Give Time, Things, Support: 20 Ways to Make a Difference Around Chicago This Winter

This winter, there are a variety of ways that community members can give back to Chicago-area philanthropic efforts and organizations. From monetary donations and volunteer opportunities to item-based donations—everyone has the opportunity to make a difference this holiday season and beyond. 


Give: Time and Support

Volunteers at Breakthrough’s Women Center

Breakthrough partners with those affected by poverty to build connections, develop skills, and open doors of opportunity. Volunteers are needed to serve meals in shelters, distribute food in the food pantry, mentor youth, sorting donations, and more. Donations are also needed, with $100 supporting Breakthrough in moving people experiencing homelessness into stable housing.

Chicago Fire FC

Give: Support

Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire FC

Since 1998, the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Major League Soccer Team, has made significant contributions to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth throughout Chicago, pouring more than $1.8 million back into the community. Donations are a crucial part of the Chicago Fire’s community outreach efforts and provide the team the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people across the city. 

The Night Ministry

Give: Time and Support

The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that provides housing, health care, and human connection to adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty, and loneliness. Make a donation today to help fund the Night Ministry’s essential work or sign up to become a volunteer online.

Northwestern Settlement 

Give: Things and Support

Photo courtesy of Northwestern Settlement

For more than 125 years Northwestern Settlement has nurtured, educated and inspired Chicago children and families in need. This year Northwestern Settlement is asking supporters to Give Forward, Give to a Family’s Future. Northwestern Settlement is also accepting donations of new gifts and toys for their holiday toy room and they are always looking for more food pantry volunteers.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Give: Time and Support

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention aims to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. They carry out this mission by funding research, educating the public about mental health and suicide prevention, advocating for public policies in these areas, and supporting all those affected by suicide. To help further their mission, AFSP welcomes people to get involved by partaking in their Out of the Darkness Community and Campus Walks, hosting their own fundraisers, volunteering, helping educate their community about suicide prevention, and advocating for suicide prevention legislation. If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Horizons for Youth

Give: Time and Support

Photo courtesy of Horizons for Youth

Horizons for Youth helps transform children’s lives by providing targeted resources, rooted in education, in a trusting partnership with their families and communities. Donations help fund Horizons many programs and services for their students. They are also always looking to partner with volunteers who are interested in working directly with students. 

My Block My Hood My City

Give: Time and Support

From Dec. 4-11, My Block My Hood My City (also known as M3) will be decorating homes along Martin Luther King Drive for the holidays. M3 provides a multitude of opportunities for underprivileged young people in Chicago to step outside their comfort zones and explore new cultures and perspectives, all while fostering personal investment in their respective communities. Volunteer to be part of the lights celebration here or donate to MBMHMC online

Cradles to Crayons Chicago

Give: Time, Things and Support 

Cradles to Crayons provides children, from birth to age 12, living in low-income, or homeless situations with the essentials they need to thrive at home, at school, and at play. All items are given to children need free of charge.  As temperatures drop, Cradles to Crayons is seeking winter clothing to stock their giving factory warehouse, volunteers to work in the warehouse, and monetary donations to fund their important mission of tackling clothing insecurity.

Lurie’s Children Hospital of Chicago

Give: Support

Lurie’s is one of the top-ranked children’s hospitals in the nation, providing superior pediatric care, cutting-edge treatments and advanced research right here in Chicago. Donations to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago allow them to transform children’s lives through specialized and compassionate care, groundbreaking research, support for families, education and advocacy.

YWCA Evanston/North Shore 

Give: Time and Support 

YWCA Evanston/North Shore has been an essential resource for its community since 1931, providing a safe place for women and girls in which they can reach their fullest potential. YWCA encourages supporters to give, engage, and volunteer their time. A couple volunteer opportunities through the YWCA include the meal prep program and volunteering at the YWCA’s two resale shops, located in Wilmette and Evanston

Restoring the Path DBA Crushers Club

Give: Things and Support

Photo courtesy of DBA’s Crushers Club

DBA’s Crushers Club aims to be the strongest alternative to gangs by providing youth the support and tools needed to restore their paths and rebuild their communities through their WorkForce employment and job training initiative, boxing and music programs, and peer mentoring. Donations will help fund DBA’s Crushers WorkForce program where they provide justice involved and high-risk young men employment and life skills training. Additionally, the Crusher Club is always grateful for donations of boxing gloves, hand wraps and mouth pieces for their boxing program.

