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For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. They develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.
Big Brothers Big Sisters offers direct volunteer opportunities for adults who want to make a real impact on a young person’s life. The commitment-level is serious and significant, but the rewards are great. Contact BBBS of Metropolitan Chicago for more information.
Bookwallah is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose vision is to transform the lives of children who have undergone hardship by sharing the gift of imagination. Our mission is to collect and distribute children’s storybooks, set up libraries, and spread the joy of reading to children of orphanages and children’s homes throughout the world. The origin of the name of the organization comes from the Hindi translation “bookwallah” which means “book peddler”. We believe by opening a child’s world to imagination and exploration, we can greatly improve their lives and the lives around them. We also believe that the magic of stories can help foster creativity and innovation within a society.
Bookwallah offers a three main programs to assist children in orphanages in other areas of the world. These programs are: delivering books to children, setting up reading areas in orphanages, and providing reading services. They also have a Buddy program that allows students, teachers, classrooms, and communities to assist the Bookwallah Organization by collecting and providing storybooks to children of orphanages throughout the world.
The Carole Robertson Center evolved in response to the voiced needs of our families. Since the Center’s inception, we have added many programs to meet community need. Current offerings include: center–based and home-based child development programs for children from birth through five years of age, school age and youth programming for children and teens through age 18, extensive family support, social services, and parent education activities, adult education and community training, and imbedded program enhancements including music education, family literacy, family health education, and volunteers.
The Carole Robertson Center for Learning is dedicated to nurturing, supporting, and strengthening family life through quality child, youth, and family development programs. The Center serves Metropolitan Chicago families and facilitates community advocacy on child and family issues.
The Carol Robertson Center has three locations throughout Chicago. They offer tutoring and learning specialist volunteer positions that come with a higher level of commitment, as well as one-time-basis volunteer opportunities, such as painting, landscaping, and other facility upkeep. They also welcome the opportunity to work with you to develop workshops for children, youth, or parents in the area of your interest. Previous volunteer-led workshops have included photography, creative writing, basic budgeting, computers, and music.
The Carole Robertson Center has also partnered with Books for Kids to provide literacy opportunities to the children. There are volunteer opportunities around this as well and opportunity to help in other manners, such as holding a community book drive. Contact Linda for more information.
Chicago HOPES for Kids is a nonprofit organization that provides after school support for students living in homeless shelters throughout the city of Chicago.
After school tutoring is the primary and ongoing volunteer opportunity available at Chicago Hopes; however, there are other ways to get involved to help, as well. Contact them directly for information about possible one-time group volunteer opportunities, internships, and other volunteer positions. The organization would also welcome drives for essential items like mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, and socks for the children.
Exodus World Service transforms the lives of refugees and volunteers. They educate churches about refugee ministry, connect volunteers with newly arriving refugees through practical service projects, and equip leaders to speak up on behalf of refugees. The end result is that wounded hearts are healed, loneliness is replaced with companionship, and fear is transformed into hope.
Exodus World Service offers many programs and services for refugees and for volunteers to get involved. One such program is their Welcome to America program.
Refugees leave behind friends, family and possessions when they escape persecution. They bring with them little more than the clothes they are wearing and a few personal belongings.
Through the Welcome to America! Pack program, you can provide a warm welcome for one of these courageous families when they arrive in our community. Turn their first apartment into a home by collecting and delivering all of the basic household items needed for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen and a first month’s supply of food staples.
This volunteer opportunity is is good for families and groups of all sizes. Exodus also offers a range of educational opportunities for a group to help understand the refugee crisis before jumping into a larger service project. More information on all their programs is available from their web site.
Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and FMSC ships the meals to nearly 70 countries around the world.
A visit to Feed My Starving Children is not an experience to soon be forgotten. Where else can you go with friends and family, spend a couple of hours in fun team-building environment, and in the process literally save the lives of starving children. FMSC has several locations (see their web site) around Chicagoland and elsewhere across the country. It’s a child-friendly environment, as long as young children are accompanied by a responsible adult. Again, see the website for details on policies.
Volunteering with them couldn’t be easier. It’s easily managed for groups or individuals right from their well-designed web site.
FMSC is a Christian organization, and this is pretty clear throughout the experience, but all are welcome as severe malnutrition and starvation does not discriminate.
Join the legacy of forest preserve volunteers who serve the preserves in many ways – starting with the founding of the Forest Preserve District more than 90 years ago. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is the first and largest urban natural areas system in the nation and has grown to 68,000 acres – 11 percent of the land area of Cook County.
Volunteer stewards have been helping maintain healthy ecosystems for the past 30 years. The clean streams committee has worked for four generations to enhance the quality of the District’s eight rivers. More than 7,000 volunteers serve the preserves in many ways every year.
