Give a little back without digging into your wallet by working with these local organizations who need help during the holidays – and the rest of the year.
By Madeline Nusser|
Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly By volunteering with LBFE, you can be a friend to someone who could use the companionship. The organization matches you with one of its seniors in the hopes of creating a long-standing, intergenerational friendship. As a Visiting Volunteer, you'll spend time with your senior, talking, listening and helping out with small tasks. LBFE also hosts outings that bring the elderly out of their homes or extended care facilities for a day of recreation, a field trip or a luncheon. Driver and delivery volunteers are needed for Christmas. Orientation is involved. For more info call 312-455-1000 or check out littlebrothers.org/chicago
Apna Ghar Help out Apna Ghar, a domestic-violence agency serving South Asian and immigrant women, by working in the office, participating in shelter clean up or stocking its thrift store, NeUsed Closet. Volunteers are needed to help host a holiday party for kids, as well as gift distribution. Call Hina Mahmood 773-334-0173 or visit apnaghar.org.
Dignity Diner Dignity Diner, a weekly vegetarian dinner for the homeless and hungry at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church (925 W Diversey Pkwy), needs volunteers to help with its holiday meals. Lend your vocal chords for Christmas caroling or donate items to help stuff holiday bags. Interested parties can contact Kara Teeple at email@example.com.
Chicago Cares Chicago Cares, one of the largest volunteer placement services in the city, offers more than 170 volunteer projects every month. In December, join in on a caroling nursing-home crawl or be a sugarplum and help host a holiday craft party for seniors. Other opportunities include reading with children, serving meals to the homeless and more. CC plays matchmaker to fit opportunities to your interests. For more details visit chicagocares.org or call 312-780-0800.
Urban Art Retreat Urban Art Retreat, a small grassroots nonprofit organization that provides art and enrichment programs, is staffed by volunteers. If you have a way with shoppers, you may be interested in helping sell the heck out of the donated gallery pieces. Gather and give gifts this season to less fortunate children in the neighborhood. To sign up call Dianna at 773-542-9126.
Freedom Museum Most teens can’t name more than one freedom protected by the First Amendment. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum needs your help to change this sad state of affairs. Freedom Ambassadors volunteers facilitate dialogue about civil rights by helping visitors interpret the exhibits and educational activities. For more information contact Danielle Estler, Volunteer Coordinator at 312-222-5963 or volunteer@FreedomMuseum.us.
The Posse Foundation, Inc. If you actually enjoyed writing term papers in college, Posse needs you. This org sends students on full scholarships to top-tier colleges like Minnesota’s Carleton College in groups of ten, called “posses.” In a pre-collegiate training program, the posse bonds and also hones study skills before heading off to college. Writing coaches are needed to prepare students for the rigors of college-level writing. Both group session and one-on-one opportunities are available. For more info, check out possefoundation.org or contact Jamilyn Bailey at 312-566-9790.
KIPP Ascend Charter School You may have heard about this revolutionary college-prep middle school on Oprah. Its approach is simple: Underprivileged kids get a better chance at college by prepping early—in grammar school rather than high school. KIPP’s new school-based mentoring program Fawohodie is calling all area black male professionals to help empower fifth- and sixth-grade male students to become leaders in their school and community. Mentors are needed for a Wed 5–7pm session. If you’re interested contact Stephen McClain at 773-617-5142 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CareTeam Sign up for CareTeam’s trademark volunteer event, (g)love, and you’ll have the opportunity to work with a dynamic group in assembling and passing out CarePacks of food, hats, scarves and other cold-weather necessities. Other volunteer opportunities are available. For details, visit careteam.mgrf.org or contact Jessica Maiorca, program director of CareTeam, email@example.com or 773-313-0075.
Step Up Women’s Network Guided by the motto “invest, involve and inspire,” Step Up supports at-risk girls with programs that provide mentorship, teach life skills, and promote health and well-being while building a sense of confidence and empowerment. Volunteers are needed to coordinate special events including an "Evening at the Art Institute," where they'll tour the photography exhibits while encouraging girls to articulate their reactions and perceptions. For more information, please contact Program Manager Kathleen Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Openlands Project Help our city live up to its motto, "Urbs in Horto" (City in a Garden) by cultivating trees and community gardens with this organization. Become a certified TreeKeeper to help monitor, mulch and prune urban trees. Call Julie Samuels at 312-863-6256 or visit openlands.org/volunteer.asp.
