Category Archives: Volunteer

Find Your Cause: Where to Volunteer in Chicago

Find Your Cause: Where to Volunteer in Chicago


Many of us are lucky enough to have the time, talents or finances to help those in need. Chicago is an incredibly diverse city with many people in need of support. There is an impressive array of organizations – non-profits, volunteer centers and auxiliary boards – that provide value to Chicago citizens.


Chicago Cares, one of the organizations that facilitates volunteer opportunities throughout the year, hosted over 50 groups looking for support in the Find Your Cause event on October 21. Chicago Cares offers 250 volunteer opportunities every single month at Give back this year by lending your time, energy and talents to one (or more!) of these respected groups. No matter what you are interested in, there is an opportunity that fits you – as you’re looking for volunteering in Chicago.



Find Your Cause

If you are interested in … health and fitness


  • Cooking Matters – EverThrive Illinois – Love to plan and cook healthy meals? Help Chicago families do the same through culinary classes, teaching healthy meal planning, food preparation and nutrition information. In partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, Cooking Matters focuses on ending childhood hunger and empowering families to eat healthy on a limited budget. Volunteer opportunities include leading classes, grocery store tours, setup/cleanup and more. To learn more, call 312-491-8161.
  • Urban Initiatives – Love playing or coaching soccer? Urban Initiatives’ “Work to Play” program brings together kids in grades K-4 to play soccer, as a reward for work well done at school. The program is designed to build accountability, character and healthy habits. Volunteer as a coach for two practices and one game a week through the school year – contact to learn more and sign up. Attend their annual Soccer Ball Benefit on January 23, 2015 to benefit their sports-based youth development programs.



If you are interested in … art, music and performing arts


  • All Stars Project of Chicago – Bring joy to the youth of Chicago’s south and west sides through hip-hop talent shows in community centers and school auditoriums. Kids aged 5-25 have the opportunity to define and develop talents singing, dancing or producing talent shows where they interact positively with peers and adults. Volunteer opportunities include audition, talent show and special event support, as well as coaching students to prepare for summer internships. Schedules are flexible and there is no minimum volunteer requirement. For more information about volunteering call 312-360-0660.
  • Green Star Movement – Designed to inspire students and community members as well as beautify urban spaces, Green Star Movement facilitates the design and creation of public art and murals. Working with schools that cannot afford educational arts-based programming, the group brings students together to design and build public murals, encouraging teamwork and fostering self-esteem. Volunteer opportunities include supporting programming running during or immediately following the school day, but volunteers are welcome anytime. Contact to learn more.
  • Woman Made Gallery – The non-profit art gallery, located at 685 N. Milwaukee, supports and features the work of female artists. Providing a positive environment for under-represented artists, the gallery hosts not only physical artwork but also poetry readings, film screenings and panel discussions. In their 23-year history, the Woman Made Gallery has exhibited work from over 7000 women. Volunteer opportunities include maintaining the galleries, assisting with special events and packaging artwork. A special program called 20 Neighborhoods brings together women from all over the city to provide art education and opportunities to create and exhibit art.



If you are interested in … career search and preparation


  • Inspiration Corporation – Promoting self-sufficiency within individuals impacted by homelessness or poverty, Inspiration Corporation provides housing, social services and employment services. Volunteers support individuals who may have been out of the workforce for decades, helping them with resume preparation, goal setting, mock interviewing and job searching. After attending an orientation, volunteers have many opportunities to choose from on an events calendar, including those in partnership with Inspiration Kitchens (including meal prep and serving). To learn more click here.
  • Upwardly Global – Support work-authorized, highly skilled immigrants to find work opportunities that match their talents through Upwardly Global. As a volunteer, you can build your professional, leadership and coaching skills by helping immigrants understand US workplace cultural expectations, how to interview and how to find the right position. Volunteers are prepped with templates, strategies and tips. There is no minimum time requirement. To learn more call 312-431-1923.



If you are interested in … youth development and tutoring


  • Chicago LightsA non-profit run through the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago Lights supports economically disadvantaged children through tutoring, education and literacy programs. Serving 400 children each year, volunteers commit to one-on-one tutoring/mentoring for the school year (with the same student on the same evening each week). For a smaller time commitment, volunteers can also help students, from 1st grade through 12th grade, by being substitute tutors, filling in when convenient for your schedule. Tutoring is run at the Gratz Center at Fourth Presbyterian Church, conveniently located at 126 E. Chestnut (off of Michigan Avenue). Attend the Glow Associates Board gala on November 8, 2014 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. To learn more about volunteering call 312-981-3381.
  • Chicago HOPES for KidsProvide after-school tutoring support for children living in homeless shelters, in Uptown, Lakeview, Back of the Yards or Little Village. The program is unique in that volunteers actually provide support within the homeless shelters, helping with homework, math and reading support and cultural enrichment. Volunteers are asked to commit to one 2-hour tutoring session a week through the semester. To sign up, click here.



