, wealth and wisdom.” The phrase echoes the group’s focus — to encourage technology workers to share their money, knowledge and volunteer time.

The 1-year-old group is celebrating the giving season with a new project — skilled volunteer matching. This initiative is everything “old Seattle” wishes to see from “new Seattle.”

Seattle Tech 4 Housing asked local nonprofits for a wish list of needed technical and professional help — from graphic design to website infrastructure and business acumen. Now they’re asking Seattle professionals to go to their website — — to fill out a volunteer interest form, including what skills they have to offer.

Seattle Tech 4 Housing will match volunteers with needs and plans to stay involved to guide volunteers as well as offer opportunities to get together socially to celebrate and compare notes. This enterprising new initiative combines two important needs of the community: helping the needy and building community.

The United Way of King County also has a volunteer match form on its website. Those jobs tend toward more hands-on activities like planting trees or community cleanups, but the agency is also looking for skilled workers to help with everything from fundraising to appliance repair.

Of course, volunteering does not meet all needs. For that, nonprofits need cash.

Jordan Rubin, director of community engagement for Northwest Harvest, says despite the fact that many people give to their local food bank during the holidays, demand for food remains higher than supply.

School vacations are especially trying times for many families because children are no longer getting breakfast and lunch at school. Although Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits average about $120 monthly per person, many families struggle to buy enough food if they have $5 or less to spend per meal.

Low-income families during the holidays also miss out on the weekend backpacks full of food that Northwest Harvest helps local groups supply to 10 school districts in the region.

Hunger in our community is often hidden. The parents who visit the 375 food banks supplied by Northwest Harvest, which is a statewide food procurer and distributor, are usually working, may have a home, but are not making enough to pay the bills and still buy enough food.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions. There’s a lot of assumptions. There’s a lot of profiling and stigmatizing,” Rubin says.

There is a lot of need.

Talk with your friends and loved ones and think about what you can do to make giving part of your holiday plans.