6 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer with Your Family

Eager to stock up on good karma points before the end of the year? It’s not too late to round up the family and do a good deed.

This time of year, we talk extensively about the spirit of giving, but often lose ourselves—and our children—to the holiday of getting. Giving starts at home, and with the kids home from school and relegated to the cozy indoors, it’s the perfect time to get together to do some good.

We’ve created a list of end-of-the-year opportunities for you and your family to contribute to those without means. The Make It Better Foundation sends the warmest wishes to you and yours this holiday season. Check back with us in the new year for even more ways to give back.

1. Build a community garden on the South Side

Too cold to venture outside? Give back with just the click of a mouse. Oglesby Elementary School, the only Chicago school in the final round of a FedEx grant competition, needs your help to make their dream of a giant community garden in their Gresham neighborhood come true. Simply vote for Oglesby in the FedEx One Rate, Countless Possibilities contest, and the winning school will receive $25,000 in supplies and resources. You don’t even have to get out of your pajamas!

2. Give hope to the homeless

Send a kind message to those without a home this holiday. Lake County Haven, a Libertyville-based nonprofit that provides shelter and services to women and children in crisis, encourages Lake County residents to submit a few words of hope, encouragement or advice on paper and mail it to the Haven. Through its Kind Words Campaign, Haven will share such messages with the homeless women and children in its residential programs. Such heartfelt messages will go a long way in staving off the loneliness of homelessness. Send Kind Words to Lake County Haven, P.O. Box 127, Libertyville, IL, 60048 or submit messages online.

3. Adopt a family for the holiday

Connections for the Homeless offers volunteer opportunities for families this holiday. Adopt a family through Connections for the Homeless’ Gift of Giving Holiday Drive by purchasing holiday gifts for individuals or families transitioning out of homelessness.

The organization also welcomes volunteers to make lunches for people living on the streets at the Entry Point Drop-In program or to sort through the clothing and food donations. For more information, contact Community Outreach Manager Lisa Todd at 847-424-0945, ext. 11.

4. Play Santa to make a child’s wish come true

Even with just a week to go until Christmas, you still have the opportunity to play Santa. The postal service’s Letters to Santa program makes it possible by connecting interested givers (elf or otherwise) with a letter from a child. Purchase and pack a gift from the child’s wish list, and return it to your local post office. Pay for the cost of shipping, and the post office will deliver your gift to the delighted letter writer. Visit your local post office for more information.

5. Volunteer to feed the hungry

Food depositories, soup kitchens and shelters are always in need of donations and volunteers. Organize a local food drive, or schedule a family time to distribute food to those in need. The Chicago Greater Food Depository welcomes teens over age 14 to volunteer, while little ones are encouraged to help during monthly Kid Days.

New Trier Township Food Pantry is accepting donations of fresh produce for local families for their holiday dinner. Bring donations to the NT Food Pantry, 739 Elm St. in Winnetka, December 23, 9-11 a.m. For more information and a full list of Evanston soup kitchens requesting volunteers or nonperishable goods, visit The Volunteer Center’s website.

6. Spread holiday cheer with a food donation

Catch a performance at Metropolis Performing Arts Center in Arlington Heights, and bring a non-perishable item for its annual food drive. Drop off goods in the lobby during performances of “A Christmas Carol” (or make it a date night with “The Second City’s Holidays in the Heights”) through the end of the year. For a full list of performance dates or a list of requested goods, call the Box Office at 847-577-2121 or visit the Metropolis website.