How to Help: 8 Fun and Easy Ways to Give Back Around Chicago This Fall


Fall is in the air, folks! And it’s the perfect time to get involved in the local community.

Rally the family, phone a friend, or take a risk and take a solo adventure with an open mind. Volunteering is a great way to make connections and meet new people.

Fall is also a prime time for youth-serving organizations — when volunteers and donations are needed the most. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, we did the research for you! There are countless nonprofits in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs always looking for volunteers in various capacities. Find an area that inspires you and get started.

Give Time

Be a mentor, tutor, and friend to kids at Gary Comer Youth Center

The Gary Comer Youth Center provides youth a safe and supportive environment to develop and grow academically, professionally, and find their passion. The center focuses on college and career readiness with a mission to ensure students graduate from high school, prepared and ready for their future academic and career endeavors. Serving youth from 5th grade through college graduates, GCYC offers programing in academics, enrichment, and college success. GCYC is open to students from across the south side of Chicago and serves more than 1,700 individuals each year. The White House Council for Community Solutions recognized the GCYC as a model of innovation.

Nonprofits in Chicago: Gary Comer Youth Center
In July, youth met with professionals from a variety of fields at the center’s annual Career Day. (Photo courtesy of GCYC.)

Ways to get involved:

  • Provide homework help after school
  • Mentor a college student
  • Volunteer at community events
  • Assist with college essays and applications
  • Assist with resume development and networking
  • Volunteer in the gardens
  • Participate in Career Day
  • Offer a shadow day at work or internship opportunities

Along with monetary donations, the Gary Comer Youth Center also accepts in-kind donations, such as school supplies, dormitory supplies, sports equipment, technology equipment, garden supplies, office supplies and equipment, and culinary supplies and equipment.

Mentor a student online through iMentor

iMentor matches every student in its affiliated high schools with a committed and college-educated mentor. The partnership is a commitment to mentor a student for at least three years, guiding them on their journey to college graduation. iMentor serves students in low-income communities, of which a majority will be first-generation college graduates.

Commit to help a high school student achieve their goals and get to college:

  • Connect online once a week
  • Connect in person once a month

iMentor also has programming in the Bay Area!

Nonprofits in Chicago: iMentor
iMentor mentor/mentee pairs work together to navigate the path to college so every student can achieve their highest college and career aspirations. Here, Heidi and her mentee Sandra celebrate a huge milestone — high school graduation! Sandra is now in her second year of college, and she and Heidi are still working together. (Photo courtesy of iMentor.)

Serve as a Child Advocate through the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

“The Young Center is a champion for the rights and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children, making sure that wherever they land, whether here in the U.S. or in their home country, they are safe. It serves as a trusted ally for these children while they are in deportation proceedings, advocating for their best interests, and standing for the creation of a dedicated children’s immigrant justice system that ensures the safety and well-being of every child.” —Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Young Center Child Advocate volunteers are interviewed, trained and matched with immigrant children in detention based on location, professional skills and fluency in languages other than English. The Young Center office in San Antonio, TX recently held their first fully bilingual training session with a corps of new volunteers who are all fluent in Spanish and English (Photo courtesy of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.)

Be there for a child 

A Child Advocate is an adult who volunteers to spend one-on-one time with and advocate on behalf of an unaccompanied immigrant child while he or she is subject to deportation proceedings. As a Child Advocate, volunteers will accompany the child to court hearings, interviews, and meetings; become well-versed in the circumstances the child faces in his or her home country; collaborate and communicate with the Young Center staff; and advocate on behalf of the child.

Volunteer your language skills or law background 

If you are fluent in another language or are an attorney, volunteer your skills. Contact a local legal services provider to get involved.

Give Things

Share your gifts with Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons bridges the gap between communities that have and communities that need. Serving children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, Cradles to Crayons collects and delivers children the essential items they need to grow, learn, develop, and flourish.

Cradles to Crayons accepts a wide range of new and like-new items for children.

Nonprofits in Chicago: Cradles to Crayons
Volunteers help quality check each donated item to get them prepared for kids who need them most, through the customizable KidPack program. (Photo courtesy of Cradles to Crayons.)

Ways to get involved:

For more information on accepted items or where to find a drop-off location, visit the Cradles to Crayons website.

Donate everyday essentials to Family Rescue, Inc.

“Family Rescue is dedicated to eliminating domestic violence in the Chicago community by providing comprehensive support services and shelter to victims of domestic violence, particularly abused women and their children.” —Family Rescue, Inc.

Donate clean, seasonally appropriate, and in-good-condition items to Family Rescue clients. Requested donation goods include toiletries, clothing, and gift cards. Visit the donation wish list for more information.

Gather up your old cell phones

Do you have a pile of old cell phones lying around? Family Rescue participates in a cell phone collection program and receives money for old donated phones. Start a collection box in your community! For more information, contact Family Rescue at 773-375-1918.

Give Support

Support children around the world through Children’s Place International

Children’s Place International helps children growing up in developing countries overcome extreme poverty by directing philanthropic-minded individuals in Chicago and the Midwest with the most-trusted organizations serving youth in Africa and the Caribbean. Your support helps CPI provide critical services to children affected by serious health issues and extreme poverty.

Join Children’s Place International for the 8th annual Place the Hope celebration on Oct. 18. To purchase tickets or donate, visit the CPI website.

Support the advancement of neuroscience research and discovery by Brain Research Foundation

The Brain Research Foundation is committed advancing discoveries, treatment, and prevention of neurological diseases by understanding brain function of children and adults.

Nonprofits in Chicago: Brain Research Foundation
Brain Research Foundation Young Leadership Board hosts a winter fundraiser at Barry’s Bootcamp in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of BRF.)

The Young Leadership Board reaches a new generation of philanthropists while working to break the stigmas that surround neurological disorders. To support the Young Leadership Board in their annual fundraiser, Let’s Put Our Heads Together, or to get involved, email the co-chair:

Donate to help fund BRF’s innovative research and educational programming.

Join the mission to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease and support the Alzheimer’s Association

As the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, the Alzheimer’s Association is on a mission to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, support and care, and reducing the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

More and more people are continuously affected by the horrific disease. As numbers rise, so do the costs of care.

Nonprofits in Chicago: Alzheimer's Association
Thousands gather at the Chicago Walk to End Alzhiemer’s, where holding a purple flower represents having lost someone to the horrible disease (Photo courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association.)

By donating, you’ll allow the Alzheimer’s Association to continue providing care and support programs to those fighting the disease. In addition, you’ll be raising funds that go toward research, prevention, and finding a cure!

Volunteer for the next local Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.


More from Make It Better: 

Emily Stone is Associate Editor at Make It Better. She earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work is published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.




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