7 Fun Ways to Volunteer in Chicago This Summer

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: Shedd Aquarium

Summer is a great time to relax, go to the beach, and spend time with family and friends. But fun in the sun can also include getting involved in your community. There are plenty of ways to give back to the greater Chicagoland area, so why not make it a family affair and plan to do some good together? Here are just a few of the nonprofits and organizations that offer volunteer opportunities in Chicago that are both fun AND impactful.

1. Shedd Aquarium

Help protect and sustain the Great Lakes area, home to millions of people and thousands of unique species of plants and animals, with Shedd’s Great Lakes Action Days. The aquarium offers 12 days where community members can act to help preserve the environment. Tailored to the specific needs of their respective ecosystems, activities include litter clean-up, planting seeds and flowers, and habitat monitoring.

You can get specific dates and locations and sign up for a GLAD here.  

2. McGaw YMCA

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: McGaw YMCA

The McGaw YMCA offers a variety of ways to get involved, whatever your time constraints. If you just have a little time to spare, no worries. Volunteer with their Evanston Swims! Program and help teach water safety to Evanston’s second graders.

If you have more time to dedicate and want to foster a meaningful relationship with a young person, become a mentor. The Y offers two main mentorship programs: Project SOAR allows mentors to build lasting relationships with youth through weekly meetings and offer guidance and support, and the Y Achievers program helps high school students prepare for college through tutoring, mentorship and homework help.   

Sign up and learn more about the programs YMCA offers online or contact Jesse Chatz at [email protected] or 847-475-7400.

3. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: Lurie Children's Hospital
Lurie Children’s Junior Council at the 2017 Move for the Kids 5K.

Making a slight change in your life could make a big difference to a child in need. Next time you order out from your favorite restaurant, order through DoorDash and $5 will go to supporting Lurie Children’s Hospital patients and families. You can also order from AmazonSmile, which offers the same wide variety of products, but with a 0.5 percent donation to Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The hospital also offers a range of entertaining events. In October, run with their marathon team for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon or attend their 2017 Gold Coast Fashion Award Show.

View more events, read patients’ stories, and donate here

4. PAWS Chicago

volunteer opportunities in chicago: PAWS

Protect our furry friends by volunteering with PAWS Chicago. Saving more than 5,000 animal lives annually, PAWS offers three on-site volunteer locations, where you can work with both animals and customers. Help PAWS fight animal homelessness and work toward a No-Kill Chicago. Tasks include socializing and training animals, walking and feeding them, cleaning up animal spaces, helping families adopt, and providing customer service.

For off-site involvement, you can volunteer at PAWS’ adoption events, bring a love of animals inside the classroom by becoming a Humane Education Volunteer, help with community outreach, and assist with their Trap-Neuter-Release program.

Here are more ways to get involved with PAWS and where to start.

5. BUILD, Inc.

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: BUILD, Inc.
Photo by Daniel Perez.

A winner of our 5th Annual Philanthropy Awards, BUILD helps prevent at-risk Chicago youth from gang involvement and intervenes with those already involved. Support their mission by becoming a volunteer or a mentor.

As a volunteer, you can do hands-on work including painting, organizing, and helping with maintenance, or work in operations by assisting the IT department and getting involved on the corporate side.

As a mentor, you can assist with BUILD’s jewelry-making workshops, intervention series, tutoring program, and more.

Read on here to learn more and get involved.

6. The Field Museum

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: The Field Museum
Photo by John Weinstein.

Behind all the beautiful exhibits at The Field Museum is a network of people that keeps the museum up and running. As a volunteer at The Field Museum, you can work behind the scenes or directly with visitors. Behind the scenes, you can assist the administrative, scientific or exhibition departments. If you prefer a more social role, you can volunteer at the Crown Family PlayLab helping kids discover the wonders of natural history, or volunteer on the public floor, giving tours, interacting with visitors, and staffing the information desk. As an added bonus, volunteers receive free access to The Field Museum and several other Chicago museums. 

Get the scoop on volunteer opportunities at The Field Museum here.

And, whether you’re a diehard Field Museum devotee or have never visited before, you won’t want to miss the show-stopping special exhibit on now, Jurassic World.

7. Misericordia

volunteer opportunities in Chicago: Misericordia

There are so many ways to support those with developmental disabilities by lending a hand at Misericordia, whatever your skill set. Have a knack for sewing? You can help with minor alterations on resident clothing. Know how to tune a piano? Misericordia needs someone to tune their on-site pianos. Or, make volunteering part of family fun by volunteering as a group at Misericordia’s annual Family Fun Fest.

Learn more and sign up here and be sure to read about the incredible and inspirational impact of Misericordia’s visionary leader, Sister Rosemary Connelly.


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Amrita Krishnan is an editorial intern at Make It Better. A rising sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, Amrita is interested in pursuing journalism. In her free time, Amrita enjoys reading, running and painting.