Community spirit is highlighted during the holiday season
December 1, 2011

By Susan Fong

Giving is a year round activity, but it is particularly meaningful during the holiday season. No matter how we decide to give, whether through our time or resources, our actions remind us we are members of a community. Our donations, regardless of how modest, can touch other lives deeply. The Gazette has provided a list of seasonal and year-round giving opportunities since 1984.

The office of 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, 2058 N. Western Ave., (773) 278-0101, will direct the needy to appropriate organizations and City services.

The office of 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti, 429 S. Dearborn St., is conducting a toy drive and will accept toys until Wed., Dec. 21, at the office at 1319 S. State St.

Cathedral Shelter volunteers help prepare gifts for the needy.
In an effort to brighten the holidays for needy families, the 2nd Ward office has partnered with pastors and community organizations to identify families who do not have the means to have a nice Christmas. Any business, family, or individual willing to support one of these families should contact Beth O’Mara at (312) 263-9272. Donors may select a family to adopt. Most families ask for winter clothes, toys, and personal items.

The office of 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, 5046 S. State St., is collecting toys for youngsters up to age 14. The alderman’s staff is compiling a list of area residents who call in to say they need toys; items will be distributed on a first come, first-served basis. Donors can drop off items at the alderman’s office. Call (773) 373-9273, either to donate or to be added to the list of recipients.

The office of 4th Ward Alderman William Burns, 435 E. 35th St., will host its annual 4th Ward holiday party and toy drive on Wed., Dec. 14, at King High School at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. from 5 to 8 p.m. At that time, the office will accept donations of toys for distribution to children in 4th Ward schools. For details about how to participate, contact Charis Triplet at (773) 536-8103 or at

The office of 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis, 2439 S. Oakley Ave., (773) 523-4100, is running a toy drive and requests new and unwrapped toys for children ages five to 14. The office also is running a coat drive for children and adults. Drop off items until Friday, Dec. 16. Contact Kristine Menas at (773) 523-4100 or e-mail

The office of 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, 1643 W. Chicago Ave., (312) 432-1995, is running a coat drive. Drop off coats at the office before Friday, Dec. 31. The office is open Mon. through Fri. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Jesse Smart for further information.

The office of 11th Ward Alderman James A. Balcer, 3659 S. Halsted St., and (773) 254-6677, will direct volunteers and recipients to appropriate organizations and agencies in the area. Call Eric Wong for further information.

Cardinal Fitness locations are hosting a toy drive to benefit Toys for Tots and other local charities. Local residents are encouraged to bring in new, unwrapped toys through the end of the month. Nearby drop-off locations are 3145 S. Ashland Ave. and 1301 W. Madison St.; for other locations, check or call (312) 226-2400.

Cathedral Shelter of Chicago, 1668 W. Ogden Ave., will help more than 1,800 low-income families, seniors, and homeless individuals celebrate the holidays through its 97th annual Christmas Basket Program, running through Wed., Dec. 14. The program provides struggling families and individuals with holiday gifts and grocery gift cards for a holiday dinner.

Cathedral Shelter depends on help from more than 200 volunteers each year to help run the program. Volunteer opportunities include Christmas basket truck teams and drivers, warehouse personnel, and check-in coordinators. The organization will serve a record-breaking 1,800 families this year. Contact Kevin McCullough at (312) 997-2222, ext. 234, to volunteer.

Casa Central (Central House), 1343 N. California Ave., seeks volunteers and donations for its holiday and annual programs. Casa Central’s early childhood, out-of school time, and summer programs assist at-risk children and teenagers. Casa Central welcomes donations of toys, winter clothing, and money to benefit families participating in its programs and services. Casa Central also has created and produced note cards as a holiday fundraiser. For more information, call (773) 645-2478 or go to

Last year, employees from information technology firm Single Hop partnered with Casa Central to buy Christmas gifts and other items for needy Casa Central children.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 721 N. LaSalle St. The 64th Annual Catholic Charities Celebration of Giving will accept toys, clothing, household items, and school supplies for those in need who are clients of Catholic Charities in Cook and Lake counties. Anyone interested in donating can contact Michael McDonnell at (312) 226-0650, Mon. through Fri. between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., or e-mail

Chicago Firefighters and Paramedics Local 2 and Catholic Charities will host their 13th annual Toy Parade on Saturday Dec. 3, beginning at 10 a.m. The parade begins at the union’s headquarters at 440 W. 43rd St., then moves through Bridgeport and up Halsted Street into Greektown, and ends at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134 Hall at 600 W. Washington Blvd. The drive is organized by Tim O’Brien of Local 2, which will collect Christmas toys, bicycles, and wagons, load them on fire trucks, and deliver them to the IBEW Local 135 Union Hall where they will be provided to Catholic Charities. Throughout the parade route, bystanders are encouraged to donate toys to the firefighters in the parade. Call Catholic Charities at (312) 226-0650.

