Spirit of Giving opportunities are limitless to help others this holiday season
December 6, 2019

Midtown Educational Foundation and Metro Achievement Center for Girls seeks volunteers in its year-round programs, which include tutoring.

By Sheila Elliott

During the holidays, many people recall stories from their youth evoking the distinctive pleasure an act of true generosity can create. We look back fondly on the long nocturnal journey that softened Scrooge’s heart or the sweet irony of selfless love discovered in O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. These and other stories remind us of the great rewards that come from sharing one’s good fortune with others, a theme that transcends cultural, religious, and geographic boundaries.

With this tradition in mind, Gazette Chicago has compiled Spirit of Giving since 1984. The institutions listed below make it their business to help those who find it difficult to meet life’s challenges, from having enough food or finding toys for children, to having clothing that is warm and not shabby, to living in a comfortably furnished household and welcoming a caring person who takes the time to visit.

We encourage everyone to review this year’s Spirit of Giving suggestions and consider how to help. The range of giving opportunities seems limitless, but so, too, are the rewards of contributing, sharing, and helping someone in need.

The office of 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King will connect area residents seeking some form of assistance this holiday season with the numerous agencies and programs that could help them. Her office, at 435 E. 35th St., is open Mon. through Fri., during normal business hours, closing at 3 p.m. on Fri. Email ward04@cityofchicago.org or call (773) 536-8103.

The office of 11th Ward Alderman Patrick D. Thompson and 11th District Commissioner John P. Daley is helping both those in need and those wanting to donate time or a holiday gift so all can find the appropriate organizations or agencies. Their office, at 3659 S. Halsted St., is open during regular business hours and can be reached at (773) 254-6677. 

The office of 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas is sponsoring its annual toy giveaway for area residents. Get details by phoning (773) 523-8250 or stopping by the ward office at 3476 S. Archer Ave. 

The office of 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett will join forces with the Salvation Army and Korean-American Friendship Network to co-sponsor a cold weather coat collection on Sat., Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Salvation Army Center, 1 N. Ogden Ave. Donate warm, winter outer wear as well as all other types of cold-weather clothing for men, women, or children; all sizes needed. Donations accepted beyond the holidays, throughout the winter months. For more information, call (312) 432-1995 or log on to www.aldermanburnett.com. The 27th Ward office is located at 4 N. Western Ave., #1C.

The office of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 200, will help  provide direction to organizations or City services that could be of help to anyone facing difficult times anytime, but especially during the holiday season. Call (312) 642-4242 or go to www.Ward42chicago.com for more information.

The AARP Foundation Experience Corps provides training to become a volunteer tutor for Chicago Public Schools students. Call (3120 660

Casa Central, 1343 N. California Ave., is sponsoring a winter clothing drive throughout December and into the new year and seeks men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing in all sizes and will accept both new and used clothing in good condition. This year, Casa Central also is sponsoring a Giving Opportunity, a chance for caring individuals to make a monetary contribution of any amount to help fund the organization’s year-round social service programs—one of which is direct service, or face-to-face, work with individual clients of all ages. For an application to join the direct service volunteer program, go to the Casa Central website. Call Alessandra Dechancie at (773) 645-2425 or log on to www.casacentral.org.

Fr. Scott Donahue, president of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, with some Mercy Home youngsters. The home seeks help from adult volunteers.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago offers numerous social service programs throughout the year, plus other programs inviting people to become involved with the holiday season’s spirit. Catholic Charities again seeks donations this year of new, unwrapped toys in their original packaging for distribution to children at the organization’s Toy Shower. Drop off toys for this special event until Fri., Dec. 12, at 721 N. LaSalle St. or at any of the organization’s suburban sites. Catholic Charities also seeks monetary donations for Sponsor-a-Family and volunteers to sort and package donated gifts. Contact Catholic Charities at (312) 655-7401, COG@catholiccharities.net, or www.catholiccharities.net/celebration.

The Chicago Public Library Little Italy Branch, 1336 W. Taylor St., is a drop-off site this year for non-perishable food and canned goods collected by the Greater Chicago Food Depository and distributed to the needy throughout the metropolitan area. Take contributions to the library during normal business hours. Call (312) 746-5656.

Anyone interested in volunteering his or her time during the holidays or at other times during the calendar year is asked to contact the ministry of Chicago Temple/First United Methodist Church, 77 W. Washington St., via email at homelessministryvolunteer@gmail.com.

Women facing homelessness can turn to Deborah’s Place, 2822 W. Jackson Blvd., a social service agency offering many programs including housing assistance. Deborah’s Place always welcomes monetary donations but especially needs such gifts at holiday time to help clients buy linens and other basic household items to turn new residences into places that feel like home. Visit www.deborahsplace.org./donate or call (773) 722-5080.

Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie St. and 1701 W. Superior St., offers programs for children and youth, adult education, health and wellness programs, and community support. Call (312) 666-3430 or log on to eriehouse.org,

Gads Hill Center, 1919 W. Cullerton St., collects gifts during the holiday season for children from infancy up through age 18. This year, the organization hopes to have 1,600 gifts ready to help make the holidays brighter for young people. Those interested in purchasing a gift may contact Alexandria Kirchner at (312) 226-0963, ext. 233, or akirchner@gadshillcenter.org.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl., has helped the needy for more than 40 years. The GCFD seeks contributions of non-perishable food products, monetary donations, and energetic volunteers able to donate time during the holidays or throughout the year. Log on to www.chicagofoodbank.org or call (773) 247-FOOD.

Grace Episcopal Church, 637 S. Dearborn St., in the South Loop, is sponsoring a winter coat drive. Call (312) 912-1246.