Since 1915, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County has acquired, restored, and managed lands for the purpose of preserving open space for the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public. The Forest Preserve District is one of the oldest and largest forest preserves in the United States, protecting over 68,000 acres of land.
Currently, volunteers are working on over 70 land management sites throughout the Forest Preserve District assisting the District’s staff with the control of invasive, herbaceous and woody species, scientific monitoring, trash collection, seed collection and dispersal, and prescribed burns.
There are hundreds of worksites throughout the Cook County area that are divided into regions. Each region is then divided into stewardship groups or nature centers in which volunteers are needed. We have worked with Palos Restoration Project within Region 6, specifically with Roger Keller (708.598.2234) and Joe Neumann (773.434.1415). It is a great group to work with.
The Forest Preserve District of Will County offers various workday opportunities focusing on the outdoors and the environment. Assisting at a workday can be a great way to learn about the native species that the District works so hard to preserve.
The Forest Preserve District of Will County provides a list of their workday opportunities on their website’s event calendar. Registration is required so that they have enough equipment for all participants. They do welcome children as long as they are accompanied by a parent or a guardian. A waiver does need to be completed, which can be obtained from the contact person.
Work will occur outdoors in the preserve, so please bring work gloves, wear closed-toe shoes, and dress in long pants. Work will take place on uneven terrain that is primarily natural surface. Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service to participate in this workday should mention their request when registering, or submit a request on-line no later than 48 hours before the workday.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year.
It is a rewarding experience volunteering at the Food Depository, knowing that you are helping to feed the hungry within Cook County. The opportunities include repacking bulk products, assembling boxes with assorted foods, checking expiration dates and labeling products. They have their volunteer calendar available on their website; however, they do fill up quickly. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old during regular sessions. The Food Depository does host Kids Days once a month on a Saturday afternoon to allow kids 5 to 13 a chance to volunteer (they must be accompanied with an adult). They also welcome groups (20 or fewer) with kids as long as there is one adult for each child (this needs to be pre-arranged).
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian ministry founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. They build with people in need regardless of race or religion. They also welcome volunteers and supporters from all backgrounds. Habitat has helped build or repair over 600,000 affordable houses, serving more than 3 million people worldwide.
Habitat for Humanity is a well-known international organization with many local chapters. It welcomes all people—regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or any other difference—to build and repair simple, decent, affordable houses with those who lack adequate shelter. There are several local chapters throughout Illinois. To date, we have worked with the Chicago South Suburbs chapter (HFHCSS). This local chapter serves 75,000 households in the southern suburbs that are defined as having “critical housing needs”–meaning that these households are paying too much of their monthly income for housing and/or they are living in substandard quality or overcrowded conditions. HFHCSS is trying to make a difference for these families by helping to provide simple, decent homes.
You must be at least 16 years of age to volunteer at HFHCSS. HFHCSS also requires signed safety and waiver forms. These forms can be found on their website.
Music for Lombok is a not-for-profit organization that brings muscic, art, and English education to the children of an orphanage in Lombok, Indonesia. The orphanage’s school is called Al-Ashriyah, located in the village of Sesela Genung Sari. In comparison to Western standards the school is run down and in serious need of tender loving care. There is currently no music program beyond a single acoustic guitar and computer. Using only these resources, the students continue to express their creativity and youthful spirit by making music and videos. Music for Lombok seeks to provide more instruments and instruction to help the children enhance their creative skills, while also having the opportunity to practice their English with volunteer teachers.
Music for Lombok is a program centered around music to help the orphans in Lombok to get education and learn about the world thru new and different cultures perspective. Thru this program volunteers will help teach the children in Lombok music and foreign languages. Music for Lombok also welcomes donated musical instruments.
For more information on this organization, check out this piece: Chicago Public Radio Coverage on Music for Lombok
Music for Lombok on Woldview
Music for Lombok on Worldview
My Joyful Heart is a unique charity that provides personalized assistance and encouragement for Chicago area and suburban children in need. As a faith-based organization, they endeavor to be a positive influence to these children in need by remembering them with basic life essentials, school supplies, clothing, toys and encouragement throughout each year until their situation improves or they move from the area.
My Joyful Heart provides the little things that may often be missing in the life of a child in need. By providing these gift packages regularly throughout the year they extend love and hope to these children, making them feel special and letting them know that people do care. Local, disadvantaged, high-risk children are given gift packages of essentials throughout the year, not just at Christmas. They are not a one-size-fits-all organization; gifts are specifically selected for each individual child.
My Joyful Heart works in tandem with the Chicago Public Schools and other school districts to enroll needy children; the children who are coming to school without a jacket in the winter, the children who do not have proper shoes or clothing that fits, the children in need of hygiene and especially the children in need of encouragement and hope. They work closely with the school systems to ensure gifts are given to the children in their program and that he/she knows that someone cares. All this is made possible through sponsorships, donations, grants, fundraising and corporate support.