If you are interested in … disaster response efforts


  • American Red CrossSupport victims of home fires or other disasters through American Red Cross. Relief support includes shelter, food, emotional support, health services and more for thousands of people impacted by disasters each year, not only immediately following a disaster but also during the following weeks and months of recovery. To learn more about volunteer opportunities call 312-729-6222.



If you are interested in … networking with other like-minded professionals


  • Young Nonprofit Professionals NetworkYNPN brings young professionals together to help maximize their impact on social change through charitable and philanthropic efforts. Making nonprofit support and volunteering more accessible through networking events, social gatherings, discussions and more, YNPN is looking for members, volunteers and executive board members. To learn more contact
  • United Way Young Leaders SocietyThe Young Leaders Society brings together young professionals across the city to participate in networking, fundraising and volunteer opportunities. Benefit from personal and professional growth by getting involved as a member or on the executive committee. Membership does have an annual donation requirement of $250. To learn more call 312-906-2248.



If you are interested in … joining and auxiliary or executive board


  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital Auxiliary BoardJoin a group of young professionals and community leaders who raise funds to support innovative research programs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Money raised is given as “seed money” to hospital programs and research initiatives such as bone marrow transplant, heart failure prevention and the brain tumor institute. To learn more about becoming a member or supporter of the Auxiliary Board, call 312-926-7133.
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra Overture Council – Have the opportunity to meet artists, attend concerts, volunteer and attend social gatherings with the Overture Council. Support a love for music in Chicago with over 100 young professionals. To learn more call 312-294-3198.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago Evening Associates – Gather once a month with young professionals to learn more about the museum, attend happy hours and help run After Dark and other special events. Evening Associates help raise art awareness and funds to support the museum and enjoy exclusive benefits such as VIP events and behind-the-scenes access to exhibits. To learn more call 312-443-3710.   


Help Provide Housing for Hundreds of Chicago Families through Habitat for Humanity

Help Provide Housing for Hundreds of Chicago Families through Habitat for Humanity


Raise Your Hand Chicagoland: Habitat for Humanity


If you took a stroll down Michigan Avenue recently, you probably wondered why there was a whole house planted in between the Tribune Building and the river. Is someone taking up residence right there? Not quite – but the house will be transported to another neighborhood, allowing a Chicago family to become homeowners.


Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity


This past week I had the opportunity to join in Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity’sRaise Your Hand Chicagoland” event, helping to build houses for 13 families. Held in the high-profile Pioneer Plaza on Michigan Avenue (where the Marilyn Monroe statue used to reside), the event gave great exposure to the mission that drives Habitat for Humanity. Kicked off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the four-day event drew hundreds of volunteers and numerous corporate sponsors, including BMO Harris Bank and Lowe’s.


Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization seeking to reduce homelessness and poverty housing by bringing volunteers together to build houses. The organization partners with families in need to create safe and affordable housing.


rahm emanuel, chicago mayor


lisa madigan, attorney general illinois


After hearing inspiring speeches from the Mayor and other leaders and supporters of Habitat for Humanity, I put on my safety glasses, secured my hard hat, and got to work. Habitat supervisors showed us how to read the architectural plans, gather the right pieces of wood and other materials, and position them together. We each grabbed a hammer and started nailing walls together. Hundreds of nails later, we had built six walls, some including doors or windows. We learned that the walls would be transported and fully assembled into a structured house in the new neighborhood.


Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Plaza



Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity



Chicago Bears Habitat for Humanity



Chicago Bears Helping with Habitat for Humanity


Not just a day of camaraderie and sunshine, our hard work reminded us that we have the ability to make a difference for those in need.



Partner families: Who are they?


The most inspiring part of the day was meeting a family who lives in one of the houses built by Habitat for Humanity. It’s important to note that Habitat for Humanity is not a hand-out – the partner families are carefully selected, and to live in the house they must contribute hundreds of hours of build time as well as pay all of the mortgage, with 0% interest (the mortgages are comparable to the mortgages in any city the partner families live in). They are supported with home ownership classes to set them up for success in their new home. Many benefits come with home ownership, such as stability, self-sufficiency and a sense of community.


