16 Chicago Nonprofits That Urgently Need Your Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Every day, it seems like there’s enough bad news to last us a month — at least. Between small businesses shuttering, exhausted healthcare providers on the frontlines, and hourly workers panicking over lost wages, the world feels pretty scary right about now. On top of that, everyone needs so much help it’s hard to know where to turn, or how to even be helpful. We’ve rounded up a list of the best ways to have a hands-on impact, without, you know, actually having hands on.

Bernie’s Book Bank

This beloved nonprofit, a Philanthropy Award winner, offers free books to low-income readers around the Chicago region. Due to the pandemic, they’ve  launched the “Change Their Story” campaign to effectively respond to the escalating literacy crisis, asking for donations of just $12 to send 12 books to a reader in need. Thanks to Bernie’s efficient sourcing, a single dollar buys one book. And with school out for the foreseeable future, kids need to be reading a lot at home — help Bernie’s Book Bank make that possible.

You can donate here.

Ignite — Futures With Promise

This organization works to help teens experiencing homelessness and unstable housing, and these at-risk youth are even more at-risk in our current environment. Ignite is looking for a wide variety of donations, including gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores, a wide variety of clothing, hygiene items and household goods. With all the extra time on your hands, perhaps now is a good opportunity to clean out your closet and donate some gently used clothes.

You can find a full list of items to donate here.

Franciscan Outreach

Franciscan Outreach is a leading provider of services to people experiencing homelessness in Chicago through five service sites throughout the city. They are currently seeking a wide variety of donations for their clients, including bed linens and towels, gift cards to grocery stores and restaurants, pre-paid CTA cards, and all clothing (especially new underwear and socks).

You can find more information here.

Pacific Garden Mission

This is another Chicago-area charity that works to help the homeless, and they are seeking similar donations of clothing (especially seasonal items) and hygiene products in addition to nonperishable food items and monetary donations (the best way to keep people fed, according to the mission).

You can find more information here.

Snow City Arts

A former Philanthropy Award winner, this organization helps bring art of all kinds to children in hospitals through one-on-one sessions with a variety of artists. Currently, Snow City has had to suspend on-site programming at all hospitals in order to ensure the health and well-being of its clients. That means it’s even more important to provide monetary support so the program can get up and running again as soon as the pandemic winds down.

You can make a donation here.

Sarah’s Circle

This organization works to assist women experiencing homelessness in Chicago and has a wide-ranging list of necessary donations during this crisis. Sarah’s Circle is looking for donations of cleaning supplies and gloves, toiletries, personal care and home items, but not clothing. You can also use their Wish List on Amazon to ship items directly if you’re not in the Chicagoland area.

You can find a full list of donations here.

Fourth Presbytarian Church

Like many other houses of worship around the country, Fourth Presbytarian Church in downtown Chicago is looking for donations of everything from canned goods and nonperishable snack items to men and women’s shoes. They are also looking for donations of double paper or plastic bags with handles from grocery stores — even if you don’t have much to donate, you definitely have a bag full of bags somewhere.

You can find a full list of donations here.

Connections for the Homeless

Another charity that serves the indigent population of Chicago, Connections for the Homeless is seeking canned and shelf-stable foods, adult clothing (men’s boots and belts) and new, unopened toiletries and healthcare items. They are not currently accepting other clothing items or household items.

You can find a full list of donations here.

Catholic Charities

The food services at Catholic Charities are continuing uninterrupted during this crisis, and the organization could use all of the financial help it can get. You can donate specifically to their COVID-19 response fund to make sure that your dollars will go to help needy people during the pandemic or make a more general donation for the organization to use as it sees fit.

You can make a donation here.

Lakeview Pantry

Lakeview Pantry has been feeding hungry people in Chicago since 1970 and with the job market as unstable as it is, they’re likely to be feeding a lot more hungry people in the coming months. They are currently seeking donations of nonperishable, unopened foods as well as personal hygiene, bathroom and cleaning supplies.

You can find a full donation wish list here.

Common Pantry

This food pantry prides itself on providing healthy foods to clients, a matter of crucial importance when dollars stretch further at fast food restaurants. Donations of food are always appreciated, but dollars can do even more — just $1 can provide four meals to people in need.

To donate food, goods or money you can go to their website.

A Safe Haven

Created to help Chicagoans struggling with addiction, A Safe Haven also provides shelter to the homeless as well as those working through recovery. Currently, they are looking for donations of white linens, toiletries, clothing (new with tags), and monetary donations.

For a full list of donations and to give visit their site.

St. James Parish Food Pantry

The food pantry at the St. James Catholic Church in Highwood, IL is looking for donations of any and all nonperishable food and snack items. Items can be dropped off at the church, located at 134 North Avenue, in Highwood.

Email questions to the pantry director Robert Merz, [email protected].

Moraine Township Food Pantry

Currently, the Moraine Township Food Pantry is working to provide meals to children who typically eat at school. They are in need of food items, paper grocery bags and volunteers to help meet this important need. Their most needed items are diapers, toiletries, laundry and cleaning supplies and healthy nonperishable items. Donations can be dropped off at 800 Central Avenue in Highland Park.

For more information and a complete list of donations: visit their site here.

H.O.M.E.

Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly, an organization that offers Chicago’s lower-income seniors everything from intergenerational housing, home repair services, a shopping bus to moving assistance. The organization, a Philanthropy Award winner, is seeking monetary donations to ensure that buildings have the food and supplies people need, and that the organization can continue to keep programs running. They are also accepting unwrapped new games, puzzles and magazines for their residents.

You can make a donation here.

United Way of Lake County

United Way of Lake County has established the Lake County COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help local nonprofit organizations as they continue to serve Lake County’s most vulnerable neighbors. They are seeking monetary donations to help increase access to emergency food and basic supplies, offer rent and mortgage assistance, and assist with utility bills.

You can make a donation here.

There are so many deserving nonprofits that need your help right now. For more organizations to support, check out the nonprofits on our Better List


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Jessica Suss is a native Chicagoan residing in Washington, D.C. She is currently getting her master’s degree in secondary English education at the University of Maryland. She enjoys petting other people’s dogs and is faithful to Lou Malnati’s alone. Jessica is also a supporter of MAZON and No Kid Hungry