My Joyful Heart continually strives to help local children as best they can. What they do is…Bring Hope.
My Joyful Heart operates out of donated warehouse space in Mokena, IL with a their administrative office in Lockport, IL. Diane Carroll is a wonderfully kind woman with a big heart. She is always looking for dedicated people to join her in her cause, and has been known to welcome young people (and homeschoolers especially) to help out on a regular or semi-regular basis at their warehouse facility in Mokena.
Check out the video below where My Joyful Heart was featured on the CBS evening news.
PADS partners with Faith Communities throughout the south and southwest suburbs for the use of their facilities as homeless shelters. These shelters are staffed with volunteers from local Faith Communities, members of fraternal, civic and social organizations, as well as individuals from the surrounding communities. PADS provides the operational structure, supplemental volunteer support and supportive services such as medical, mental and substance abuse referrals, financial literacy instruction, employment readiness training, resume development and job search skills, homeless prevention programs, housing assistance programs and various life-skills training programs.
Compassion, hospitality and dignity are key characteristics of the PADS programs.
Since 1990, more than 7,750 men and women have combined their efforts to carry out the PADS Mission.
- PADS Volunteers have cared for over 6,700 homeless men, women and children.
- PADS Volunteers have hosted 184,563 shelter nights at local churches and synagogues.
- PADS Volunteers have served 573,391 meals to those in need.
- In the last 11 years, PADS Daytime has helped 3,400 adults find work.
PADS is a network of participating partners (mostly churches and other faith-based institutions) who provide space on a rotating basis to shelter men, women, and children. The participating partner we’ve working with presently is the Southwest Alliance Korean Church in Palos Hills, IL. Volunteer opportunities, however, can be coordinated through Dawn Thrasher at the PADS main office.
Volunteers should be mature and responsible.
The video below is not about SSPADS, but rather the Lake County chapter. Just the same, it offers some perspective on the services they provide.
PLOWS Council on Aging is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of persons 60 years of age and older by providing the highest level of service to those who are physically, psychologically, and/or financially in need and treating those persons and families with dignity, compassion, and respect.
PLOWS Council on Aging has been in operation since 1975 developing and providing services to older adults 60 years of age and older. PLOWS is an acronym for the areas we serve, Palos, Lemont, Orland, and Worth Townships and the 19 municipalities in those Townships. PLOWS goal is to help seniors improve the quality of life and to be able to maintain that quality as long as possible. This is accomplished by providing assistance with the services highlighted on this website.
PLOWS offices are located at 7808 College Drive, and have been since 2000. Prior to that, PLOWS was located in Oak Lawn for 25 years. PLOWS does emphasize services to the most vulnerable elderly but basic services are offered to all seniors.
PLOWS is a 501(C)3 not for profit Corporation governed by a 15 person Board of Directors the vast majority of which are seniors and geographically represent the PLOWS service area. Recent estimates are that nearly 70,000 seniors reside in PLOWS communities, making it the fastest growing area of seniors in Suburban Chicago.
PLOWS has a staff of 30 full time, 12 part time, and 25 in-home workers plus many volunteers to help provide vital services.
Volunteer opportunities through PLOWS include advocacy, home delivered meals, and fundraising opportunities. See the PLOWS web site or contact PLOWS for complete information. A summary of major areas of volunteer opportunity is below.
PLOWS strives to help older adults achieve economic stability. Activities toward this goal include assistance with many Federal and State applications for benefits that pay for utilities, medications, food, etc.. Due to the numbers of older adults served in this program, volunteers are essential in this effort. PLOWS provides necessary training and supervision to volunteers interested in this activity. Candidates must be: compassionate and patient, computer literate, passionate about accuracy, detail oriented, and reliable. Advocacy volunteers need to be available 3-4 hours weekly between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Call us to discuss a flexible schedule.
Home Delivered Meals
The home delivered meals program is a service that responds to the vital need of the elderly for good nutrition. This program provides a well balanced diet for clients who are homebound or unable to prepare their own meals. Volunteers in the home delivered meals program deliver prepared food to clients living in Alsip, parts of Bridgeview, Evergreen Park, Merrionette Park, Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, and Worth. Drivers are asked to be available one morning a week, Monday through Friday. You must be able to walk up flights of stairs in some cases in order to reach the client’s apartment or home. New volunteers are invited to accompany an experienced driver on a delivery route to learn if this rewarding program is right for them. You must have your own car with insurance and a good driving record.