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Volunteers with CBF are needed for evening office assistance every first and third Mondays of the month. Help stuff envelopes, enter data, place calls and plan events all while snacking and socializing with other area bicycle advocates. All volunteers are welcome regardless of membership status. For details, e-mail email@example.com or call 312-427-3325 x294.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic Finally, a volunteer opportunity for people who just like to listen to themselves talk. Lend your vocal cords to a noble cause with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, a nonprofit that develops an audio library of textbooks for people who cannot effectively read print. Volunteers are needed to make recordings in all kinds of subjects—especially science, math, foreign languages and finance—but all are welcome. People are also needed to double-check recordings for quality. For details, e-mail Nathaniel Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312-236-8715 x213.
Chicago History Museum Living in the past? You might as well do it right. Sign up to answer questions about the museum’s offerings or help visitors buy tickets, become members, and get comfy among the artifacts. You can also help arrange school groups and adult tour groups, and in return you’ll get a front-row seat to Chicago’s history as well as the opportunity to be part of some of the big events that take place at the museum throughout the year. A long-term commitment is required. For more information call Marne Bariso at 312-799-2274 to find out more.
ChildServ This family-oriented nonprofit runs a variety of programs that help keep kids and families out of risky situations by providing long-term services from infancy onward. A multitude of services includes foster care, adoption services, child-care, tutoring, early childhood education, immigration support and parenting support. Volunteers are needed to tutor sixth-graders. During the holiday season, the Santa-minded will be needed to sort and wrap donated gifts. For more info, get in touch with Jennifer Collins at 773-867-7362, or e-mail email@example.com.
Girls in the Game Love sports? Share your passion and become a coach for area girls ages 7–18. Commit your afternoons or sign up to lead a three-hour game day. At these events, groups of girls rotate through three stations: traditional sports (basketball, soccer, etc.), alternative sports (kickboxing, dance, lacrosse, etc.) and health topics (body image, nutrition or self-esteem). Game Days are scheduled throughout the year at locations across the city. For more information or to sign up, contact Liz Pearson, Programs Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-633-4263.
American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago ALAMC (http://www.lungchicago.org) is hunting for a large number of volunteers for its 11th annual Hustle Up the Hancock stair climb in February. The marathon fundraiser calls for plenty of folks willing to pass out water, work the “gear check” booth and other stations, as well as cheer on participants. ALAMC also offers other volunteer opportunities on a monthly basis. For more Hustle Up the Hancock information contact Jamie Leavitt at email@example.com. For all other opportunities contact Alexis Lewis at 312-628-0234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pan-African Association: Refugee Mentor The Pan-African Association aims to help refugees and recent immigrants adjust to life in Chicago through assistance with English education, employment services and health care. Sign up to be a mentor who acts as a personal liaison for an individual. You could end up tutoring a young person struggling with schoolwork, helping someone fill out a job application or just acting as a trustworthy friend through a difficult transition. This is also an opportunity for cultural exchange and language practice. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call 773-381-9723.
Aquinas Literacy Center Studies show that adult learners can improve by one grade level with just 35 hours of tutoring. This adult-learning center has a waiting list of ESL students seeking their services. Volunteers are trained and certified by ProLiteracy America and can arrange their own weekly 90-minute sessions with the student. Located on the Near South Side, the center focuses on providing basic economic and social survival skills for people new to the United States. Call Alison Altmeyer at 773-927-0512 or visit aquinasliteracycenter.org.
Chicago Lights The Chicago Lights Tutoring and Scholarship Program at Fourth Presbyterian Church has been serving 1st to 12th graders residing in the Cabrini-Green and Henry Horner neighborhoods for over 40 years. Volunteer tutors help kids with homework assignments or spend quality time with them in the computer lab or art workshop. Contact Alex Cornwell at 312-981-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about becoming a permanent or substitute tutor.
Collaboraction Collaboraction is a theater-based nonprofit that combines elements of music, film, visual art and dance to create interactive performances. Volunteers are needed on a number of projects, from selling Collaboraction merchandise to helping load sets for shows. E-mail email@example.com to sign on.
I-GO Car Sharing I-GO is Chicago's only car-share nonprofit organization, providing car rentals for as low as $5 an hour at convenient pickup locations all over the city. I-GO members earn 1 hour of driving credit for every hour of volunteering, while non-members earn credit toward a free membership through 5 hours of volunteering. Earn driving credits by adopting a car, staffing the 24-hour help line, or raising awareness in your community or at local events. For more information contact Sheena McNeal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-269-4018.