Representing the partner families was Natasha Nicholes. Filled with energy and enthusiasm, Natasha shared her family’s story, her life goal of becoming a homeowner, and some of the incredible experiences she’s already had taking part in the builds. She’s also participating in Chicago Women Build Week (June 18 – 21), continuing the construction on the house we started for one of her neighbors.


As a Chicago blogger, Natasha shares her piece of the world on her website Houseful of Nicholes – sharing tales of her household of love, laughter and life. Today, she let us in on her experiences with Habitat for Humanity.



What inspires you the most about Habitat for Humanity?


Ever since we discovered Habitat for Humanity’s true goal, we have been determined to help as many as we can understand the mission.  It is impossible to hear how thousands are being helped a year and not feel a need to throw whichever hat you carry in the ring.  We are inspired by our fellow partner families.  We’re inspired by the idea that their goals are our goals; that their journey is our journey both here and abroad.  So with every plank, stud, wall, paint stroke, and swing of a hammer we are one step closer to realizing our dreams whether it be our house or someone else’s.  It doesn’t matter.



How have your experiences with Habitat impacted your family?


The impact of volunteerism has been tremendously felt expressly for myself, my husband, and my oldest son.  I don’t believe we would have donated as much of our time had we not been familiar with the Habitat program.  Once you start helping it is almost impossible to stop.  Homes will be built up our new block for quite some time.  So our time will be adjusted to account for our neighbors.



How have your experiences with Habitat shaped the way you feel about Chicagoans helping other Chicagoans?


I’m not certain if I’d say that this experience has shaped the way we feel as much as reinforced the way we feel about it.  We have strong faith and have seen community with our neighbors, our church family, and at our son’s school.  To know that way on the other side of town these same principles are being practiced and shared encourages us.  It lets us know that our corner isn’t the only bright one in this city and that there are and have always been lights flickering throughout. 



What advice do you have for our readers who are interested in getting involved with Habitat?


We would definitely suggest looking into your local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  Habitat for Humanity is big on partnerships.  So businesses, schools, organizations, groups, concerned citizens, or folks in any other category I may have missed have an opportunity and an invitation to come and assist in the mission.  There are also opportunities to assist both here at home and abroad.  If you feel like all you have to offer is your time, Habitat can use that.  If you feel that all you can give is a modest donation, Habitat can use that too; building materials, supplies, equipment, Habitat can use it all.  This is an open invitation to come and be apart of something special with us.



Tell us a little about your blog! - Houseful of Nicholes


My blog was born from the fact that when my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with twins, we realized that there was nothing on line that mirrored our thoughts or feelings. There was TONS about people with singleton births, but nothing about twin births that I felt that I connected with. We cover everything under the Family Lifestyle niche, including recipes, travel, homeschooling, parenting, family life, and reviews. 


I like to educate as well as incite thoughtful debate. Especially about things that surround socioeconomic structure and the things that sometimes keep several races living in the same city from seeing things the same way. It has helped me grow as an adult, and also provided much needed conversation with people who were so removed from things that they insisted they weren’t a problem to begin with. 



What words of wisdom can you share with us?

I can only say that whatever you have a passion for, pursue it. For the last three years, I’ve been daring to dream, and while my dreams haven’t unfolded exactly in the time frame that I’ve wanted – they’re coming to fruition. Some, like the Habitat for Humanity journery, are happening a lot sooner than I expected. It’s a blessing to be able to work alongside neighbors and construction teams and see everything that is going on. There is no room for pompousness, because EVERYONE is working, and moving towards a common goal. It’s how the world should be.


Thank you Natasha!


Learn how you can make a direct impact helping hundreds of Chicago families


Year-round, Habitat for Humanity provides opportunities to get involved and provide a “hand up” to partner families. Time, talents and resources are greatly appreciated. While Chicagoland is supported by eight affiliate groups around the city and suburbs, here are the best ways to get involved in the Windy City group.


To volunteer as an individual (construction) – must be 18 years or older

Windy City Habitat for Humanity construction sites are located primarily on the South Side of Chicago. Volunteer days are Wednesday through Saturday, 8:00 am-3:00 pm.

  • Attend an orientation session (next one is on Wednesday, June 11) – email to sign up for a future date
  • Understand that construction activities involve physical labor, at your own risk (must sign liability waiver). Construction activities revolve around building home structures
  • Donate or fundraise a minimum of $50
  • Register online to search for a build day


Volunteer at the ReStore – managing and selling construction materials for upcoming builds. The ReStore will be opening in Fall 2014 at 6040 N. Pulaski Road.