Volunteers who are willing to assist in the PLOWS Ad book, our major annual fundraising event, help make it possible to continue all of the programs and services offered by PLOWS. Volunteers may work from their home or at the PLOWS office to solicit advertisements by telephone. Some Ad Book volunteers also visit area businesses in person to request support for the agency. Flexible scheduling makes this a perfect position for persons who are very busy but would like to help PLOWS continue their commitment to the elderly community. The fundraising campaign begins in spring and ends in early fall. Once completed, volunteers are asked to help deliver the ad book to advertisers to thank them for their support.
The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI) is to care for families of children with complex medical needs by providing comfort, compassion and community. RMHC-CNI keeps families of hospitalized children together in a ‘home away from home’. Their programs include providing supportive residence at four Ronald McDonald houses throughout the Chicagoland area, offering a haven of respite at a Ronald McDonald family room at Edward Hospital in Naperville, providing essential health services to children in under-served areas through a care mobile, and awarding scholarships to academically outstanding, community-minded and economically challenged young people.
There are many ways you can help the Ronald McDonald House Charities. There are four different houses throughout the Chicagoland area, along with a Ronald McDonal Family Room in Edward Hospital. Some volunteer opportunities include: preparing a meal for families, helping with house work, volunteering at a fundraising event, collecting pop tabs, etc. They have an easy to use calendar on their website, along with additional information. Some houses do have minimum age requirements, but many do allow children as long as they have a guardian with them when volunteering.
The mission at Sertoma Centre is “to provide opportunities that empower individuals with disabilities to achieve personal success.”
Every day at Sertoma this mission is accomplished by those with developmental, physical, emotional disabilities and /or mental illness. Some of this success is major – like starting a job in the community or moving into their own apartment.
Other successes may seem minor to others, but to an individual with disabilities, getting dressed by oneself, learning how to make change at a vending machine, or mastering a new task in the workshop is a meaningful personal success!
For an individual with disabilities, each one of these victories represents another step in his/her own personal path toward greater independence and participation in their community. Sertoma Centre, Inc. has built its reputation on the many personal victories of the people it serves.
A non-profit agency, Sertoma Centre, Inc. is headquartered in Alsip, a south suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Based upon its reputation and achievements, individuals residing in parts of Chicago and its south and southwest suburban region receive the services provided by the Centre.
We’ve worked with Laura Gardner, the volunteer services coordinator at Sertoma Centre. She is an incredibly friendly, helpful person and has gone out of her way to create meaningful service opportunities for our students. She is best reached by e-mail, as she is a part-time employee at the Sertoma Centre, but she responds very quickly. As a direct service opportunity, we highly recommend the Sertoma Centre.
The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to offer housing, health care and human connection to members of the Chicago community struggling with poverty or homelessness. With an open heart and an open mind, they accept people as they are and work to address their immediate needs while affirming their sense of humanity.
The Night Ministry has volunteer opportunities–direct and indirect, onsite and offsite, for many ages and at a variety commitment levels.
Together We Cope bridges the gap for Southland residents in temporary crisis by providing food, shelter, clothing and referrals, empowering them to return to self-sufficiency. In response to the steel mill closings, which hit south suburban residents particularly hard, Oak Forest resident Loraine Cook founded Together We Cope in 1982. For the years 2009 – 2010, Together We Cope provided assistance to 41,000 people. The Financial Assistance Program provided $228,000, the Clothing Program provided $128,000, and the Food Program provided $1,093,000. Our Holiday (Adopt-A-Child for Holiday Gifts) Program and Back-to-School (Supplies) Program each benefitted 1,100 children.
Together We Cope is a wonderful organization helping individuals and families from Chicago southland communities through times of economic crisis. They’re an incredibly friendly bunch and very willing to work with you to get involved as a volunteer–whether in their food pantry, resale shop, or other special events and programs. Like many volunteer organizations, they ask for their volunteers to be at least 16, but if you talk with them, they make exception for families volunteering together.
The Working Bikes Cooperative is a not-for-profit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, which diverts bicycles from the waste stream in Chicago by repairing them for sale and charity.
Working Bikes is primarily volunteer-driven. Currently it receives no government or foundation money. All its operations are funded through the sale of bicycles at its storefront. Working Bikes uses that money to provide bicycles to charity organizations within Chicagoland and to ship bicycles to the Gulf Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Angola, Cuba, Guatemala, and Peru.
In the countries to which Working Bikes ships, a bicycle can often mean the difference between work and unemployment. The bicycle is the primary means of vehicular transportation for the majority of the population and is used both for personal transportation and for carrying cargo.
By volunteering your time at Working Bikes you aid an organization that is doing good work both locally and internationally. This is a laid-back, fun group that works hard to get the job done (they often spring for lunch for all the volunteers). Some of the opportunities that volunteers can take a part in include: repairing bicycles, preparing and packing bikes for shipping overseas, organizing and helping customers in the Working Bikes Store, picking up donations, networking with other organizations, and helping spread the word.