11 Stories To Put You In The Giving Spirit

The food world was inspiring this year

Thanksgiving is around the corner which means it's officially Time to Celebrate. All month long we're bringing you recipes, tips, tricks and stories that are equal parts memorable and delicious.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we're taking a few minutes to slow down and share our favorite heartwarming stories from 2016.

Many chefs, organizations and local Samaritans all over the country (and around the world) are deeply involved in giving back to their communities. Food has always brought people together, but it's about more than just gathering around a table. There's a deeper purpose: It can unite people through good and tough times.

The work being done by these chefs and Samaritans often flies under the radar, but we're here to shed light on positive stories from the food world this year. Here are the most inspiring stories from 2016.

$250,000 Raised for Hardworking Elderly Ice Cream Vendor

A picture is worth a thousand words—and in this case, $250,000. After Joel Cervantes Macías shared a picture on Facebook of an elderly man selling ice cream and Popsicles, the post went viral. Every single day for the past 20 years, Mr. Sanchez has been pushing his 50-pound cart in hopes of selling 200 treats a day. Thanks to the kindness of Macías and heartfelt strangers, thousands of dollars were raised through a GoFundMe account, and Mr. Sanchez can now take some time off. However, Mr. Sanchez says he still plans to continue working and wants to share 50 percent of the money raised with his church.

Chef Fights Hunger in NYC

Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin has been a big supporter of City Harvest for many years. For each guest who dines off the City Harvest menu in Le Bernardin's lounge, $5 from the meal is donated to the food rescue organization. "I'm lucky that in New York we have many organizations that help people in need," Ripert says. "The team at Le Bernardin and I have worked with City Harvest for over 20 years, striving to collaborate with New York's chefs and restaurants to raise funds and increase both the quantity and quality of food donated to our city's neediest."

8-Year-Old Opens Bakery to Help Buy a House for His Mom

While most 8-year-olds are going to camp and playing outside with their friends during the summer, Jalen Bailey from California decided to start his own bakery to help his mom buy a house. He tells People that he wants "to buy a house with a pool and a big backyard and a kitchen so [he] and [his] momma can bake and make memories." After obtaining a city license, Jalen's Bakery is fulfilling orders for customers in his area. High five for Jalen!

Grandson Sends Pizza to Grandmother After Hurricane Matthew

After a nasty hurricane tore through Florida earlier this year, a Nebraska man was concerned when he hadn't heard from his grandmother in a few days. Since power lines were down in her area, the man called a local Papa John's and asked if they could deliver a pizza to check and make sure his grandmother was OK. Thankfully, she was safe, and she even got to enjoy a pepperoni pizza. This guy gets the award for sweetest grandson.

Student Launches Food Pantry for Classmates in Need

A student from Alabama A&M University started a food pantry in his dorm room to help his fellow classmates who were going to bed hungry. Justin Franks began buying packages of instant noodles and Capri Sun juice drinks, and once he shared his plan on Facebook, the donations starting piling up. The late-night pantry opens after the cafeteria closes.

Food Truck Serves Free Burritos to Homeless People

This food truck in Los Angeles is serving up burritos with a side of compassion. Every day, the Share A Meal food truck, run by nonprofit Khalsa Peace Corps, provides between 150 and 250 hot burritos a night for those homeless in their area. Alejandro Garcia, a truck volunteer, tells The Huffington Post, "The burritos are a way of saying we're here, we're helping, we're trying to support you. To let the homeless community know they're not forgotten."

Starbucks Employees Give Police Officers Free Coffee After NYC Bombing

A video of a Starbucks employee went viral after he was seen giving New York City police officers free coffee and pastries while they patrolled the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan after an explosion took place the night before.

Food Truck Provides Jobs for Refugees

The Refuge Coffee Co. food truck in Clarkston, Georgia, is doing more than filling coffee orders: It's changing people's lives. The food truck provides jobs for resettled refugees who moved to the city from Morocco, Syria and more.

Alex Guarnaschelli's Third Annual Dine Out for Heroes

This Veterans Day, chef Alex Guarnaschelli is teaming up with New York City restaurants and diners to raise money for the third annual Dine Out for Heroes. Each participating restaurant has pledged to donate $1 per guest served on Veterans Day.

Extreme Couponer Feeds Homeless People

Let's be honest, sometimes extreme couponers get a bad rap (stockpiling craziness gone rogue). However, in this case, clipping coupons is helping to feed thousands of hungry people. Lauren Puryear founded an organization called For the Love of Others and is using coupons to help purchase food for the homeless.

These Women Are Dominating the Catering Company Business in Canada

A small welcome dinner turned into a booming catering business after three female refugees impressed guests with their homemade pitas and mutabal. These women and their families had resettled in Canada earlier that spring, and though they couldn't communicate in English, their food did the talking for them. One guest was so impressed that she started a Kickstarter account to fund their newly established catering company, Karam Kitchen, and the account reached half its goal in just 24 hours.