Donate money – this is easy to do online on a one-time or recurring basis.



{All pictures by Lauren Fondriest | The Chicago Lifestyle}




Looking to Volunteer: Best Places to Lend a Hand in Chicago

Looking to Volunteer: Best Places to Lend a Hand in Chicago


Have you been thinking about volunteering in Chicago but don’t know where to start? When we step outside our normal boundaries, there are so many in need in this great city, as well as thriving organizations just looking for an extra hand.


A few months ago, I had a rare Saturday afternoon with no plans, and was interested in volunteering. After a web search turned up no options where I could lend an afternoon without an extensive list of requirements, I nearly gave up. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Volunteer Expo, and came out with a great list of places to give our time and talents. Held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the expo featured hundreds of organizations looking for your help.


Here are The Chicago Lifestyle’s top picks for simple, easy was to volunteer in Chicago:


1. Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon on Saturday, June 7


Chicago Cares is a volunteer organization targeting the city’s most critical needs. Their 21st annual Serve-a-thon draws over 5000 volunteers for a fun day of improving the city’s classrooms, parks, playgrounds, libraries and more in Chicago’s underserved communities. Focusing on creating change for the city’s children, this critical day of service contributes to the year’s funding for additional opportunities throughout the year. Celebrate your efforts with an after-party featuring food, drinks and live music. Signup is open now for this special annual event.


On a regular basis, it’s easy to volunteer for one-time events, just sign up on their website and view the volunteer calendar. One-time events include pet therapy, mock interviews, reading with kids, senior breakfasts and bingo, and introducing healthy foods to children and families, for example. The best part: you can filter opportunities by your availability and what sort of service or population you’d like to work with.



2. One Brick – One-time Volunteering Made Easy


Focused on making volunteering simple, One Brick works with thousands of organizations to compile a calendar of volunteer opportunities. Choose one that fits your schedule, enjoy the social atmosphere, and top off your work with a drink at a nearby bar or restaurant. Fully run by volunteers, One Brick is always looking for new helpers like you to fill their opportunities around the city.


Events featured on their calendar include poker dealing, neighborhood food pantry meal service, preparing supplies for Girls on the Run youth self-esteem sessions, and support for special events.



3. Help Run the Old Town Art Fair on June 14 – 15


Did you know the Old Town Art Fair is completely volunteer planned, managed and staffed? Pulled off with a force of over 750 volunteers, the Old Town Art Fair is one of the most anticipated Chicago summer festivals. Help is needed at the entrance gates, manning booths while artists take a break, selling merchandise to benefit the Old Town neighborhood, supporting aid to the artists and more. This is a great way to give back to one of Chicago’s iconic neighborhoods and mingle with the city’s influential artists and visitors.



4. Support Runners on Race Day with CARA


CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) is one of the most well-known running groups in the city, providing training and race day support to thousands of runners across Chicago. CARA is a non-profit group benefiting over 8600 runners, dedicated to expanding, motivating, celebrating and supporting Chicagoland’s running community. Volunteer support is needed for races throughout the year, particularly for race day aid stations, corral setup and more.



What opportunities have you taken to get out there and support Chicago?


{Image via Salvation Army}



What’s Up This Month: February 2014

What’s Up This Month: February 2014

Chicago Theatre Week

Top picks from Chicago actor Eli Branson:

Sure–you could escape the cold with another night out at the movies, but why not spend an evening with some real, LIVE actors and take advantage of Chicago Theatre Week!  From February 11th-16th tickets are discounted at most participating theatres for as low as $15-$30 (some places less!).

Best bets: These selections are based TOTALLY on what l think are must-sees, but since this is Chicago theatre, I guarantee any show you pick will be worth the (discounted!) price of admission.

  • From White Plains (Broken Nose Theatre @ The Greenhouse Theatre Center)  – coming off an incredible, GLAAD Award-winning off-Broadway run Michael Perlman’s play about bullying makes its Chicago Debut with the tagline “Just because it gets better doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”  What happens when the nasty, thoughtless words we’ve said as children come back to haunt us in adulthood? Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Improv All Stars (UP Comedy Club) – Maybe it’s all the “30 Rock” binge-watching I’ve indulged in, but a night of improv (with a “Suggested R” rating) directed by living-legend Mick Napier sounds like the perfect respite from our endless winter. $15 tickets here.
  • Tribes (Steppenwolf) – This story of a deaf man’s quest to find an identity outside his family unit is sparking a vibrant dialog about representations of disability in the theatre (as well as bowling-over critics).  See a show in the birthplace of Gary Sinise for only $30! Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Hedda Gabler (Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe) – The Practically Perfect Kate Fry leads Broadway-bound director Kimberly Senior’s new production; wallow in the winter-time blues with this haunting domestic drama—maybe you won’t leave humming any tunes, but it’s sure to be a knock-out.  Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Rough Crossing (First Folio Theatre, Oakbrook, IL) – this rollicking Tom Stoppard comedy is sure to be hilarious in a new treatment by First Folio Theatre.  Performances take place in the historic and gorgeous Mayslake Peabody Estate, so if you’re looking to see something outside the “blackbox” (HA!), take 290 West for a night in one of the most immersive theatre spaces in the area. Tickets (with discount code) here.

