The Honeycomb Project: Creating Change — and Reaping Lifelong Benefits — Through Youth Civil Service

Nearly every Saturday, 11-year-old Brody wakes up early, not to scroll on his phone and watch YouTube videos, but rather to volunteer alongside his parents and siblings. Brody is one of many children in Chicagoland who steps up to address pressing challenges in our communities, such as poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness. 

According to Illinois Policy, in 2022, 17.2% of Chicagoans lived under the poverty line, meaning more than 450,000 Chicagoans struggled to cover basic living expenses. Many families have to skip meals or cut back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase to make ends meet. 

Teen volunteers making meals
Photo courtesy of The Honeycomb Project

Furthermore, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports approximately 68,400 Chicago residents are experiencing homelessness. Without a safe, stable place to call home, these individuals are exposed to potential violence, may have trouble securing food, endure severe weather, and more. 

Fortunately, youth like Ava embrace their power as solution-seekers and commit to shaping a future worth living. By volunteering alongside their families, youth are helping build stronger communities and creating memories and new family traditions around service.   

According to Fidelity Charitable, people raised in families with strong giving traditions are likelier to give more to charity and volunteer their time with charitable organizations than those not exposed to service. Additionally, those who engaged in philanthropic activities with their families as children report being happy and close with their families as adults. 

When Catherine Tannen and I co-founded The Honeycomb Project in 2011, we aimed to create family-centered volunteer opportunities that engage, mobilize, and inspire children and parents to learn about and tackle global issues on a local level. Thirteen years later, that idea has blossomed into a full-scale movement involving approximately 4,000 volunteers annually. Through a range of programs, resources, and strategic partnerships, Honeycomb families drive measurable change.

As our city’s residents struggle, many nonprofits desperately need volunteers to help minimize a spectrum of pressing issues. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps, formal volunteering is down seven percentage points, reaching the lowest rate in nearly three decades.

A youth volunteer works in a nature preserve
Photo courtesy of The Honeycomb Project

Honeycomb’s partners, such as The Night Ministry, Nourishing Hope, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and the North Branch Restoration Project, rely on our vast network of volunteers and resources.  

Whether running a monthly fresh market in a food desert, planting seedlings at an urban farm, staffing an adaptive sports tournament, or spearheading a Halloween costume drive, Honeycomb volunteers are capable, committed, and productive. 

It’s never too early to teach kids about civil service, spark conversations about issues close to home, and get the whole family involved in volunteer projects.

This post was submitted as part of our “You Said It” program.” Your voice, ideas, and engagement are important to help us accomplish our mission. We encourage you to share your ideas and efforts to make the world a better place by submitting a “You Said It.”

How To Help

To learn more about The Honeycomb Project, visit

Your donation will support The Honeycomb Project’s mission of putting kids at the forefront of social change. Financial support allows The Honeycomb Project to continue to grow its community impact by expanding its volunteer network and programming. A single $35 donation provides one child with a Honeycomb volunteer opportunity. A $100 donation mobilizes an entire family of volunteers. A $250 donation provides one week of programs, and a $500 donation makes three weeks of programming possible.

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Kristina Lowenstein

Kristina Lowenstein is the co-founder and executive director of The Honeycomb Project. Years ago, when Kristina and her longtime friend Catherine Tannen searched for volunteer opportunities for kids, they quickly discovered a lack of family-friendly projects, particularly for families with young children. To fill the gap, in 2011, they launched The Honeycomb Project to mobilize and inspire families to learn about and tackle global issues on a local level, such as food insecurity, homelessness, climate change, and social justice. Under Kristina’s leadership, the organization has grown exponentially; in 2023, more than 4,100 volunteers from 88% of Chicago zip codes and 64 suburban and out-of-state zip codes participated in Honeycomb’s programs. 

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