Serve-a-thon is just 36 days away, and I’ve got some exciting news to share: Chicago Cares and the Clinton Foundation have announced that Chelsea Clinton will make remarks at Chicago Cares’ Serve-a-thon kick-off on June 15 in Daley Plaza.
This element is sure to make our 20th Annual Serve-a-thon that much more memorable and exciting. Register today!
Bridget Altenburg is the Executive Director of Chicago Cares.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
At Chicago Cares, we talk a lot about “being the change”–mobilizing and inspiring people to make a difference through service. And, collectively, our volunteers usher this change. They cook warm, healthy meals for neighborhood shelters to serve the hungry. They provide seniors with a sense of companionship and community. They keep children engaged in their education in a safe environment well past the school day. They help prepare the unemployed to reenter the workforce. In the process, they make Chicago a stronger, more vibrant community.
Our volunteers are at the heart of Chicago Cares. And while it’s great motivation for them to be the change, it’s nice when there’s an opportunity to “see the change” and bring visibility to the important work they do.
ABC-7 recently aired a story that does just this. It highlights information about the breadth of Chicago Cares’ offerings, the resulting impact and the ease of volunteer engagement and mobilization. And, in the process, it shows several of our volunteers hard at work at the Senior Diners Club at Lidia Pucinska Apartments just last week.
This is a reminder of the significant impact our volunteers make on people, programs and the community. Thank you for your service!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This Thanksgiving I led a project at a Chicago Housing Authority building for low income, independent living seniors. I knew I wanted to do this because A) it would give me something fun to do with my family who always volunteers with me (sometimes whether they want to or not), B) I love going to this particular building to volunteer, and C) I honestly didn’t have very much planned for Thanksgiving myself. My extended family is mostly older now. There are a few kids but most of us are grown now and we do our own thing. This means that holidays sometimes aren’t as festive as they once were for me.
With that in mind, I started planning one humdinger of a Thanksgiving for this group of seniors. Ten volunteers signed up to help make this project happen. The menu consisted of all the staples: turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, tossed salad, multigrain rolls, and mashed potatoes and gravy. I bought all this food planning on feeding about 50 people, but I honestly didn’t think we would have much of a turn out. I just figured since this was an independent living facility that most of the residents who came would just come to pick up a plate of food and then would leave to go hang out with their family. That was not the case.
As the room filled I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have much family to be around on Thanksgiving. One of the residents who I had met before and who I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with told me this was all she had planned for that day. After the meal and bingo she was going to go upstairs and watch TV. Another lady told me her family lived far away and her friends at the building were all she had for the holiday. Yet another woman told me she loves Chicago Cares, and would rather be with us and her friends at the building. After hearing all of their stories I quickly became thankful for the opportunity I had to bring this sense of community to these residents who would not have had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with anyone if it weren’t for Chicago Cares.
Chicago Cares seniors programming is grounded in this very idea: regular social contact for seniors leads to a higher overall quality of life that allows them to remain independent longer [i] . Yes, it’s always great to feed those who are food insecure. And yes, it’s great to provide budget relief to those who have to decide between paying their bills or filling their prescriptions. But I think the service we provide that is the most needed is building a sense of community. Many seniors don’t have a large social circle to pull from. For many, their families and friends have moved on, or passed away, and the only circle they have are their neighbors. Our programming provides a fun and safe environment for seniors to build that sense of fellowship with one another. And studies have shown that one of the secrets to longevity is having a quality social circle that you can depend on.
Your donation to Chicago Cares seniors programming through our I Care Campaign will make sure that we can continue to provide a fun, open, and engaging space for seniors to build their community and continue to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives. $25 will provide the bingo prizes for one night of bingo. $50 will provide a hot breakfast for a group of 20 seniors.
[i] Tomaka, J., and Thompson, S and Palacios, R. (2006) The Relation of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Social Support to Disease Outcomes Among the Elderly. Department of Health Promotion, University of Texas at El Paso.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Right before the first project of Life Stories of St. Stephen’s Terrace started, you could hear the group of seven lively seniors from outside the building. With the help of Rose Mabwa, our contact at St. Stephen’s Terrace, everyone settled down and we explained to the residents why we were meeting.
St. Stephen’s Terrace is a housing complex on the Near West Side that is now managed by The Community Builders (TCB), a non-profit organization that revitalizes large-scale distressed housing projects in an attempt to build a stronger community.[i] With locations all over the country, TCB plans, finances, develops, and operates high-quality affordable housing.[ii] As part of their new ownership, the entirety of St. Stephen’s Terrace is going through physical renovations during the next two years. St. Stephen’s Terrace has seen a lot of changes around their area, but no renovations have been done to this property in many years.
