Spirit of Giving helps us offer the hand of friendship to all
November 30, 2017

Casa Central seeks volunteers to work with people of all ages in a variety of transformative programs such as mentoring, tutoring and adult wellness.

By Sheila Elliott

The holiday season traditionally awakens a sense of generosity in all of us. It is a time when most people welcome the chance to reach within themselves to give whatever they can to enjoy a feeling of connection with others in their community. This Spirit of Giving can take many forms—you may want to volunteer at a social service agency, purchase a carefully selected toy to brighten a child’s life, or contribute to the food and clothing drives that help so many.

For more than 30 years, Gazette Chicago has provided its readers interested in making a difference during the holidays with a list of local opportunities. The following directory presents agencies that deliver compassionate assistance to those in need—not just during the holidays, but year round.

Casa Central seeks volunteers to work with people of all ages and become involved with transformative programs such as youth mentoring, tutoring, spending time with older adults in the organization’s adult wellness center, or helping at a clothing boutique that assists families facing homelessness. Casa Central is in the Humboldt Park neighborhood at 1343 N. California Ave. Call (773) 645-2300 or visit www.casacentral.org.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 721 N. LaSalle St., offers many opportunities to help during the holidays. The organization will host its 70th annual Toy Shower this year and welcomes donations of new, unwrapped toys in their original packaging. Make donations through Wed., Dec. 13, at both city and suburban Catholic Charities locations. The Sponsor-a-Family program invites you to purchase clothing, household items, books, or school supplies for families in need. By spending $50 to $75 per family member, you can make their holiday wishes become real. Volunteering your time allows you to spread the Christmas spirit by sponsoring Catholic Charities children’s shelter events, organizing a toy drive, or sorting and packaging gifts at the organization’s Santa’s Workshop in downtown Chicago. To learn more, call (312) 655-7401, email COG@catholicchairites.net, or go to www.catholiccharities.net/celebration.

Charter Fitness once again is participating in Toys for Tots, an annual program that brings toys and gifts to children in need. Donations will be accepted at Charter Fitness’s Bridgeport location, 3145 S. Ashland Ave. until Sat., Dec. 23. For more information, call (773) 847-0900.

The Chicago Public Library’s Roosevelt Branch, 1101 W. Taylor St., is hosting a food drive through Fri., Dec. 8. It seeks non-perishable food and canned goods, which will go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository for distribution. See the display table in the lobby and on the second floor, near the children’s area. Call (312) 746-5656.

Deborah’s Place, 2822 W. Jackson Blvd., (773) 722-5080, opens the door to opportunity for women experiencing homelessness. It provides housing and other services and links clients to social service agencies. At holiday time, Deborah’s Place needs monetary donations to help clients acquire items that meet their most basic needs, including linens and home goods for new apartments. For a list of donation requests, go to www.deborahsplace.org/donate.

Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie St., www.eriehouse.org, hosts its Holidays with Heart gift wrap and decoration dinner on Fri., Dec. 8. Erie House needs donors and volunteers to purchase and wrap gifts for youngsters ages two through 18. It also welcomes grocery and department store gift cards for use by families in need. Make donations between Mon. and Thurs., Dec.4 and 7. It also needs volunteers for a Breakfast and Bazaar for families on Sat., Dec. 9, when the children will receive their gifts. Contact Lucero Cervantes at (312) 432-2293 or lcervantes@eriehouse.org.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, (GCFD), 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl., has provided food to hungry Chicagoans since 1979. Its annual “1 City, 1 Food Drive” program continues this holiday season until Sun., Dec. 31. Monetary donations, food contributions, and volunteers willing to donate a few hours are needed, not just at holiday time but year round. Call (773) 247-FOOD or go to www.chicagosfoodbank.org.

Haymarket Center, 932 W. Washington Blvd., provides in-house support and outreach programs for those wrestling with addiction issues. The organization welcomes monetary donations and offers volunteer opportunities year round, including Christmas dinner, Monday, Dec. 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Phone (312) 226-7984, ext. 480, or visit www.hcenter.org.

