Last year, I asked for content recommendations and LOVED that someone requested a roundup of Chicago volunteering opportunities. It is always important to give back, whether it’s with your time or donating supplies/funds. And this year feels more meangingful than ever. 2020 has been so hard on so many people. If we have the means to help, we most definitely should.
A lot of these amazing Chicago volunteering opportunities are slightly different this year in order to keep their volunteers safe – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still ways to help. Even if you think you’re too busy, give these a read. Something might inspire you to make some time, get involved after COVID, or participate/donate remotely.
Chicago Volunteering Opportunities
I got SO many amazing recommendations for you guys, so I categorized them to make them easier to find. Holiday specific opportunities + things you can do for the hungry, for the community, for the children, and for the animals. Hope this is helpful!
Help for the Holidays
Since the US Post Office gets thousands of letters sent to Santa from children every year, they have now created a way for volunteers to “adopt” a letter and send responses and gifts back in Santa’s place. Adam and I are going to do this this year and I’m SO excited! A sweet reader also said:
“We try to adopt a letter every year as a family – it’s a meaningful way to give back, and it helps us teach our kiddos about the real meaning of Santa.”
“I loved working with the Walter Payton Foundation. Brittney holds a toy drive every year. The family is truly amazing to work with!” -Amy
Help the Hungry
I was talking to my friend about Ravenswood Community Services a few weeks ago and I had no idea such an incredible organization was so close to me! On Tuesdays, they have Community Meal Program from 5:30-7pm that feeds 250 neighbors every week. Volunteers set tables, cook and serve dinner, and clean the dining room afterwards. How awesome is that?
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is one of the biggest organizations that accepts food donations year round. But besides just donating canned goods, you can also volunteer at their warehouse to help repack bulk food into family sized portions, distribute fresh produce, deliver meals for children, and more.
Lakeview Pantry is one of Chicago’s largest and longest-operating food pantries. You can volunteer to be a driver, loader, personal grocery shopping assistant, and more. Also, if you don’t have time to volunteer, you can also donate food, household items, or even CTA cards.
Lincoln Park Community Services has been helping the homeless in their community for over 33 years. As a volunteer, you can usually help prepare and serve meals. Teach a class or activity, work one-on-one with a guest, or even help at the front desk. They have paused those opportunities for the time being due to COVID, but you can still sign up to drop off or donate a meal, or even support their guests virtually.
Help the Children
Cradles to Crayons is an incredible organization that takes donations of new and nearly new children’s items and distributes them to local disadvantaged children. You can help by either donating these items at a local drop off or donating funds on their website. If you’d like to go a step further than that, you can also help by volunteering at The Giving Factory (where they organize all of the product donations) or at local events.
I discovered Feed My Starving Children through the company I used to work for, because they would organize days for the employees to go and donate their time all year round. So you can either volunteer to hand-pack nutritious meals for those in need. Or if you don’t have time, you can donate to help fund those meals!
Like to cook or bake? You can volunteer to cook a home-cooked meal and/or cookies for the families who have a child in the hospital. Such a sweet gesture, especially this time of year.
Have old children’s books that you don’t need? Donate them or sign up to help sort, sticker, and pack books for at-risk children. I think this one is not only so important, but it’s also a great volunteer opportunity to do with your whole family, especially if you have kids!
“Checkout @gotr_chicago! Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) is a non-profit organization empowering 3rd-8th grade girls to lead healthy, confident lives through life-changing after-school programs. During the 10-week program, girls train for a 5K with volunteer coaches and complete life skills lessons on topics such as resolving conflict, managing emotions, making intentional decisions, teamwork, and more. This year we will empower 11,000 girls across Chicago and the surrounding suburbs through the program. The 5k is right around the corner!” -Natasha
Help the Community
Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 text line for people in crisis. You can volunteer to be one of the Crisis Counselors who helps. And you can do it anywhere with a computer and secure internet connection!
Chicago Cares is really unique because they have over 200 monthly volunteer programs, all geared at meeting community needs, while also bridging the divides in our city. In addition to hands-on projects, they also have skill-based volunteer opportunities, where you can leverage what you are good at to help Chicago non-profits. Use your expertise for good!
Gilda’s Club provides support and community for families whose lives are impacted by cancer. You can volunteer to work their reception desk, play with the children, help with cooking demonstrations, support outreach initiatives and more.
“@hopefortheday is always looking for Chicago based volunteers. We do suicide prevention and mental health education year round and have plenty of ways to get involved whether it’s through online fundraising for our free mental health education programs, or via volunteering at our outreach events. ❤️” – Sydni
I discovered this organization back when I put together my post about giving back during the polar vortex – and it’s just the sweetest. Basically, you can volunteer to befriend a lonely elder. Drive and accompany them to events, cook meals, prepare for outings and holiday celebrations, and check in on them when the temps dip really low. Such a beautiful way to give back to those who paved the way for us.
Breakthrough is investing in a local 40-block radius in East Garfield Park to help those affected by poverty. They focus on everything from education and youth development to workforce skills, violence prevention, housing and more. Needless to say, they have a wide range of volunteer opportunities that you can choose from!
Obviously this can’t happen right now due to COVID – but before the pandemic, their team would invite everyone to gather at a local restaurant or coffee shop. This way, volunteers could give back AND get to know each other after each event.
“The Junior League of Chicago is a great organization for women to connect them with meaningful community service opportunities year round!” – Kristin
This organization works to improve the health, education, financial stability, and safety of every person in every neighborhood across the Chicago region. They have holiday specific and long term volunteer opportunities!
Their mission is to provide outreach and human connection to Chicago’s homeless population. You can volunteer to help promote awareness, collect and/or deliver essential items (food, toiletries, clothing, etc), organize care packaged rives and social events to fundraise, and more.
Deborah’s Place offers housing and services for homeless women in Chicago. Volunteer to help support these women though this transitional time.
Help the Animals
“Sam and I have started volunteering at @chicagoanimalcare (ground zero for the city’s rescue animals) and they always need help and supplies! They also just started a “doggy day out” program where people can take dogs out of the shelter for a day to have some reprieve from shelter stress and that’s really awesome too! ❤️” –@livinglaboratory
Live Like Roo is a Chicago-based organization that sends care packages, and provides grants and special experiences to dogs (and their owners!) across the country who are experiencing cancer. One reader also let me know that “on a monthly basis, they host parties where you and help make no-sew fleece blankets they send in care packages. My friends and I have adapted this into our monthly supper club since it’s easy enough for anyone to make one. We feel like we are doing good while also drinking a lot of wine ;)”
“I work daily with One Tail at a Time – requires an application to be filled out and orientation but after that the rescue world is your oyster! Dog walks, shelter visits, etc. It has been SO rewarding.” -Emily
Alive Rescue and Paws
Want to give a pup a warm place to stay this winter? You can foster dogs through both ALIVE and PAWS! I’m not sure about other opportunities at Alive, but I know you can volunteer with the animals without fostering at PAWS. You’ll play with them, walk them, socialize them, assist with training, provide adoption support and more!
Did I miss any Chicago volunteering opportunities that you love?
I’d love to hear about them!
PS. You might also like How To Help Those Less Fortunate During the Polar Vortex and The Best Gifts By Chicago Artists, Brands, and Shops.