CASA Lake County (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) 

Give: Time

Liz Fales is a proud CASA volunteer, photo courtesy of CASA Lake County

CASA Lake County is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the juvenile court system. CASA’s greatest need is for more dedicated volunteers to support and advocate for children in foster care in Lake County courts. CASA volunteers work in collaboration with key agencies, legal counsel and community resources to serve as the child’s advocate and represent the child’s best interests in juvenile court.

Meals on Wheels Northeastern IL

Give: Support

Meals on Wheels fosters health and independence by delivering nutritious meals to homebound older adults and others unable to care for their nutritional needs, regardless of income level. Donations offset the expenses to make this possible, with just $16 a day feeding an older adult. Donations can be made online or by mailing to 1723 Simpson St, Evanston, IL 60201.


Give: Support 

In 2009, Dressember CEO Blythe Hill challenged herself to wear a dress every day of December (hence: Dressember). Every year since then, more people have joined in Blythe’s one-person challenge blossomed into an international movement to fight human trafficking and in 2013, Dressember officially became a 501(c)3 nonprofit. This month, consider donating to Dressember to aid in their mission against human trafficking. 

New Moms

Give: Time and Support 

New Moms volunteers help pack gifts for Operation Santa, photo courtesy of New Moms

New Moms’ mission is to strengthen families by partnering with young moms as they progress toward housing stability, economic mobility, and family well-being. This year, New Moms is hosting “Operation Santa” — in which they collect donated gifts for families and distribute everything safely to their homes. Help ensure every family in their programs has a special Christmas by donating to the gift drive or volunteering to pack the gift deliveries.

Northern Illinois Food Bank

Give: Time

Northern Illinois Food Bank serves more than half a million hungry neighbors each year across 13 counties. They are always in search of a variety of different volunteers, which include food packing, sorting, and distribution volunteers. 

Dreams For Kids 

Give: Things and Support

2017 Holiday for Hope Drive, photo courtesy of Dreams for Kids

This year, Dreams For Kids is hosting its 33rd annual Holiday for Hope drive to support Chicago’s most vulnerable with warmth and love. While the drive will not be in-person, Dreams for Kids will be collecting donations at select locations across the city and distributing them to families, churches, and charities in need. Some requested drive items include new toys, blankets, mittens, and water bottles. 

United Way of Metro Chicago 

Give: Support

United Way, in partnership with local community organizations will once again host Uniting for the Holidays, a festive, “drive-through” event taking place in ten suburban communities from mid-November to mid-December, including but not limited to Harvey, Elgin, and Skokie. Your support will help ensure thousands of families across the region receive a meal and gifts that will brighten their holiday. 


Dec. 11: Horizons for Youth Bowl A Thon 2021

Horizons for Youth is currently selling $70 tickets for its annual Bowl A Thon. The purchase of a ticket includes team bowling, unlimited beer and wine, and fun. They will also be raffling off two tickets for their annual gala, On Cloud Nine. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit Horizons for Youth.

Dec 11: Warm Your Heart: Craft for a Cause!

Come to The Art Center in Highland Park to complete either a simple blanket or scarf. Blankets and scarves will be donated to Morraine Township Food Pantry and Food Warriors for distribution. Reservations are required and tickets are “pay what you can” donations. All proceeds will go towards class scholarships at The Art Center.

Dec 12: Holiday Coat Drive and Outreach 

Join Street Samaritans on December 12th for their monthly event where they will put together care packages and give back to Chicago’s homeless community. Since this upcoming event is a coat drive, Street Samaritans are asking volunteers to bring new and used winter coats. Donations can also be made online

Dec 13: Pizza Benefit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus 

Come to The Arboretum of South Barrington, to join Santa & Mrs. Clause for a slice of pizza on Monday, December 13th. 100% of the ticket sales will go to SOUL Harbour Ranch. The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program is an organization whose mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond, in addition to advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence.

Dec 18: NuBang Collective 5th Annual Toy Drive 

NuBang Collective is back with the 5th Annual Toy Drive with sound selection by Dj Celeste. If you can’t make the party, come drop off toys at The Silver Room anytime during business hours until December 18th.

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Melissa Perry is a senior journalism and international studies major from Northwestern University. Raised in Mt. Sterling, Illinois, Melissa is a proud Midwest girl through and through with a lifelong love for dance and the arts!

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