Find a program that touches your heart and make a difference this holiday season
December 7, 2018

Mercy Home for Boys and Girls provides children’s and young people’s needs in a nurturing, caring environment.

By Sheila Elliott

Gazette Chicago has offered the Spirit of Giving guide as a service to readers since 1984—a resource to help you find a social service agency, church, or business that has never lost sight of the myriad needs inherent in a city as large, complex, and diverse as Chicago. Spirit of Giving links those in need with those wishing to volunteer or give in some other way.

We hope you find an address, phone number, URL, or email address to connect with a program that touches your heart and that you will consider volunteering, making a donation, or buying a gift for someone you will never know, understanding that you may have helped reaffirm the person’s faith in the future.

The AARP Foundation Experience Corps provides training on becoming a volunteer tutor for Chicago Public Schools students. During 2017-18, the tutors provided more than 16,000 hours of tutoring to 1,193 students. Call (312) 660-8662.

Individuals interested in donating their time and energy to Casa Central, 1343 N. California Ave., will find opportunities to work across generational lines and in situations including tutoring adults; helping with job readiness programs; assisting in educational programs for children as young as age two; or helping a family avoid homelessness. Casa Central also offers wellness center services and other programs. To learn more about the part you could play, call (773) 645-2300 or visit

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 721 N. LaSalle St., offers opportunities to help youngsters and adults during the holidays. To learn more, call (312) 655-7700 or log on to

Charter Fitness is a drop-off site again this holiday season for the U. S. Marie Corps Toys for Tots holiday toy collection program. Take new, unwrapped toys or gifts for children to the Charter Fitness Bridgeport site, 3145 S. Ashland Ave., until Sat., Dec. 22. For information, call (773) 847-0900.

Deborah’s Place, 2822 W. Jackson Blvd., helps Chicago area women facing housing issues so they can establish more secure lives for themselves and their children. Even when they find suitable places to live, many struggle to obtain the things every home needs, and they welcome donated items, either new or in very good condition. At holiday time, Deborah’s Place welcomes contributions of all types, including monetary donations, new household linens, home goods, appliances in excellent condition, and household items. For information about donated items or how you can help Deborah’s Place, go to or call (773) 722-5080.

Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie St.,, hosts its Holidays with a Heart gift wrap and decoration dinner this year on Fri., Dec. 7. Erie needs donations allowing it to give gifts to youngsters ages two through 18 in its program. Contributions accepted include new toys or other suitable gifts for children as well as grocery and department store gift cards to help families. Call (312) 432-2293, email, or go to for more information.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl., accepts monetary contributions and donations of food, personal time, and energy from individuals willing to volunteer a few hours a week, at holiday time and throughout the year.  Special emphasis is given at this time of the year to the “1 City, 1 Food Drive” program, which continues until Monday, Dec. 31. Call (773) 247-FOOD or go to drive to learn more about individual food collection sites and/or drop-off sites.

The Haymarket Center, 932 W. Washington Blvd., welcomes monetary donations at holiday time and throughout the year to help fund in-house support services and outreach programs Haymarket offers to individuals struggling with addiction. This year, Haymarket Center also is accepting new and gently used clothing for men or women, clothing for children from infancy up through school age, and new toys for children of all ages until Mon., Dec. 24.  For information, call (312) 226-7984, ext. 486, or go to

Holy Family Parish, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd., maintains a food pantry open to individuals and families every Thursday, beginning at noon. Monetary gifts and non-perishable food items are welcome, and this year Holy Family also is accepting donations of new and gently used winter gloves or hats, in all sizes, for adults and children. To volunteer or donate, call (312) 492-8442 or log on to

Leave It for Love collects unwanted gifts and new clothing for adult men that it then donates to older adults, many of whom already receive help from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, 355 N. Ashland Ave. Drop off gifts at the Ashland Avenue location between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call (312) 804-0496 or go to the Leave It for Love Facebook page for more information.

Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter, 355 N. Ashland Ave, helps adults, many age 70 or older, who do not have family or friends on whom they can rely and are somewhat isolated. Little Brothers provides assistance year-round, and at holiday time the organization especially needs volunteers to deliver warm meals to homebound clients or to sponsor a holiday table. To learn more, call (312) 455-1000 or log on to

Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter, helps adults, many age 70 or older, overcome need and isolation.

Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, 1140 W. Jackson Blvd. always needs financial donations to help the children and young people it nurtures in a caring environment. No amount is insignificant when helping a child. The home also needs volunteers to make a one-year commitment to mentor a young person who is part of Mercy Home’s Friends First program. Call (877) 637-2955 or go to for further details.

Midtown Educational Foundation and Metro Achievement Center for Girls, 718 S. Loomis St., offers programs on a year-round basis for young people, grades four through 12. Financial donations and volunteer participation are welcome. Find the volunteer application on their website at Call (773) 292-2660 ext. 221, for more information.