Haymarket Center, 932 W. Washington Blvd., (312) 226-7984, www.hcenter.org, welcomes monetary donations at holiday time and throughout the year to help fund in-house support services and
outreach programs offered to individuals struggling with addiction.

The food pantry at St. James Church, 2907 S. Wabash Ave., which offers numerous social service programs during the holidays and throughout the year.

Holy Family-Notre Dame de Chicago Parish will be collecting non-perishable food products and oral health care items, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash, for the UIC Pop-Up Pantry through the Christmas season. The UIC Pop-Up Pantry assists students with food disparities throughout the academic year. Donations can be brought to Notre Dame de Chicago Church, 1334 W. Flournoy St., each weekend during Masses or dropped-off at the parish rectory office located at 1335 W. Harrison St. Call (312) 243-7400.

Lakeside Bank again serves as a drop-off site for non-perishable foods as part of its annual food drive in conjunction with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Take unopened canned or packaged food to the large containers in the lobby of all Lakeside Bank offices—including those at 2200 S. Archer Ave., 1350 S. Michigan Ave., and 1055 W. Roosevelt Rd.—during normal business hours. Call (312) 435-5100 or go to www.lakesidebank.com.

Leave It for Love, 355 N. Ashland Ave., is collecting tablecloths, holiday decorations, post-it notes, and other small items especially appreciated by older people. This year, Leave It for Love is not accepting used clothing, books, furniture, or other large items. Call (312) 804-0496 or to visit the organization on social media.

The Leukemia Research Foundation welcomes donations to help fund cancer and blood disorder research. Call (847) 424-0600 or email Arleen@LRFmail.org.

Santa Claus publicizes the Toys for Tots program at parades throughout the area
during the holiday season. New toys for youngsters through age 12 are sought.

Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly, 355 N. Ashland Ave., welcomes donations or individuals interested in delivering holiday meals to isolated, homebound seniors living in all corners of the Chicago area. The organization also welcomes volunteers to wrap donated gifts, deliver them during the holiday season, or assist with various duties at one of several planned, on-site holiday parties. Contact the organization at cstraney@littlebrotherschicago.org or (312) 455-1000.

Financial contributions remain a vital way to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls’ work helping young people during their most formative years. Mercy Home again asks Gazette Chicago readers to consider making a one-year commitment to work as a volunteer in the Friends First program. Mercy Home is at 1140 W. Jackson Blvd. Call (877) 637-2955 or log on to www.mercyhome.org.

Midtown Educational Foundation and Metro Achievement Center for Girls, 718 S. Loomis St., seeks volunteers in its year-round programs, which include tutoring, helping with character education, assisting with parenting support, and helping with fitness programs for young people in grades four through 12. The organization asks anyone interested in donating time to make a commitment of two hours per week. Midtown also needs financial donations. Call (773) 292-2660, ext. 221, or log on to www.midtown-metro.org.

Holy Family-Notre Dame de Chicago Parish is collecting items for the UIC Pop-Up Pantry.

Punky’s Pizza and Pasta is sponsoring its annual holiday toy drive. Drop off gifts for children of all ages during business hours at the restaurant, 2600 S. Wallace St. Punky’s will take the gifts to Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago Hospital. Call (312) 842-2100 or log on to www.punkyspizza.com for more information.

Volunteers and donations are a critical part of the many programs offered by the ReVive Center for Housing and Healing, 1668 W. Ogden Ave., especially its housing assistance programs and the holiday gifts it provides to families in need. The organization also needs donations of new or gently used coats, jackets, or other types of winter clothing for men, women, and children. For information, call (312) 997-2222 or log on to www.ReViveCenter.org.

The food pantry at St. James Church, 2907 S. Wabash Ave., offers many social service programs, not only during the holidays but throughout the year. The church seeks help preparing distribution bags, stocking shelves, and many other tasks for operating its food pantry, which accepts nonperishable food items and toiletries. Call Peter Wawire at (312) 842-1919.

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church El Comedor San Mateo soup kitchen, 2108 W. 21st St., (773) 847-6458, serves as many as 1,200 hot meals every month as part of its soup kitchen program. Monetary donations and contributions of nutritious food help this community service assist those in need. Contact the church during business hours to learn how you can help.

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center provides many programs. Pictured are volunteers helping with a food drive.

The Salvation Army’s Stop-It Team works with anyone who has been a victim of the human labor or sex traffic trade. The team asks for donations of gently used women’s clothing which will, in turn, be distributed among clients for Christmas. All sizes needed. Donations should be taken to 4800 N. Marine Dr. during business hours. Contributions accepted throughout the  first two weeks of December. Call (773) 275-6233 or contact Jennifer.Harvey@USC.SalvationArmy.org.

The food pantry at Santa Maria Addolorata, 525 N. Ada St, seeks donations for a food distribution program on Fridays throughout December, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Contact Jeannie Martinez at santamariaaddolorata@yahoo.com or call (312) 421-3122.

Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave., is hosting a winter coat drive from now through February 2020. Donate warm clothes, sweaters, caps, hoodies, scarves, and sweatshirts for distribution to clients who come to the church seeking help. Drop off donations Tues. through Sat., from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Call (312) 225-4951.

Toys for Tots, run by the U.S. Marine Corps, welcomes donations of new, unwrapped toys for boys and girls through age 12. Take gifts to a warehouse at 3034 W. Foster Ave. or drop them off at the many donation points around metropolitan Chicago; find a complete list of donation sites at chicago.il.toysfortots.org. Collection trucks will begin picking up donations from bins in stores, gas stations, and other places around Tues., Dec. 10. The organization also accepts requests to receive a gift for a child. To learn more, call (773) 885-2687, Mon. through Fri., after 8 a.m.

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 https://about.usps.com/holidaynews/operation-santa.htm.

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