Whether we recognize it or not, it takes a lot of resources to muddle through another Chicago winter. Between heating our homes and clothing and feeding our families, the costs can start to add up. For many Chicagoans, this seasonal demand is out of reach.
A whopping 23.2% of Chicagoland children are living in poverty — which limits their access to clothing or nutrition necessary for their development. Looking to the winter ahead, remember that as inflation soars and housing becomes harder to secure there are folks who rely on social service organizations as their lifeline.
Better has assembled a list of six organizations or initiatives that throughout this fall and winter will be working to secure warmth and nourishment for those who need it. In a position to give? Consider starting in our own city this holiday season and help “give the gift of warmth.”
“Overcoming food insecurity with dignity” is a central part of the Care For Real mission. Their commitment to Chicagoans is evident in their variety of programs — one of which, the Food Rescue Program, secures about 1.5 million pounds of food annually. Moreover, their food pantry’s “client-choice model” welcomes individuals to come and get the food they need and that fits with their dietary restrictions. Still, CFR knows it can be tricky to connect volunteers with opportunities, which is why they’ve made it simple. Volunteers can work in a few different sectors: donate your time to their Food Rescue Program on Giving Tuesday; shop-to-donate online and support local businesses while also supporting CFR; or dine-to-donate on Giving Tuesday where they’ve teamed up with the Blaze Pizza in Rogers Park. For information on these listings, more volunteer opportunities or other ways to support, visit the Care For Real website.
In America, two in five children are unable to “adequately dress themselves daily,” according to Gazette Chicago. This need is never more pressing than during fall and winter, when harsh Chicago weather can pose a threat to people who have various livelihood insecurities. To combat this lapse, Cradles to Crayons — a non-profit organization that provides resources to homeless and low-income children — hosts an annual drive, Gear Up For Winter, which aims to collect 50,000 coats for Chicagoland kids. The drive accepts like-new coats that can be donated at any of their 30+ drop-off locations across the city. Don’t have a coat to spare? You can still help out by purchasing something off the organization’s Amazon Wishlist. This need “cannot be overstated,” so start this giving season off right by securing a warm winter ahead for a Chicagoland child. More information on this initiative can be found on the Cradles to Crayons website.
Give the gift of warmth this season through the Make It Better Foundation’s initiative Warming Hearts & Hands. This annual program encourages folks to donate funds which will go directly toward securing warm wear and blankets for those who need a little extra support this winter — and rest assured, 100% of your monetary donation will go toward these efforts. MIBF will ensure that the funds are used in the most cost-effective way and that all materials are distributed to the “appropriate nonprofit recipients” — who in years past have included Good News Partners, The Night Ministry and many others. This program directly addresses a wide-spread issue without the middlemen, visit the Make It Better Foundation website to learn how you can assist this season.
Known for its ability to dually champion both community outreach and youth engagement, SocialWorks — an organization rooted in empowering youth, founded by Chance The Rapper — is rolling out their 6th annual #WarmestWinter Donation Drive. From now until December 4, the public can donate new or gently used coats, warming items, hygiene items and toys at 19 various donation drop-off locations. Since the program’s inception, SocialWorks has collected 156,378 warming items and distributed them amongst 84 “unique” shelters. For the people, by the people — visit the SocialWorks website for more information on this program and their other yearly events and initiatives.
If you’re looking for a simple way to give this season, the North Suburban YMCA has made it easy for you by requesting specific items, all to be donated to those experiencing homelessness in the North Shore area. In partnership with Project I Am, all donated materials will go toward NSYMCA’s Holiday Giveback program — a month-long endeavor to collect items and goods, from hygiene products to medical supplies, for those in need. Donations can be dropped off at the NSYMCA Northbrook location and are accepted all throughout November, followed by an event on December 10, where volunteers can package the “blessing bags” to be distributed. For specific information on what items they are accepting, registration for volunteering or what other programs they are hosting, visit the NSYMCA website.
Since 2011, The Honeycomb Project has been inspiring and mobilizing kids and their families to help build stronger communities across Chicago. They do this through a number of programs and activities — such as preparing food for those in need or removing invasive species from nature preserves. To encourage participation, THP is hosting their Season of Service initiative which connects volunteer individuals and families to provide vital care and resources to our vulnerable communities. This year, their goal is to ignite the fire in 1,000 Chicagoans between Thanksgiving and New Years. Opportunities include: bringing food and cheer to those in need; working to preserve nature; participating in a supply drive of clothes and other materials and more. “Honeycomb families are not just giving back; they’re helping transform the quality of Chicago’s communities for the long term.” To find out more on their initiatives or to find specific ways to support their mission with your time, funds or goods — visit The Honeycomb Project website.
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:
- How To Help: Fight Food Insecurity in Chicago By Supporting These Local Food Banks, Food Pantries and Other Nonprofits Combatting Hunger
- 30 of the Best Things To Do in Chicago and the Suburbs in November 2022
- Reframing the Gun Control Movement: Chicago Organizations Double Down on Gun Violence Interruption
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.