Planning a Community Thanksgiving Dinner: Publicity

How to Ring the Dinner Bell Loudly for Your Community Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s sad to think of people, regardless of their financial situation, eating Thanksgiving Dinner alone. If you are planning a community meal, it’s important to get the word out.

Before You Begin

Before you start spreading the word about your Community Thanksgiving Dinner, you need to make a couple of key decisions in order to include that information in your publicity.

First, will you offer carry out? When my friends and I were organizing our town’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner, it was important to us that people have the experience of eating a meal together, so we decided not to offer carry out. You may feel differently. If so, include “carry out available” in your flyers and other publicity.

Second, how long will the meal last? We learned that no matter how long the meal was scheduled to last, nearly everyone showed up when it started and the whole thing was done in two hours or less.

Third, will you offer transportation? If so, you’ll need to include that information, along with a phone number to call for a ride, in your publicity. You should also include a deadline for calling for a ride, though plan on people still calling that day.

Now that you have the key information, where will you take it to let people know about your Thanksgiving Dinner?

Remember, you’re trying to reach people who may not have other plans either because of their finances or because they don’t have family in the area, so think about where you might find people in those categories.

Senior Citizens. Often seniors are alone on the holidays. Contact your local senior citizens center and ask them to let their clients know either through flyers or their own newsletter. Meals on Wheels is another program that has contact with shuts-ins and people in need of good nutrition. Provide them with flyers to distribute when they deliver meals.

College Students. I live in a college town and many of the graduate students and foreign students don’t have the time or money to go home. For some of the foreign students, our Community Thanksgiving Dinner was their first experience with this American holiday and everyone was eager to share stories and family traditions with them. If there is a college in your town, contact the dean of students’ office and ask them to send an email notice to let students know that you will be offering Thanksgiving Dinner. If there is a graduate school, they will probably have a separate dean of students’ office, so you’ll need to contact them as well.

Empty Nesters. Many people who have plenty of food in their pantry and money in the bank will still eat Thanksgiving Dinner alone because their family may celebrate the weekend before or the weekend after. Or maybe their children are married and alternate holidays with their in-laws and this is the year that no one will be coming to their house. You can reach these folks through local media or church bulletins.

Other Community Meals. Most towns have at least one, if not several, churches or organizations that sponsor community meals. Take flyers to them and ask them to let their guests know about your meal. You might want to send a volunteer to personally make contact with people and invite them to your dinner.

Food Pantry. Take flyers to the local food pantry and ask them to put one in each bag or box of food that they distribute. Clearly, their clientele is the same group that you are trying to reach.

Local news media, like TV, radio and newspapers. Make sure you get them all the information they need well in advance. You might also contact a local reporter for your newspaper to see if they’d like to do a story on your event.

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