Holy Family Parish, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd., maintains a food pantry every Thursday, from noon until 2 p.m. Eligible recipients must live within specific geographic boundaries and offer proof of identification and residency when arriving at the food pantry. Non-perishable food and monetary donations are welcome. Call (312) 492-8442 to learn more.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago will host its 70th annual Toy Shower this year and welcomes toy donations.

Lakeside Bank, along with Garvey Office Products, hosts its annual food drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, with a goal of collecting 1,000 pounds of food products. Nutritious, non-perishable, unopened food, either canned or packaged, will be accepted at all Lakeside Bank locations until Sat., Dec. 9. Drop-off sites are: 2200 S. Archer Ave.; 1350 S. Michigan Ave., 1055 W. Roosevelt Rd.; 141 W. Jackson Blvd.; 55 W. Wacker Dr., and 2800 N. Ashland Ave. The bank’s holiday festivities also include a free raffle, open to all, for a $1,500 Amazon gift card, with the drawing held by the end of December. To learn more, visit www.lakesidebank.com.

Leave It for Love is both a non-profit and a recycling agency that collects unwanted gifts and donates them to less fortunate older adults who receive assistance from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, 355 N. Ashland Ave. Drop off gifts at Little Brothers; pick-up also available. Call (312) 804-0496 or visit the organization on Facebook for more information.

Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter, 355 N. Ashland Ave., helps 1,300 isolated and lonely Chicago elders, age 70 and older, who are without family or friends. Little Brothers provides year round assistance as well as a Christmas Day holiday dinner for 500 people living on the city’s North, South, and West Sides. Also, volunteers deliver warm meals and holiday cheer to the homebound. To volunteer or sponsor a holiday table, visit littlebrotherschicago.org or call (312) 455-1000.

At Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, 1140 W. Jackson Blvd., (877) 637-2955, www.mercyhome.org, administrators’ greatest need during the holidays is financial contributions. Any amount donated can help a child. Mercy Home also asks Gazette Chicago readers to consider making a one-year commitment as a volunteer mentor to a young person through its Friends First mentoring program. Go to www.mercyhome.org/mentoring for details.

Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, 2525 S. Michigan Ave, www.mercy-chicago.org, seeks volunteers to greet patients and work in the gift shop. A health and background exam is required for all volunteers. Call (312) 567-2366.

Midtown Educational Foundation and Metro Achievement Center for Girls, 718 S. Loomis St., www.midtown-metro.org, provides academic tutoring, character education, parenting support, and sport and fitness programs for young people in grades four through twelve on a year round basis. Volunteers must commit to serving for two hours weekly. Online donations also are needed; donate at www.midtown-metro.org. Call Peter Ladwein at (773) 292-2660, ext. 221, for details.

Punky’s Pizza and Pasta, 2600 S. Wallace St., is hosting its eighth annual holiday toy drive. Drop off toys at Punky’s, which delivers them to Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago. Call (312) 842-2100 or log on to www.punkyspizza.com to learn more.

ReVive Center for Housing and Healing, 1668 W. Ogden Ave., needs volunteers to deliver 1,800 Christmas baskets to area families. The program operates daily through Sun., Dec. 10. For information, call (312) 997-2222, visit www.ReViveCenter.org, or email christmasbaskets@revivecenter.org.

Rush University Medical Center, 1653 W. Congress Pkwy., (312) 942-5574, seeks volunteers to greet and transport patients who use wheelchairs; conduct tours; read to and socialize with patients; help staff with conferences and special events; and provide clerical support. To learn more, go to www.rush.edu/volunteer.

Rush University Children’s Hospital, 1653 W. Harrison St., seeks unwrapped items for its year-round toy and game drive for hospitalized children age 18 and younger. Call (312) 942-4054 for gift drop-off locations. The hospital also maintains an Amazon.com wish list and a donor assistance wish list that specifies needed items.