The Chicago Latino Network will conduct a toy drive to benefit Erie Neighborhood House on Friday, Dec. 9, 6 to 10 p.m. at a party held at 1444 N. Milwaukee Ave. Required entry fee is a gift or gift card valued at $30. No cash will be accepted at the door. Capacity is limited to the first 150 people. For more information, visit

The Chicago Police 12th District domestic violence subcommittee is collecting new and gently used hats, scarves, gloves, and mittens for women and children. The clothing will be distributed through the Greenhouse Shelter. Donations will be collected through Thursday, Dec. 15, at the 12th District Police Station, 100 S. Racine Ave. Call (312) 746-8306.

Employees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) again are donating time and money to create food baskets, enough for a complete holiday meal. The baskets are distributed to community organizations on the North, South, and West Sides. Visit or call (888) YOUR-CTA (888-968-7282) or contact Marisue O’Connor at (312) 681-2819,

The CTA is getting into the holiday spirit with its Holiday Train. Santa and his helpers will pass out candy canes and season’s greetings on a six-car train adorned with holiday seasonal images. As the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to the boarding passengers from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar that carries his reindeer and decorated holiday trees. The Holiday Train will travel all CTA rail lines in December and operate from about 1 to 8 p.m. on weekends and 3 to 7 p.m. on select weekdays. Normal CTA fares apply. Check

De La Salle Institute, 3455 S. Wabash Ave. and 1040 W. 32nd Pl., is running the Meteors Bright and Live holiday giving drive, in which the school collects canned food for St. James Food Pantry and toys for Catholic Charities. In addition, the school will host a holiday dinner Wednesday, Dec. 7, for families who frequent St. James Food Pantry. Students will provide entertainment, and Santa will be there for photos and to present gifts to children. Contact Emily Vogel at (312) 842-7355, ext. 126.

Deborah’s Place, 2822 W. Jackson Blvd. (administrative offices), (773) 722-5080, provides supportive housing for women and links women with social services. During the holiday season, Deborah’s Place needs both monetary and “wish list” donations such as new linens, hats, gloves, CTA passes, and gift cards. To view a more extensive list of donation requests, please check

The Dominick’s Finer Foods/ABC 7 Holiday Food Drive runs through the end of December. 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, which aims to collect onemillion pounds of food to feed the hungry. For additional opportunities, including a virtual food drive, visit the depository on-line at or call (773) 247-FOOD (3663).

Erie Neighborhood House will collect holiday gifts at 1347 W. Erie St. and 1701 W. Superior St. to ensure every child has a gift this Christmas. Erie will be accept toys for children ages six months to 12 years at its annual Holidays with Heart gift drive. Donations will be distributed through the toy bazaar, where parents can come to select a free gift for each child. For disadvantaged families, the organization requests donations of new or gently used winter clothing for boys and girls six months to 12 years old.

Deliver your donations to the reception desk at 1701 W. Superior St. no later than Fri., Dec. 16. For questions, contact Marisol Martinez at Erie serves disadvantaged members of the community through education-based programs. The Greater Chicago Food Depository, 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl., 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 — approximately 69 million pounds of food and produce. For a list of partnering organizations, log onto or call (773) 247-FOOD.

Haymarket Center of the McDermott Foundation, 932 W. Washington Blvd., is an in-house support center and outreach program for those struggling with addiction. Its Maternal Addiction Center offers a place for women to detoxify before delivery so their babies are born drug-free. The organization welcomes monetary donations; clothing for adults, toddlers, and children; and toys. Contact Robert Manewith at (773) 274–6215 or fax him at (773) 274-5636.

