Sharing, caring, giving help us get into spirit of the season
December 5, 2008

By Susan Fong | December 2008

Participants in the Adult Wellness Center at Casa Central, with their Christmas gifts.
December certainly is the high season of giving, but also just a gentle reminder of our connection to others. Giving food, time, or resources truly is a gift to yourself as well, and a way to communicate to the greater whole what it means to care, and that there is enough to share. Assembled here are just a few of the opportunities in which you can participate both during the holidays and year round. The Gazette has provided such lists of opportunities since 1984.

Cathedral Shelter of Chicago at 1668 W. Ogden Ave. is a not-forprofit organization that prevents hunger and homelessness for 10,000 people each year. Many of its recipients take advantage of multiple services, such as drug recovery, work transition, and parenting services, offered by the agency. Its food pantry alone provides groceries for 3,600 low-income people.

This year, Cathedral Shelter expects to help 1,500 families with its annual Christmas Basket Drive; each basket will contain one week’s worth of food, gifts, and essentials for families or seniors. The shelter also needs volunteers through mid-December to package and distribute gift baskets, check families in, drive, and help load and unload trucks. All donations are welcome.

Cathedral Shelter depends greatly on volunteer help and donations. Donations of new blankets, pots and pans, clothes, and other personal and household items are needed year-round. To volunteer, sponsor a family, or provide a food basket, go to or call Tiffanie Dillion at (312) 997-2222, ext. 239, or e-mail her at

Casa Central volunteers and workers lift holiday spirits for people of all ages.
Casa Central (Central House), 1343 N. California Ave., seeks holiday volunteers and donations. Casa Central was founded in 1954 by a multi-denominational group of churches to provide social services for people of all ages and help a growing population of Hispanics adjust to life in Chicago’s inner city. It is now the largest Hispanic social service agency in Chicago, and its network of 25 bilingual/bicultural social service programs serves Chicago residents through nine facilities located mainly in Humboldt Park. To volunteer or for more information call Marketing Associate Frank Diaz at (773) 645-2322 or go online at

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 721 N. LaSalle St., hosts its annual Celebration of Giving through mid-December. New, unwrapped toys in their original packaging can be dropped off at the organization’s newest location at 1455 W. Hubbard St. Call (312) 738-1674. Hours are Mon., Wed., and Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tues. and Fri. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Catholic Charities also needs volunteers through Fri., Dec. 14, to sort and package gifts in the toy room; to volunteer, contact Volunteer Services and Toy Drive Director Michael McDonnell at (312) 655-7322 or

If you cannot donate your time you can send a check or money order to Catholic Charities, Department 1623, Box N, Chicago, IL 60690-3990. The organization also accepts donated vehicles; for information call (888) 227-4827. For other details or for ideas for appropriate gifts call Catholic Charities’ LaSalle Center at (312) 655-7477 or visit

Cook County Commissioner and President Pro Tempore Joseph Mario Moreno (D-7th District) will be celebrating Christmas this year by holding his annual Toys-For- Kids Drive. Interested persons are asked to bring as many unwrapped toys as they can to be delivered by Christmas Day to different charity organizations in the 7th District. In previous years, Moreno has donated the toys to the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Casa Romero, and Holy Cross Parish, among others. To sign up, call Cristina Saldana at (312) 603-5443 or e-mail

De La Salle Institute, 3455 S. Wabash Ave. and 1040 W. 32nd Pl., is running a Holiday Giving Drive through Fri., Dec. 12. Students at both the Institute and Lourdes Hall Campuses will be collecting canned foods, clothes, and toys for needy families. The food portion of the drive is partially sponsored by Amate House, whose goal is to collect one million cans of food throughout the Chicagoland area. De La Salle also has a number of students who are helping out with holiday events at churches and soup kitchens.

De La Salle students collect food for the needy at the holidays.
De La Salle will host a Santa’s Helpers Crusade co-sponsored by several other groups, including Lasallian Youth and the National Honor Society. De La Salle will be accepting donations of food, clothing, blankets, and toys that will be distributed to the needy. The top homerooms at both the Institute and Lourdes Hall Campuses will be able to donate $100 to their favorite charity. Contact Mike Walsh at (312) 842-7355 or Emily Vogel at for more information.

