Give Time, Things, Support: 5 Ways to Make an Impact in Chicago and the North Shore This Fall

Chicago as we know it exists because of the composite efforts of those who love their neighbors and work tirelessly to make the city a better place for all inhabitants. Volunteer-based organizations across the city are responsible for meeting the needs of the hungry, the houseless and the most vulnerable among us. As fall begins to creep in, decide how best to give back to the city, and surrounding area, we call home — be it through your time, things or support.

To find other deserving, local nonprofits in need of your support or to learn more about our Philanthropy Award winners, visit the Make It Better Foundation’s website.

Give: Time

Connections For The Homeless

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Resilience, inclusion and community — these are just a few of the core values at the heart of Connections For The Homeless, an Evanston-based organization dedicated to ending homelessness “one person at a time.” Founded nearly 40 years ago, Connections’ outreach is about more than just securing housing for vulnerable members of our community — though that work is imperative. Their approach is holistic to the person, from prevention to advocacy and everything in between, including, financial assistance to households facing eviction or emergency shelter for people in crisis.

While monetary donations are a crucial component of their longevity, so is physical support. Volunteers of any age or ability are encouraged to sign up for any of Connections’ volunteer opportunities, such as, preparing and serving meals; unloading materials and deliveries; or advocating for affordable housing — they even have remote positions available. Show a little compassion to your neighbors this September; visit the Connections For The Homeless website for more information.

2121 Dewey Ave., Evanston

Casa Central

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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 folks from all backgrounds and of all ages to work toward a higher quality of life. Since September is National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is more timely than ever to give back to this organization that has forged a culturally important space in the city for decades.

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 on the Casa Central website, along with additional information about their organization.

1343 N. California Ave.

Give: Things

The Friendship Center

Located in Ravenswood, The Friendship Center is dutifully committed to helping end food insecurity in Chicago’s Northwest neighborhoods — servicing families, adults, youth and even pets. However, the work they do hinges on the continued support of volunteers and the routine donation of foods, goods and services.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to this area of need in Chicago, potential volunteers can sign up on the Center’s volunteer form. Folks with the ability to give monetary donations can make them on TFC’s donation page. And anyone looking to donate goods and other services can check out what is accepted by the organization — from non-perishables to pet food, there is sure to be a match between what you can give and what they require to keep doing the ever-important work they do. More information can be located on The Friendship Center website.

2711 W. Lawrence Ave.

Give: Support

Chicago Hearing Society

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In the United States, two to three out of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Statistics like these only further prove the need for wide-spread awareness about the Deaf community; for that reason, every September 18 – 24, we celebrate Deaf Awareness Week. One Chicago-based organization doing the work year-round, however, is the Chicago Hearing Society — which provides “ communication access; hearing and assistive technologies; and support services for persons who are Deaf, Deaf blind and hard of hearing.”

Through countless services and programs — not to mention the dedicated staff working to build a more inclusive tomorrow — CHS helps their community strengthen family bonds by improving communication; helping youth who are deaf see new possibilities; and offering counseling sessions for survivors — the list goes on. To assist the work they do that undoubtedly builds a fortified future for the deaf community, consider donating to their efforts or up your advocacy by attending one of their workshops, like learning American Sign Language. All additional information can be located on the Chicago Hearing Society website.

1444 W. Willow St.

My Block, My Hood, My City

Where public aid falls short, community-led organizations fill in the gaps. In Chicago, specifically, the neighbors-taking-care-of-neighbors mindset is strong — and nowhere is that taken more seriously than at My Block, My Hood, My City. This nonprofit organization sees the importance of inspiring youth; empowering communities; and building a better city “one block at a time.”

Their programs that assist the public — such as the snow shoveling crew or the Senior Viral Response team, to name a few — are at the core of what they do, and are only made possible through direct volunteer work. Others with resources to give can make a tax-deductible donation that will directly fund their efforts: “Taking care of people, no matter what.” More information can be found on the My Block, My Hood, My City website.

47 W. Polk St.

For additional altruistic ways to give back to the Chicago community at large, visit The Volunteer Center opportunity directory for more listings and information.

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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.

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