The holidays seem to creep up faster every year, and though you probably just finished carving pumpkins, you’re probably already starting to think about that holiday shopping and gifting. This season is filled with so many sources of delight, but nothing warms the heart quite like giving to those in need. We make it our mission to help you bring comfort and joy to the most deserving individuals and organizations in your community. Here are six fun ways you and your family can volunteer this season.
1. Culinary Care 
After New Trier High School graduate Courtney White lost her father to cancer in 2006, her family received an outpouring of support as well as meals from loved ones, friends, and others in the community. The meals that the White family received for two months gave them one less thing to worry about and provided them the physical strength to help get them through each day. Culinary Care wants to provide that same comfort  that the Whites received by providing cancer patients and families with meals. Culinary Care offers several different ways that you can volunteer , such as hosting a Share the Care event, or donating $19 a month, which provides meals to two families all year long.
2. PAWS Chicago 
Can you think of a better way to stay warm during the long Chicago winter than by snuggling up with a furry friend? Since 1997, PAWS Chicago has made it their mission to build a No-Kill community and you can help , too! You can choose to work with dogs, cats, or people at either of three on-site PAWS volunteer locations throughout Chicago and the North Shore.
If you are unable to visit any of the on-site locations, don’t worry — you can help spread awareness in other ways. Off-site volunteer opportunities are just as important and can include supporting adoption events and PAWS For Life , or becoming a Humane Education Volunteer .
3. Spark Chicago 
Spark is a Career Exploration and Self-Discovery Program that helps middle school students understand, experience, and pursue what’s possible for their future. They are leading The Possibility Movement by bringing together diverse communities of families, schools, and companies who care, share, teach, and inspire.
Learn more about how you can make a difference from your desk  as a volunteer through Spark Lab and Spark Mentorships. Is your company unable to host a group of students? Don’t worry, there are other ways to support  Spark! Put your skills to use and sign up to receive their newsletters .
4. Girls on the Run Chicago 
Girls on the Run Chicago is a program that encourages young girls to be active, be positive, and live a healthy life. With the help of trained coaches leading small groups of girls in grades three through five, GOTR fosters a long-term appreciation for health and fitness. You can volunteer your time  by coaching a team, volunteering at their Nov. 18 The Squeez’d Girls on the Run 5K  at Grant Park, or participating in other group volunteer opportunities.
5. YMCA of Metro Chicago 
For more than 150 years, the YMCA of Metro Chicago has been dedicated to bringing meaningful change to the community  by supporting the development of the kids and families who live there. As the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening communities, the Y provides wonderful opportunities to bring varied groups of people, including volunteers, together.
Volunteering at the Y is an important role. Offering your time and knowledge helps support the programs and services they provide. In addition to individual volunteer opportunities such as coaching a youth sports team or sharing a special skill, there are corporate and group volunteer opportunities as well.
Visit the Y’s volunteer page  to locate a Y near you where you can share your time and skills.
6. Open Books 
With more than 120,000 books granted last year alone, Open Books promotes children’s literacy through a number of different programs. One of the most successful programs Open Books offers is their Book Program, which provides thousands of donated books to schools and other nonprofits in Chicago each week. Aside from delivering books from their award-winning bookstores located in Pilsen and the West Loop, they also offer Instructional Programs.
You can volunteer to be a part of any of the four programs  that make-up the Instructional Program, which includes being a reading buddy or coaching the creative writing workshops, the ReadThenWrite class, or the Publishing Academy class. In each program students read and discuss stimulating books and become better writers.
Don’t stop here!
Eager to find even more fantastic opportunities to support those in need within your community? The Volunteer Center  is a wonderful local resource committed to helping pair volunteers with deserving nonprofits in the area.
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- Chicago Ranks Last for Gender Equity Among the Country’s Top Cities — This is What We Need to Do to Change That 
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 .