At the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), employees are donating their time and money to purchase groceries for food baskets. The gift baskets will contain all the trimmings for a complete holiday meal. The baskets are delivered to community organizations from the North, South, and West Sides of Chicago. The CTA’s Holiday Food Train has distributed food baskets to community groups to help feed needy families for the past 16 years. Last year, contributions from generous employees helped feed more than 600 families. Each food basket contains all the ingredients for a complete meal. For more information about how to make a donation, visit or call (888) YOUR-CTA (888-968-7282) for more specific information on dates and times.

The Dominick’s Finer Foods/ABC 7 Holiday Food Drive and runs through Tues., Jan 3. Food and money, which go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, can be donated at all Dominick’s stores in the Gain a Million Pounds campaign to feed the hungry. Last year the food drive collected nearly 850,000 pounds of food for families and individuals. The goal is to reach more than one million pounds. For additional opportunities including a virtual food drive visit the depository online at or call Brandy Pisou at (773) 843-2657.

Erie Neighborhood House will collect holiday gifts at 1347 W. Erie St. on Thursday, Dec. 11, and Friday, Dec. 12. The Holiday with Hearts Bazaar benefits older infants, toddlers, children through 12 years old, and youth between the ages of 13 and 18 years who are Erie program participants. Suggested gift items are toys, books, and children’s clothing. In keeping with Erie’s mission to empower families, Erie parents will have the opportunity to select gifts for their children at the bazaar pm Sat., Dec. 13. Gifts are being distributed exclusively to children currently enrolled in Erie House programs. Volunteer inquiries for this event should be directed to Vera Mandilovitch at or call (312) 432-2282.

Students from De La Salle fix old bikes to be given out to youngsters as Christmas gifts.
Greater Chicago Food Depository (Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation), 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl. 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 the community. The food depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 600 pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters to 500,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the food depository distributed 46 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products, and meat—the equivalent of 95,000 meals every day. The Food Depository’s programs and services for children, older adults, and the unemployed and underemployed address the root causes of hunger. For more information, log onto or call (773) 247-FOOD.

The Illinois Judges Association (IJA) has launched its seventh annual Children’s Book Drive for the holiday season. The Illinois Judges Association, composed of 1,100 active and retired judges, provides continuing legal education to its members and education to the public on matters related to the justice system. Under the supervision of Cook County Judge Jesse G. Reyes, IJA immediate past president, children’s books in new and gently used condition can be delivered to the judge’s chambers, Courtroom 2811, in the Daley Center. Last year, the IJA collected and distributed more than 10,000 books. The books will be distributed to low-income families throughout Illinois as part of a series of Family Reading Nights at elementary schools. For more information, call the IJA at (312) 431-1283.

In the spirit of the holiday season, Lakeside Bank is sponsoring its fourth annual food drive which runs through Fri., Dec. 15, to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD). All Lakeside Bank locations are collecting nutritious, non-perishable, unopened, canned and packaged foods with a goal of again collecting at least 1,000 pounds of items to support the GCFD. The following are part of the food drive grocery list: cereal, quick oats, pancake mix, peanut butter, cans of soup, canned entrees (chili, stews), tuna, beans, pasta (spaghetti and macaroni and cheese), rice, canned vegetables, canned fruits, laundry detergent, and soap. Items will be collected at all Lakeside Bank locations: 2200 S. Archer Ave., 2141 S. Indiana Ave., 1055 W. Roosevelt Rd., 141 W. Jackson Blvd., 55 W. Wacker Dr., and 2800 N. Ashland Ave. For every item you donate, you get a raffle ticket to win a $300 savings bond. Thus, the more items you donate, the more chances you have to win. The drawing will take place on Wed., Dec. 17. To learn more about Lakeside Bank’s food drive call (312) 567-1011 or e-mail

Leukemia Research Foundation, which works to conquer leukemia, lymphoma, and myelodysplastic syndromes by funding research into causes and cures, offers greeting cards for Christmas and Hanukkah ranging from general, to religious, to progressive. Cards come in boxes of 25 and include one free line of a personalized message. Sample cards can be viewed at; click “order new cards.” For further information call Dorothy Pfeiffer at (708) 599-5778 or Carl Austin at (847) 424-0600.

Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan Ave., will deliver more than 1,000 Christmas boxes containing food and gifts to support its neighbors in the community on Sat., Dec. 15. For 34 years, Mercy employees and friends have decorated boxes and filled them with gifts for the elderly and underprivileged. Last year, 400 volunteers filled and delivered the boxes; 50 were prepared for nursing home residents and included special treats and Christmas poinsettias. For questions on donations or the drive call Kathy Gadalinski at (312) 567-2405 or e-mail her at

Haymarket Center of the McDermott Foundation, 932 W. Washington Blvd., is an in-house support center and outreach program for those struggling with addiction that serves more than 16,700 clients. Its Maternal Addic-tion Center offers a place for women to detoxify before delivery so their babies are born drug-free. The organization welcomes monetary donations as well as warm clothing for men, women, and children. For more information contact Robert Manewith at (773) 274–6215, or fax him at (773) 274-5636.

Secretary of State Jesse White will distribute more than 11,000 turkeys and hams to make the holidays a little brighter for the city’s neediest residents. His Holiday Fund is a program operated through the Emergency Fund for Needy People, but is coordinated by White and volunteers. This will be White’s 44th year of holiday contributions to the community. White has worked with the Emergency Fund for more than 20 years as a volunteer. For more information, contact the Emergency Fund at (312) 379-0301, x16; go to; or call Penelope Campbell at White’s office at (312) 814-2599.

U.S. Marines Toys for Tots was begun in 1947 by a troop of U.S. Marine Reservists, who collected and distributed toys for underprivileged children in the Los Angeles area. Because initiative was so well received, it grew into a nationwide program the following year. The collection runs through Wed., Dec. 24. In Chicago the major partners are Jewel/Osco, Harris Bank, Fox News, Ravenswood Bank, and WLS 890 AM. For more information about where you can drop off toys or how to receive toys, call Sergeant Carlos Rivas at the Marines Reserve Corps Training Center at (773) 539-6464, ext. 311; e-mail; or go to

Whole Foods offers a holiday food drive that runs through Mon., Dec. 22, which will benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Donate nonperishable food items at Whole Foods Market’s Gold Coast, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, North Halsted, and South Loop locations. For more information, go to the calendar of the Greater Chicago Food Depository at or call (773) 247-3663.

Windows of Opportunity, the nonprofit arm of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), hosts a variety of events for CHA residents in December. Windows of Opportunity and the CHA also are sponsoring the 21st annual Senior Gala on Sat., Dec. 20. This will be the largest senior holiday party in the Chicago area. Over 2000 CHA seniors are expected to attend. On Sun., Dec. 21, a CHA kids, holiday party will take places at the Chicago Bulls/Chicago White Sox Academy in Lisle, IL, for 400 invited CHA youngsters.

To find out how you can donate, contact Windows of Opportunity through Matthew Aguilar, manager of media at the CHA. His number is (312) 935-2646. The Breast Cancer Network of Strength supports women and men with breast cancer and their families with programs including a 24-hour support hotline run by a trained staff of breast cancer survivors speaking 140 languages. To donate or volunteer, go online at or at 212 W. Van Buren St. The organization’s hotline is (800) 221-2141. Online donations also are welcome.

The U.S. Postal Service/Cardiss Collins Center, 433 W. Harrison St., is holding its “Letters to Santa” campaign. The center gets as many as 10,000 letters each year and through Fri., Dec. 19, will have letters addressed to Santa from families in need on hand for your choosing. Those taking letters are encouraged to fulfill the letter-writer’s wishes.

Leave It For Love. Interested in re-gifting? Now you can do it and feel good about it. Leave it for Love is a unique gift recycling program in which unwanted gifts are collected and donated to less fortunate older adults. Rather than keeping unused items in your home where they collect dust and add clutter, why not give them to someone who might really need the leg warmers, ear muffs, or hot cup of tea to keep warm this winter? This program is good for the environment, easy on the pocket book and great for the spirit! A drop off center is available at The UPS Store at 47 W. Polk St. in Dearborn Station in the South Loop. For more information and additional locations please visit www.leaveitforlove. org or call (312) 804-0496.

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