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How to help the homeless this holiday season

It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem. Nonprofits say you might be better off staying home on Thanksgiving, instead of volunteering.

Posted: Nov. 19, 2017 11:37 AM
Updated: Nov. 19, 2017 11:37 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (Maggie Vespa, KGW) - Staff at downtown Portland's Union Gospel Mission say this time of year, they've got too many volunteers and not enough slots.

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They admit, it's a good problem to have but it's still a problem.

On Saturday morning, TriMet staff spent their morning working as a well-oiled assembly line to wrap up 600 turkey dinners. Some will go to homeless people there, but others will be divided among other nonprofits.

Staff at the Mission say on ordinary days like Saturday, big assembly lines are welcome.

But come Thanksgiving Day, the drive to give back leaves them overwhelmed.

"We just get a huge wave of volunteers, more volunteers than we can handle," said Stacy Kean, spokeswoman for the Union Gospel Mission. "We only have so much space in our kitchen and so much space to serve on Thanksgiving Day."

It's a similar sentiment as to that in a USA TODAY article that left readers buzzing this week.

Titled 'Why you shouldn't volunteer at a soup kitchen this Thanksgiving', it featured nonprofit after nonprofit, like the Union Gospel Mission, who feed the hungry year-round. That means their volunteers are trained and in it for the long haul.

Staff at the Union Gospel Mission say if you can't make a commitment like that, consider making the holiday by dropping off items that can be given out with the food.

"We really need coats and blankets and sleeping bags," said Kean. "So a way to help would be to put a drive together at your workplace or your school or your church and bring all those items down."

Here's a list of other ways to volunteer

Eugene Mission: http://eugenemission.org/volunteer/

Food for Lane County: https://foodforlanecounty.org/volunteer/

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