As St. Stephen’s Terrace undergoes construction, the senior residents have voiced concerns. Since there will be a lot of movement with the residents during construction, many residents feel that they will be giving up the homes they have had for years—even decades—and some seniors feel that they are now unsure of what their home is. Rose was adamant about providing the seniors with a way that they can share their concerns and talk about their lives at St. Stephen’s; Life Stories of St. Stephen’s Terrace was a result.
During the program, residents and volunteers work together to make scrapbooks of St. Stephen’s Terrace. The seven senior participants take photos of their homes, their neighborhood, and anything that they feel is an important part of their life at this facility. With the help of Chicago Cares volunteers, the seniors create scrapbooks of the photos that document these stories. Through this program, the senior residents are provided with a social and creative outlet where they can express their feelings and observations about the changes that are occurring; they will be able to reflect on the experiences they have had at St. Stephen’s and how the changes will affect their future at this facility.
As we had our first session of the project, the residents shared their memories of St. Stephen’s Terrace, and they discussed the transitions that they have been a part of. One resident, Ms. Miller*, has lived at St. Stephen’s Terrace since 1984, and over the past 28 years, she has memories of St. Stephen’s that she will never forget. “I remember when St. Stephen’s had a daycare. My grandson attended the school, and all the kids made hand-prints outside of the building’s front entrance. The hand-prints are still there today.”
Although Ms. Miller has positive memories of the facility, she also recalled memories that are not as encouraging. Ms. Miller and the other participants talked about the facility from when they first moved in to the state it is in now, and how it has dwindled. They discussed the transformation of the neighborhood, how their homes have reflected this, and how they hope it can get better. As one resident said at our program that day, “Just because I don’t have money, that doesn’t mean I can’t live nice.”
Life Stories gives our volunteers an opportunity to interact with our clients in a new way. Yes, the program started as a social outlet for the seniors, and as a way for them to discuss the changes that are happening to their home. However, this program provides Chicago Cares volunteers with a unique way to get to know our community partners, our clients, and a community area of Chicago that they might not interact with on a regular basis. Our programs are successful when volunteers can leave the program with new information, a new connection, or a new insight into an issue or community area that was once unfamiliar to them; that is what I have been doing at Life Stories, and I encourage you to do the same by signing up to volunteer at St. Stephen’s Terrace.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Green lights. Green socks. Green ribbons.
No, this not a list of my favorite things, or my favorite color. These are the different ways that I am going to participate in the Green Light Project to bring attention to National Runaway Prevention Month.
Every November, the National Runaway Switchboard partners with the National Network for Youth to create National Runaway Prevention Month. This initially started as a week of awareness in November 2002 as a way that various leaders on the issue could come together and hold numerous conferences and discussions on the issues that runaway youth encounter[i]. Over the years, this time expanded into an entire month as a way raise awareness about the issues that runaway youth face, as well as educate others as to how we can prevent youth from running away.
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year.[ii] Even though housing is the number one need among runaway youth, there are several essential needs that are not met when a youth is homeless. Health and wellness are jeopardized, education falls into the background, and risky behavior is often increased when a youth becomes homeless. There is also a highly increased risk of being subject to physical and sexual ill-treatment once youth become homeless. As a way to manage this issue, there are several homeless facilities strictly for youth. However, the city of Chicago only has 266 beds for homeless youth, even though there are 10,995 unaccompanied youth in our city.[iii] More and more youth are being turned away from these shelters as a result.
Throughout the month of November, the National Runaway Switchboard and the National Network for Youth encourages everyone to get involved with raising awareness about runaway youth. One way to learn about this issue is by volunteering at various Chicago Cares’ programs that frequently work with this population.
On bi-weekly Wednesday nights, our volunteers cook dinner at La Casa Norte. La Casa Norte is social service agency that provides comprehensive services to members of the Humboldt Park community. The largest facility at La Casa Norte is the Solid Ground Supportive Housing Program. This facility is Chicago’s first bilingual, male-intentional supportive housing program for homeless youth ages 16-21.[iv] While many of the residents are at work, in class, or working on their homework, our volunteers cook a healthy meal for the male residents that they can enjoy when they come home for the night.
Chicago Cares also works with Open Door Shelter in West Town. Part of The Night Ministry, Open Door Shelter is a youth housing facility that helps homeless youth by providing housing and supportive services for youth ages 14-20, and their children. Open Door Shelter has a 120-Day Interim Program, as well as a Transitional Living Program, which is an 8-bed facility. Every Monday night, Chicago Cares runs alternating volunteer opportunities with the 16 participants in the interim housing program. During the cooking project, volunteers and the youth residents cook dinner that they then eat all together. On the alternating Monday evening, the residents work with our volunteers on a job coaching program. During the project, residents work on different job readiness skills, such as resume building, mock interviews, and other techniques to help them find employment while residing at the shelter. These programs help the residents develop different life skills that will be needed when they leave Open Door Shelter.