De La Salle Institute is running a holiday giving drive to collect canned food for St. James Food Pantry and toys for Catholic Charities.
Holy Family Parish, Food Pantry Ministry, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd. Chicago’s second oldest church offers a regular food pantry on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m.; recipients must live within boundary guidelines and bring proof of identification. Holy Family Parish is soliciting food and monetary donations. Call the parish office regarding food donations, to ensure that the office or pantry is open to receive the gift. Monetary donations are preferred, in order to supplement staple supply shortages. For information, call (312) 492-8442.

Leave It For Love is a gift recycling program in which unwanted gifts are collected and donated to less fortunate older adults. The drop-off site is Ritchie Court Cleaners at 1313 N. Ritchie Ct. Pick-ups also are available. Call (312) 804-0496. For more information, log on to

The Leukemia Research Foundation is running its 49th annual holiday card program. Cards are available for Christmas and Hanukkah ranging from general, to religious, to progressive. Proceeds benefit the Leukemia Research Foundation and fund research and patient assistance and support programs.

Sample cards can be viewed at; click “order new cards.” Call Dorothy Pfeiffer at (708) 599-5778 or Carl Austin at (847) 424-0600.

Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, 355 N. Ashland Ave., relieves isolation and loneliness among the elderly by offering friendship and socialization opportunities. Each year, the organization hosts three Christmas Day holiday dinners on at three sites. During the holidays the organization will host a gift drive for nearly 1,000 seniors; it has a list of gift requests and needs donors to shop and purchase these special gifts.

Monetary donations may be made through Call (312) 455-1000.

Macy’s has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the Christmas season. You can write a stamped letter to Santa and drop it off at Macy’s Santa Drop Box. For every letter counted, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish Foundation, up to $1 million this year.

Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes of children with life threatening illnesses. For a letter template, go to If you wish to make a direct donation to Make-A-Wish Foundation, go to

Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, 1140 W. Jackson Blvd., (312) 738-7560. In addition to its full-time residential facility for children, Mercy Home operates a preventative program called Friends First, a one-on-one mentoring program that engages young men and women, ages 9-17, to help promote healthy personal and social development.

Mentors act as role models and friends, helping kids make better decisions, avoid negative peer pressure, and succeed in school. The program is making a special appeal for volunteer mentors. An information session is scheduled for Tues., Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at Mercy Home. For more information regarding mentoring, visit or call (312) 738-7552. Also, private support is critical for life-saving programs for children in need. To make a contribution call (877) 637-2955 or visit

Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan Ave., will deliver more than 1,000 Christmas boxes containing food and gifts to support its elderly neighbors in the community on Saturday, Dec. 17. This year marks the 37th in which Mercy employees and friends have decorated, filled, and distributed
gift boxes. For questions about donating contact Patient Relations at Mercy Hospital at (312) 567-5508.

Midtown Educational Foundation, 718 S. Loomis St. Midtown Center for Boys and its sister site Metro Achievement Center for Girls offer year-round academic tutoring, character education, parenting support, sports, arts, fitness, and programs for youth in grades four through 12. This year, through Midtown’s efforts, families across Chicago will receive a Christmas basket with ample food for Christmas dinner and a gift for each member of the family. Volunteers are sought to help deliver baskets any day between Fri., Dec. 16, and Fri., Dec. 23; or, sponsor one or more families by filling baskets with food and gifts. Mail in monetary donations or go online to give at For donation or volunteer information, contact Carlos Martinez at (773) 292-2660, ext. 223, or e-mail him at

Chicago Firefighters and Paramedics Local 2 and Catholic Charities will host their 13th annual Toy Parade, to collect Christmas toys and bicycles.
One City, One Food Drive brings together more than 500 holiday food drives under one umbrella to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Donations are accepted at more than 100 downtown buildings and during a number of events during December. More information about sites and about sponsoring a food drive can be found at

Rush University Medical Center Children’s Hospital, 1700 W. VanBuren St., has a year-round Toy and Game Drive for infants and children up to age 18 who have to be hospitalized. The Child Life Program is staffed by four certified child life specialists who provide services to children in pediatric units, as well as in heart transplant, neurology, orthopedics, or any other units with children. Individuals interested in donating to this year-round toy drive can call (312) 942-7842 to arrange for a drop.

Saint Anthony Hospital is the recipient of amatching grant for its Community Mental Health Services program, which provides counseling services to individuals who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar and can be sent to Saint Anthony Hospital Foundation, 2875 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL 60623. Write “Match” in the memo area of your check. For further information, call (773) 484-4259.