Notre Dame de Chicago Church, 1334 W. Flournoy St. (parish office 1335 W. Harrison St.), is hosting a food drive in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Chicago Pop-Up Pantry during Advent and the Christmas season. Non-perishable food donations are welcome. The church also his hosting an Advent Giving Tree. Needy people indicate what kind of winter clothing they need, and the need is listed on an ornament on the tree. Donors can take an ornament and provide the item listed on it. Call (312) 243-7400.

Punky’s Pizza and Pasta, 2600 S. Wallace. St., is accepting toys and gifts for children of all ages as part of its annual holiday toy drive. The restaurant will transport all donated gifts to the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital for distribution to children. To learn more, call (312) 842-2100 or log on to

ReVive Center for Housing and Healing, 1668 W. Ogden Ave., needs volunteers to deliver holiday baskets to area families this year. Last year, hundreds of local families received generous donations through this program, and the center anticipates the same level of need again this holiday season. Deliveries are being made now through Sat., Dec. 15. To volunteer or make a contribution, call (312) 997-2222. Log on to

Rush University Medical Center, 1653 W. Congress Pkwy., (312) 942-5574, welcomes volunteers throughout the year who enjoy greeting patients and transporting them to locations around the hospital campus; conducting tours; reading to and socializing with patients; and providing clerical support or other help. Those interested may call (312) 942-5574 or go to to learn more.

Rush University Children’s Hospital, 1653 W. Harrison St., accepts new, unwrapped toys and games throughout the year, although they are particularly appreciated during the holidays for distribution to hospitalized children age 18 or younger. A wish list specifying certain items especially needed can be found on or by calling (312) 942-7842.

St. James Food Pantry offers varied volunteer opportunities to put together and distribute grocery bags, stock shelves, or load and unload donated items.

St. James Food Pantry, 2907 S. Wabash Ave., is hosting a Christmas party on Tues., Dec. 25, for people who benefit from its many social service programs. The celebration begins at 9 a.m. and continues throughout the morning. St. James’s food pantry also offers opportunities to volunteer to assemble and distribute grocery bags, stock shelves, load and unload donated items, or perform other tasks, especially on the second Saturday of the month. Contributions of nonperishable items such as canned goods, pasta, cereal, and toiletries are always welcome, as are monetary donations. Call (312) 842-1919 or email St. James at Log on to

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 the homeless continue receiving nourishing meals. Call (773) 847-6458.

St. Procopius—Providence of God parish sponsors a soup kitchen every Tuesday afternoon throughout the calendar year at 18th Street and Union Avenue. Advance registration is not required, nor is personal identification. Volunteers serve warm meals from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Religious services continue in St. Procopius Church, 1641 S. Allport St.  For more information about the parish or its programs, call (312) 226-7887 or log on to

Santa Maria Addolorata Food Pantry, 525 N. Ada St., needs donations holiday season for its weekly Friday food distributions, held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. This year, the pantry also is collecting gifts for children of all ages and sponsoring an Adopt a Family program. Learn more by calling (312) 421-3122 or emailing Log on to

The Greater Chicago Food Depository accepts monetary donations and donations of food and personal time.

Second Chance Thrift, 1674 W. Ogden Ave., helps clients avoid homelessness and restore hope and optimism for the direction of their lives. This year, the thrift particularly needs donations of new and gently used men’s business attire, casual clothing, and athletic wear in all sizes as well as other types of adult clothing, furniture, and household items that are new or gently used. Donations of children’s toys not accepted at this location this year. Arrange drop-offs and pick-up for all other donated items by calling (312) 924-9643. Log on to for more information.

Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave., welcomes financial contributions to support services to clients in the area as well as volunteers to help with the lunch bag program every Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Second Presbyterian also welcomes volunteers and new books and school materials for its tutoring program for children grades two through eight. This year, the church is sponsoring a winter coat drive from December through February. Socks, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, and hoodies accepted. Call (312) 225-4951 or log on to to learn more.

SGA Youth & Family Services helps children, families, and communities facing challenges realize the potential inside each of them by focusing on sustainable community change.  Focused on early childhood education, parenting, and workforce development, SGA Youth is sponsoring a fundraiser, “Building a Promise,” on May 2, 2019 at the Marriott, 151 W. Adams St., to support its work in underserved neighborhoods. For more information, call (312) 447-4328 or email

The Salvation Army is hosting a coat drive and provides other programs at numerous locations in the Chicago area. Call 1 (800) SAL-ARMY or log on to

The United States Marines Toys for Tots program seeks new, unwrapped toys for distribution to needy children in the area.

The U.S. Marine Chicago Toys for Tots program seeks new, unwrapped toys from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Main drop-off site is at 3034 W. Foster Ave., but the website, lists other sites.

The United States Postal Service runs Operation Santa, in which individuals and organizations can send responses to letters the Postal Service receives addressed to Santa. Log on to

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, 820 S. Damen Ave., seeks volunteers to work with veterans. Phone (312) 569-8387 or visit The veterans’ crisis line is (800) 273-8255.