Whether you decide to volunteer at our programs, or wear a green lapel, there are numerous ways that you can share this information and go green during this upcoming National Runaway Prevention Month.
Yesterday over lunch a few of us wrestled with, in a Harry Potter-like world, which of five magical powers we would like to have. Given the choices of super strength, invisibility, telepathy, shape shifting, or the ability to communicate with animals, I naturally chose super strength or telepathy (think Luke Cage or Charles Xavier).
Later yesterday evening as I sat in a Starbucks thinking through Frederick Douglass’ piece No Struggle No Progress for WBEZ’s community discussion series next week, I found myself reflecting back on my lunch hour conversation concerning which power I’d like to have. While I’m sure Frederick Douglass’ intent wasn’t to invoke my youthful yearnings to be Luke Cage, it was interesting to think through how I conceptualize power and community action.
I guess that brings me to my larger point: Each of us already possesses an incredible power, the power to change the world in countless immeasurable ways. Every day presents an opportunity to make a positive change in the world. In honor of those opportunities, every year communities and organizations all over the country celebrate Make a Difference Day. This special day celebrates the power and awesomeness of connecting people with opportunities to serve in order to increase the strength of communities and promote civic engagement.
In Chicago, you can celebrate Make a Difference Day on October 27 by volunteering your time at one of Chicago Cares’ projects throughout the city. And while Make a Difference Day only lasts a single day, our power to make a difference is always there. We can make a difference every day, whether it’s smiling at a youth on their way to school or volunteering at a Chicago Cares project. So I challenge you to continue making a difference far beyond this weekend. I challenge you to spend at least the next few weeks making a difference whenever you can.
Here are a few areas where you can Make a Difference!
Education: Join children build reading confidence, create fun art projects, and build excitement about learning at Read-with-Me at Brunson.
New readers are so excited to learn! Join these little readers at Story Time at CYP where you’ll help them learn about letters, sounds, songs and more! Art and Games at San Jose Obrero Mission is excited about November and ready to celebrate thanks! Work with young children as they create exciting art projects to share their thanks and decorate their homes.
Hunger and Homelessness: Lunch at Breakthrough Ministries, a housing facility that provides social services to men and women who are working to get back on their feet. You can also re-purpose old plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for those in need with New Life for Old Bags.
Health and Wellness: Share your love of fall vegetables at Young Chefs at Young School, where you’ll teach kids about healthy fall vegetables and tasty treats.
Environment: Winter is coming, which means that many of our environmental projects need your help to get ready for the change of seasons! Volunteers at Nature Area Restoration – Rainbow Beach Dunes will be finishing up the season by planting native species throughout the dunes.
Senior Services: Totally Trivia at The Imperial- Enjoy this lively game of trivia with a group of nursing home residents! Volunteers will work with residents and they play for prizes and bragging rights! Give seniors their voice at this project at What’s the Word. Work with a group of nursing home residents as they assemble their quarterly newsletter!
We hope to see you this Saturday as we all work together to Make a Difference in Chicago!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Innovation is one of the guiding values of Chicago Cares, which means that no matter how many projects we already have on the calendar, we’re always looking for new ways to engage volunteers in making a difference in Chicago. Whether it’s opening our calendar to expanded volunteer hours or figuring out ways for people to serve through their unique abilities and interests, we are committed to making volunteer service a natural part of the life of every Chicagoan.
One of the ways we’re accomplishing that goal is by creating new project models in our ongoing programs. Here are just a few of the freshly designed projects that we’re unveiling this summer and fall. Whether you’re new to our site or a seasoned Chicago Cares volunteer, we think these projects will help inspire you to make Chicago a stronger community!
If you’re a Pinterest Pro, this project is for you! Volunteers will meet at the Chicago Cares office and be given the names of different ingredients commonly distributed at local food pantries. Once the star ingredients are distributed, volunteers will use the time to find simple, healthy recipes that feature their listed ingredients. These recipes will then be distributed to guests as they receive their groceries at various pantry programs. When you sign up for Recipe Wranglers, you’re supporting healthy eating habits for individuals and families throughout the city who are facing the struggles of food insecurity on a daily basis. It’s also a great way to meet new people who share you’re interests in providing hunger relief in Chicago.
