In Chicago, one in two children live in low income and homeless situations and many families are forced to decide between paying the bills and affording medication or basic necessities like diapers. If that choice sounds unimaginable, consider paying forward your good fortune by supporting these Chicagoland organizations that provide support and services to children, youth and families in Chicago and beyond.
To find other deserving, local nonprofits in need of your support, peruse our Better Lists. For more about our Philanthropy Award winners, some featured in this article, visit the Make It Better Foundation website.
How To Help:
Bright Promises Foundation
Helping a child live up to their full potential is the key motive at Bright Promises Foundation. This Illinois nonprofit creates opportunities and partners with leading experts to develop programs that can positively affect a child’s development and future. The Foundation’s “impressive community of leaders from diverse fields and backgrounds in the child-serving community” — including in health, education, youth development and social work — are the reason they’ve been able to sustain this work for 150 years. The Foundation was also named the Best Fundraiser (City) in Better’s Best of Chicago 2019: Philanthropy category. To support their future impact donate funds; volunteer time; or attend an event. Visit the Bright Promises Foundation for specifics.
70 E. Lake St., Suite 1120
Metropolitan Family Services
From emotional wellness to economic stability, from education to empowerment Metropolitan Family Services offers programs and support for nearly every facet of hardship families across Chicagoland might face. They work in real time with clients and their families to help get them established on a path to confident self-sufficiency and peace of mind — with programs such as Young Fathers, that helps young parents gain employment and job readiness, among other skills — or one of the other programs for parent support, senior care, community outreach, behavioral health and more. In recent years, under the leadership of CEO Ric Estrada, the organization has nearly tripled in size and outreach — which requires the continued support of donors and long-term stakeholders in the organization. MFS has a variety of planned giving options as well as volunteer opportunities and a list of donatable goods, such as children’s items, household items and more. For a full list of what and how to give, visit Metropolitan Family Services.
Keeping Families Covered
Since 2010, this nonprofit has been supplying diapers, period products, incontinence products and more “to the most vulnerable residents among us, from cradle to grave.” In 2022 alone, Keeping Families Covered served nearly 13,000 families with an annual total of 1.2 million diapers distributed. In 2023, they look to surpass that number by 500,000 more diapers. To this end, they have recently opened a second location in McHenry, Illinois, to better serve those in need — with their first location still in Waukegan, Illinois. They are always welcoming donations of any kind — monetary or goods, such as baby wipes, formula, maternity wear and more. Volunteers are also encouraged to support in any way they can, including spreading advocacy for the disparity in affordability of these products. Want to learn more about the issue and support Keeping Families Covered in the process? Visit their website for more.
Cradles to Crayons
Cradles to Crayons — a recipient of the 2019 Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Awards Judges’ Distinction Award — has been a steady network of support for children and their families who face poverty in Chicagoland since 2016. With programs like their annual Winter Coat Drive or Giving Factory, which both distribute clothes to kids across the city, it’s clear that C2C has found their footing as a critical resource for children in need. The organization reminds folks, “It’s more than a cause, it’s a kid” — whether you’re donating funds, goods or volunteering your time, it all goes to support the next generation. Find more opportunities and additional information at Cradles to Crayons.
2500 W. Bradley Place, Unit 200
Forward Momentum Chicago
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The mission of Forward Momentum Chicago (FMC) is to “inspire possibilities through dance education programs that strengthen schools and communities with limited arts access.” But the discipline of dance — through the variety of genres and classes they offer — isn’t the only thing students focus on, as fostering creativity, critical thinking and social-emotional learning also play a large role in what they do. To support this unique mission, individual donations are appreciated and encouraged. But donors are also welcome to support the organization’s upcoming Releve Soiree — “sponsorship opportunities are available, and participants can attend the event and participate in the silent auction.” There are so many other ways to support — visit Forward Momentum Chicago for available opportunities.
1530 S. State St., Unit G-01
Since 1954, Casa Central has been a space that “transforms and strengthens” lives, with a specific focus on the Hispanic community here in Chicago. Through their network of social services — such as early learning education or violence prevention and intervention — the organization assists individuals and families, from all backgrounds and of all ages, to work toward a higher quality of life. They accept donations year round, but another tier to their success comes from dedicated volunteers. Positions include: arts and craft creation; resume and job readiness workshops; mentoring; homework help; and so many other roles that are critical to their mission. Specific requirements and applications for volunteer positions are available at Casa Central, along with additional information about their organization.
1343 N. California Ave.
New Moms — which provides critical services and coaching around housing, job training, and family support — is celebrating 40 years of service to Chicagoland mothers and their children. “In our programs, young moms define goals and cultivate their inherent abilities while building a strong foundation that will lead to long-term family well-being.” At New Moms — who were also the Human Services: Empowerment winner for the 5th annual Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Awards — they understand that overall success is the accumulation of small victories, which is why their Executive Skills Approach program allow moms to “be in the driver seat” headed toward their family’s success. You can donate monetarily or with goods donations, all of which directly aid mothers and children in need of support. Logistics on how to give can be found on the New Moms donation page. Or, support New Moms 40th Anniversary Gala in April, featuring food and drink, auctions, networking and more.
5317 W. Chicago Ave.
The name says it all, Youth Services is an organization dedicated to assisting Chicago youth in a variety of manners — from crisis intervention to socialization groups, counseling and more. Their approach is well-rounded, as they offer education for parents as well. As they see it “every child should grow up happy, healthy and hopeful.” A particularly important service from the organization is the Pride Youth Program — a safe space for LGBTQIA+ Chicagoans to find support, acceptance and community, at any age. Want to see their work continue? Volunteering can be done on an individual basis, but corporate groups are also encouraged. Also, donations to Youth Services — even a $100 donation can fund dinner for 60 children during a night of Study Buddies.
3080 W. Lake Ave., Glenview, IL
Children’s Home & Aid
As a leading family service agency in Illinois for the last 138 years, Children’s Home & Aid assists children in the recovery of their health, hope and faith in the people around them. Their work is centered on “where it’s proven to be the most effective: at home, in the classroom and in the community.” One of their initiatives is to End Diaper Need in Illinois: “Our core belief is that the greatest asset a child has is their family, and this effort to end diaper need supports strengthening families and working with families to meet basic needs and prevent poverty from being confused with neglect,” said CEO & President Mike Shaver. By supporting this noble mission you are supporting families as they strive to meet the basic needs of their children — consider donating today or visit Children’s Home & Aid for more ways to help.
200 W. Monroe St., Ste 2100
Family Focus invests in strengthening families in Chicago and Northeastern Illinois so “they build social capital and achieve upward economic mobility through high-quality innovative programs and services, grounded in anti-racism and social justice.” Early childhood development, youth development and family support are three of the tiers they effectively work within; with centers all throughout Chicagoland their reach is more than just those in their zip code. Donations to the organization will assist families who are still bouncing back from life’s setbacks, including COVID. Help these families reach their full potential by visiting Family Focus for more opportunities.
5467 S. University Ave.
For additional altruistic ways to give back to the Chicago community at large, visit The Volunteer Center opportunity directory for more listings and information.
More from Better:
- Q&A: Ric Estrada, CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, on the Importance of Deep Understanding in a People-First Profession
- 31 Things To Do in Chicago and the Suburbs This March
- Ignatian Spirituality Project: Help Bring Healing and Recovery to Those Most in Need – Your Gift Will Be Matched and Change a Life
Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.