St. James Food Pantry, 2907 S. Wabash Ave., is open Tues. through Thurs., 9 to 11:30 a.m. Food, volunteers, and tax-deductible monetary donations are needed, particularly during the holiday season. Contact Cathy Moore at (312) 842-1919, ext. 211.

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church “El Comedor Popular” Soup Kitchen, 2108 W. 21st St. Throughout its 11-year history, St.Matthew’s soup kitchen has served 158,400 hot meals to the hungry. It continues to serve an average of 1,200 hot meals per month. Help feed the homeless by sending monetary donations. Contact Pastor Julio Loza at(773)847-6458 or e-mail

San Jose Obrero Mission, 1856 S. Loomis St. The mission offers the homeless living accommodations with support and follow-up services. Join mission personnel at Mickey O’s Holiday Giggle comedy night fundraiser at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Sun., Dec. 11, from 6 to 11 p.m.; tickets are $20. Otherwise, donate $12.50 to house a homeless person for one day. For further information, go to or call (312) 243-4347.

Santa Maria Addolorata Food Pantry, 528 N. Ada St. For Christmas, the church has partnered with St. Daniel, St. Michael, and St. John of the Cross in asking parishioners to collect toys and clothes for children up to age 14. Saint Ignatius College Prep students are running amoney collection drive to fund food baskets and gifts to be given to participants in the partnership. For the week of Friday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 23, children and parents will continue the tradition of Posada, going door to door to sing carols and say prayers. Those visited can provide food or gifts for the carolers. Each evening ends with hot chocolate and sweets at Santa Maria Addolorata. Contact Connie D’Agostino at, or call (312) 421-3122.

“Santa’sWorkshop” at Deborah’s Place, where holiday donations are stored and sorted.
Second Chance Thrift Shop at 1647 W. Ogden Ave., (312) 997-2222, benefits Cathedral Shelter. The shop accepts donations of new and gently used clothing, furniture, and household items. Donations can be dropped off Sun. noon to 5 p.m., Tues through Fri. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Store manager Marti Price also welcomes individuals who would like to hold clothing drives or volunteer in the store.

U.S. Marines Toys for Tots, 3034 W. Foster Ave., partners with various organizations and companies throughout Chicago to provide toys for Christmas. Toys for children 12 and younger can be dropped off by Sunday, Dec.18, daily between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. For more information, call Staff Sergeant Chad Falkos at the Marines Reserve Corps Training Center at (773) 539-6464, ext. 311; e-mail; or go to

The U.S.Postal Service/Cardiss Collins Center, 433 W. Harrison St., is holding its Letters to Santa campaign. Through Fri., Dec. 16, it will have letters addressed to Santa from families in need on hand for your choosing; go to the second floor to pick up, respond to, and fulfill children’s letters to Santa Claus through Friday, Dec. 23. For information, go to

University of Illinois at Chicago seeks donations to help to support needy children and families in the neighborhoods surrounding UIC through participating in the 2011 Miracle onTaylor Street Annual Gift Drive. Anyone can sponsor children or families by providing gifts from a wish list. Donors also can give educational books and toys, school supplies, hats, and gloves. Donations will be collected from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tues., Dec. 6 in Room 1135 at the University of Illinois Hospital, 1740 W. Taylor St. If you are interested in participating or being a sponsor, e-mail Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland (WCGC) assists mothers and families experiencing crisis pregnancies by offering free services including financial and emotional support, counseling, pregnancy testing, ultrasound, and other aid. Notre Dame de Chicago parish is running its Baby Bottle Project, a fundraising drive for WCGC. The provides empty baby bottles for parishioners to fill with spare change at home, which are to be returned by Christmas. The parish also is accepting gift donations for WCGC, including baby and maternity items, clothing, and furniture. For more information, log on to or call (773) 794-1313.

The Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization has a mission to assure, through information, empowerment, and peer support, that no one faces breast cancer alone. For more than 30 years, Y-ME has provided emotional support and information to people concerned about breast cancer. When you call the Y-ME hotline at 1 (800) 221-2141, you reach a peer counselor who also is a breast cancer survivor—24 hours per day, 365 days per year. To volunteer or make a donation, visit or mail a donation to 135 S. LaSalle St, Ste. 2000, Chicago, IL 60603.