St. James Food Pantry, 2907 S. Wabash Ave. will host a Christmas party on Mon., Dec. 25. Its food pantry is open Tues. through Thurs., 9 to 11:30 a.m., and St. James social care programs offer many volunteer opportunities. In the food pantry, volunteers make and distribute grocery bags to clients; stock shelves; and load and unload donations. The pantry also needs volunteers for a food distribution held every second Saturday of the month, when groups of between 50 and 60 people unload a large delivery, bag the food, and distribute it to clients. St. James always needs nonperishable items such as canned goods, pasta, cereal, and toiletries. To volunteer or make a donation, contact Peter Wawire at (312) 842-1919 or email volunteer @stjameswabash.org.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository seeks monetary donations, food contributions, and volunteers willing to donate a few hours whenever possible.

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church El Comedor Popular soup kitchen, 2108 W. 21st St., serves 1,200 hot meals monthly. Monetary and food donations help assure that the homeless continue receiving nourishing meals. Provide donations to the address above, Zip code 60608.

St. Procopius Parish, 1641 S. Allport St., provides personal and household items for the needy from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. No identification necessary. Call (312) 226-7887, log on to www.stprocopiuschurch.org, or email silviaj28@aol.com to learn more.

The Santa Maria Addolorata food pantry, 525 N. Ada St., seeks food donations this holiday season. It distributes food on Fridays, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Santa Maria Addolorata also is running an Adopt a Family program this year and is collecting gifts for children. For information, call Jeannie Martinez at (312) 421-3122 or email santamariaaddolorata@yahoo.com.

Second Chance Thrift, 1674 W. Ogden Ave., (312) 924-9643, www.revivecenter.org/our-store, helps support ReVive programs and services, which restore hope and prevent homelessness. More than 6,000 people benefit from these programs annually. Second Chance Thrift sells inexpensive but quality adult clothing, children’s clothing, and toys and welcomes donations of new or gently used clothes, furniture, and household items. Hours are Tues. through Fri., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Sun. and Mon. Furniture pickup service available.

Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave., hosts its annual Winter Coat Drive during the months of December and January. Bring your items by the church from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (312) 225-4951 or log on to www.2ndpresbyterian.org

The Stop-It team of the Salvation Army works with those who have been victimized by the human labor or sex trafficking trade. This year, as in the past, the team requests donations of gently used women’s clothing in all sizes for their holiday Christmas collection. The Salvation Army also distributes toys. To donate, contact (773) 275-6233 or email Rachel_ostergaard@usc.salvationarmy.org.

The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program seeks new, unwrapped toys for children up to age 12. Drop off donations at the Toys for Tots warehouse, 3034 W. Foster Ave.; for a full list of other donation sites, go to https://chicago-il.toysfortots.org. Also, visit the website to request a toy for a needy child. For more information, call (773) 588-9681 or email ChicagoToysforTots@gmail.com.

The United States Postal Service runs Operation Santa, in which members of the public fulfill the wishes of youngsters who write letters to Santa. This year’s program will kick off Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. at the Cardiss Collins Facility at 433 W. Harrison St. Letters will be available from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Tuesday, Dec. 19.

The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences once again is helping organize “Miracle on Taylor Street,” a coming together of children and families to receive toys, clothing, reading material, and monetary donations from UI Health. Call (866) 600-CARE or (312) 996-8277 for details.

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, 820 S. Damen Ave., seeks volunteers to work with veterans to staff the reception desk in the Voluntary Service office; sort and organize donated household items and clothing; work with a book or magazine cart; serve as a patient escort; or staff an information desk. The center also needs gently used men’s shoes, pants, and belts as well as monetary donations to help veterans buy toiletries and Ventra passes. Phone (312) 567-6109 or visit www.Chicago.va.gov. The Veterans crisis line is (800) 273-8255.

Washington Federal Bank for Savings is a registered Toys for Tots drop-off site this year. Bring new, unwrapped toys through Friday, Dec. 15, to the bank’s Near South Side locations at 2869 S. Archer Ave. and 1410 W. Taylor St. Monetary donations also accepted. Call (773) 254-3422 or visit www.wafedbank.com to learn more.