For a full listing of participating shows and theatres, go here:


Culture & Entertainment

  • Listen to the classical works of Stravinsky and Ravel at Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “after dark” 21+ event, POST, on Friday, February 28 at 8 p.m. Discounted tickets ($35) provide admission to the entire performance and the after-concert lounge. Sip a cocktail while mingling with CSO’s musicians and composers. Also watch for the April POST event featuring Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” set
  • Sing along to Texas-born Pat Green’s performance at Joe’s on Weed, Friday, February 7 at 8:30 p.m. He puts on a great show and has the crowd singing along. Known for collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson and Brad Paisley, Pat Green has been selling out his latest shows performing his soulful country music. Tickets $28


Food & Drinks

  • Learn how to make dumplings with Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ on-site (1400 W. Randolph) at on Saturday, February 1 at 11 a.m. For $37, learn the art of dumplings through various flavors: beef and cheddar, pork and cilantro, and buffalo chicken and blue cheese (just in time to impress your friends at your Super Bowl party!)
  • Make Whoopie Pies at deca restaurant (160 E. Pearson) to sweeten your February. Classes offered at 6 p.m. February 14 and 15, $40 per couple. The hands-on class will be supplemented by hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Call 312-573-5160 for reservations
  • Take part in 2 Sparrows’ monthly beer pairing dinner (533 W. Diversey) on Friday, February 7 at 7 p.m. Chef Gregory Ellis will take you through four courses on his German menu, including cassoulet and German chocolate cake, all paired with Metropolitan Brewing beers. Tickets are $55 for all food and drinks, and they have limited reservations available
  • Brave Navy Pier to attend the 2nd annual Chicago Cider Summit. Cider-lovers rejoice at the thought of samples from over 90 ciders around the world, with food pairings. $25 advance tickets will get you 8 tastings and a souvenir glass, with the option to purchase additional tastings. The event is on Saturday, February 8 with two sessions – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 4 – 8 p.m.
  • Join wine enthusiasts nationwide for a virtual toast to Silver Oak’s 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  At City Winery (1200 W. Randolph), you can take part in a 20-year Silver Oak “release day” tradition and be the first to taste the newly released wine at 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 1. For $50, there will be several tastings with complementary appetizers and an etched wine glass to take home


Volunteer & Charity

  • Follow your passion and give back to the city by finding the right volunteer opportunities for you at the Chicago Volunteer Expo. On Sunday, February 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon) hosts over 75 non-profit organizations showcasing opportunities for you to get involved. In the past I’ve found it difficult to find  volunteering events in the city, so I’m looking forward to seeing the great work we can take part in all over the city
  • Go all-out fancy for Snowball, the Saturday, February 8 gala benefiting the Pediatric and Adolescent HIV/AIDS Programs at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Complete with live music and a silent auction, Snowball is the annual charity event for Chicago’s young professionals. Tickets, $140+, provide entry to the event with food and drink features from around the city, and proceeds support access to high-quality healthcare for children with HIV/AIDS. Held in Union Station’s Great Hall, expect a night of dancing and mingling with the city’s finest
  • Bring your dogs to the party at PAWS Chicago’s Animal Magnetism gala, Friday, February 28 at Galleria Marchetti (825 W. Erie). Enjoy a night of drinks, dancing and live auction to better the lives of endangered animals throughout Chicago. Advance tickets $125/person and $25/pet
  • Take your charity work to the road by racing in Chiditarod, Chicago’s fourth annual costumed shopping cart relay race fundraiser. Join together with your team to race a shopping cart around the city in one of the largest mobile food drives benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Trade your ball gown for a crazy costume and expect a day of chaos, fun and laughter. Registration is open now ($55-70 per team) for the Saturday, March 1 event. Over 80,000 pounds have been donated to date, how much can you contribute?


Happy February!