The holiday season is filled with so many joys — twinkling lights reflecting off the snow, the excitement and anticipation of little ones, the pleasure of coming together with family and friends for great meals and company — but nothing warms the heart quite like giving to those in need. Here are a few amazing nonprofits that would appreciate your time or resources during this season of giving.
Meals at Home encourages health and personal well-being by delivering meals to the elderly, disabled, or “people that are temporarily unable to care for their nutritional needs.” Volunteers prepare meals for residents who need nutritional support in Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, and Winnetka.
Through now until January, you can help deliver meals by becoming a holiday driver and giving the gift of food to people in need. For information on the days and times, visit Meals at Home’s volunteer page on their website.
On Dec. 8 and 9, a dozen local stores in Winnetka will be donating a percentage of your purchase price to the Winnetka Youth Organization. The WYO is a home away from home that helps teens build social skills, self-confidence, and self-esteem by delivering a safe environment and social services.
Volunteers are needed on both days to stand outside each store providing information about the organization and the event’s purpose. If you are unable to volunteer, make sure to stop by, shop, and enjoy the complimentary wine and small bites at each participating store. Also, don’t forget to mention that you are shopping for the Winnetka Youth Organization so that a percentage of your purchase price will be donated to the organization.
WYO is also looking for donations and teen volunteers for their “Night Ministry Holiday Drive” on Dec. 16. Teens will pack stockings to give to those experiencing homelessness, as well as packing lunches for them. Find more information and items that can be donated online.
Elves are needed at the ReVive Center! For more than 95 years, the ReVive Center has organized a Christmas Basket program where families in need are matched with donors to provide them with some holiday cheer that they normally don’t get during this time of year.
The not-for-profit organization is committed to solving the homelessness problem in Chicago by offering programs and assistance to homeless people who want a fresh start. The Christmas Basket program is just one of their many programs that are designed to bring hope to individuals and families that are suffering from homelessness.
This year, the ReVive Center plans on helping 1,600 families, and they need your help! They are looking for 100 elves (volunteers) from now until Dec. 11 to distribute Christmas Baskets to those in need. They also need volunteers to help with organizing baskets, greeting families, and other important tasks that go into making this program successful. Visit the ReVive Center’s website to learn more and see what you can do to help,
After School Matters provides cultural activities to Chicago teenagers who are looking to express themselves through art. Being a leader in the out-of-school time movement, making them a recognized organization nationally and internationally, they are committed to helping young teens stay busy and succeed in life.
This year, on Dec. 6 and 11, join After School Matters for their annual Shop, Jingle & Mingle event. While you shop for unique, teen-made gifts and enjoy complimentary food and drinks, you will be entertained by live performances by After School Matters teens. But that’s not all! You will also receive 10 percent off all your purchases.
BooksFirst! is an organization created and run by “regular” people out of their homes who want to make a difference for kids in the Chicago Public Schools that have 15 percent or more homeless kids. There are no libraries or library equivalents in most of the public schools in Chicago, meaning that the children are lacking the necessary resources, such as books, to get a proper education.
In the next five years, BooksFirst! hopes to accomplish three goals: creating libraries in Chicago Public Schools with 15 percent or more homeless kids; creating more drop-off locations at family homes to collect books throughout the city; and helping “other families in other locations start their own BooksFirst!”
Want to help BooksFirst! reach all their goals? From hanging up a flyer at your local coffee shop to becoming a drop-off site, BooksFirst! shares ways you can help for 30 minutes, a couple hours, or a few weeks.
Also, if you are making room for new books you’ll be gifting or receiving this season, make sure to donate the books you don’t need anymore to BooksFirst!
You can make a difference several ways this season by supporting the New Trier Township “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” Christmas program.
The first is through the Caring Neighbors programs. The Township identifies and qualifies families who are facing financial hardship and matches them with a donor family. Being a donor family means you are responsible for providing another family with everything listed on their wish list. Usually it is filled with toys for their children that they cannot afford, but you can also add things for the parents if you so choose. For more information, please contact Social Services Administrator Jeanne Winsted Rosser at [email protected] or 847-446-8201.
You can also help provide food to seniors who either live on a fixed income or are struggling to “make ends meet.” The Township Angel Fund and The Grand Food Stores make it possible for residents to provide food for the holidays to these important members of the community. Residents may send checks made out to Angel Fund—New Trier Township to the attention of Jeanne Winsted Rosser at New Trier Township, 739 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093.
Resident-sponsored food drives are another great way to give back, especially during the holidays when children are out of school, meaning parents need to provide all their children’s meals at home. This is a fun way for a neighborhood of families or a group of friends to team up and do a food drive that will help stock up the Food Pantry’s shelves this season. Visit the Run a Food Drive web page, or contact Community Services Administrator Brian Leverenz at [email protected] or 847-446-8203.
Since 1865, Lawrence Hall has been delivering care to abused or neglected youth and their families throughout the Chicago area. Each year, Lawrence Hall sees and treats 1,000 individuals who have suffered trauma by providing therapy, education, and resources.
One way to help support this organization during the holiday season is participating in the Lawrence Hall Holiday Wish List Drive. You can shop for an individual youth by requesting their wish list, host a gift drive at your office or local church, donate online, or join them for their annual gift wrapping party on Dec. 14.
There are many ways to support Lawrence Hall this season, but if you would like more information on what you can do all year long, make sure to visit their volunteer page.
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Avery Hansen recently graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas where she studied journalism and fashion media. During her time at SMU she was published in the school’s newspaper, The Daily Campus, as well as Beyond the Boulevard and HerCampus. When Avery is not writing, she is playing with her pug, Emmy, or cheering on the Blackhawks at the United Center. She is a proud supporter of PAWS Chicago.