If Recipe Wranglers piques your interest but you’re worried about how to fit it into your schedule, check out Tasty Bytes! This virtual volunteer opportunity will allow you to participate wherever you are, whenever you are available! Just like Recipe Wranglers, volunteers will be given different ingredients and asked to find simple and healthy recipes for. After completing the recipes on their own, volunteers will send in the recipe slips to the volunteer leader. These recipes will then be distributed to clients as they receive their groceries at our various pantry programs. This program is completed on your own time and not at the date and time mentioned on the Chicago Cares calendar.
Get Up & Go
Too tired to volunteer after work? Then get your day off to a great start by volunteering AND exercising before you even walk into the office! At Get Up & Go, volunteers will run with residents from the Lakeview YMCA and Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet encourages residents of the Lakeview Y to run 3 times per week and offers financial literacy classes to the residents who attend multiple runs. This opportunity is open to runners of all skill levels (and walkers too), so whether this is your first run or you’re an experienced marathon runner, join us to promote physical and financial fitness with our neighbors who are rebuilding their lives, one step at a time!
Math Adventures / Reading Adventures
Each week is a new, fun-filled adventure with students from May Community Academy! Through creative activities, games and crafts, you’ll help build a strong foundation of literacy and math skills for kids in 1st – 4th grade. Volunteers are supporting the work of teachers and staff at May, providing positive role models, supporting social development and engaging students in a variety of learning styles.
You can find these and more than 200 other group volunteer projects each month on our project calendar!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Leaders are an integral part of Chicago Cares. These dedicated volunteers make it possible for us to launch new programs and implement existing ones, all while ensuring that every volunteer experience is fun, well-managed and meaningful.
Volunteer Leaders at Chicago Cares receive comprehensive training, access to leadership resources and invitations to exclusive social events. Our leaders work hard, inspiring the volunteers at their projects to do the same and we’re not shy about recognizing their achievements!
Whether you’re a college student, recent retiree or anywhere in between; all we ask is that you are committed to building a stronger Chicago through service! Volunteer leadership is also a fun way to increase your skills, enhance your resume and expand your networking database.
Sign up today to attend Leader Trainings for Children’s Programs or Youth in Service. You can find out more about leadership and ways to get involved by contacting Kim Thomas at 312.780.0800 ext. 125.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s Friday the 13th and whether you’re actually superstitious or just like to join in on the spooky fun, today is a day to throw some salt over your shoulder and revel in all that is creepy, sneaky and unsettling.
So watch out for black cats, stay away from ladders and check out our list of the top 5 fears of volunteers!
1. What if I don’t know anybody?
There’s a good chance that if you’re volunteering somewhere new, you will probably be interacting with people who you don’t know very well. At Chicago Cares, every project has a trained leader on site to help you get to know the other participants and any clients that you may be visiting. Even if meeting new folks makes you a little nervous, volunteering is a great way to overcome that fear because everyone there shares a common bond and interest in serving others.
2. What if I don’t like the project I choose?
While we strive to make every volunteer project a fun and informative experience, there is something to be said for personal preference. It’s great to try out various sites and different types of projects but you may find that some of them just don’t work for you. At Chicago Cares, volunteers are not required to make long-term commitments to projects so if you find yourself wishing you were doing something else, then just choose a new project, site or leader for your next volunteer experience. Give it some time and you’ll find the perfect place to serve!
3. What if I can’t/don’t know how to do the work?
New experiences can be scary. Whether it’s facing a group of energetic first graders, building a raised garden bed at a community garden or stepping foot in a senior housing facility; you will probably feel ill-equipped from time to time. The good news is that our Volunteer Leaders are always there, ready to help. These special volunteers are trained to be able to help you navigate any new experiences that you have while volunteering. Chicago Cares also tests each and every project model to ensure that by working together, every volunteer can have a quality experience and make a difference in our community.
4. Isn’t that in a bad neighborhood?
We don’t deny that some neighborhoods have a better reputation than others. We do, however, encourage volunteers to step out of the neighborhoods they know and are accustomed to in order to volunteer where the need is greatest. If you find yourself volunteering in an area that makes you nervous, contact your leader before the project. Your leader can let you know the best way to get to a project if you don’t have a car, as well as suggest a place to park if you do have a car. Your volunteer leader might even let you know of an opportunity to carpool with another volunteer or meet in a central location to take the train together so you don’t have to travel to the site alone. If you’re still feeling anxious, check out our other tips on volunteering outside of your comfort zone.
5. What if I’m just not good at volunteering?
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. While all of the planning and research and project testing helps to make a program great, there’s really only one thing necessary to make a successful volunteer experience: YOU. The amazing thing about service is that every person, no matter the age, skill level, education or special circumstance, can make a difference. An open mind, a willing heart and a few hours are all we need to turn anyone into a volunteering rock star.
Say goodbye to your fears and find a project to get your volunteering adventure started today!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“…every anniversary of this tragic day, we will remember. But, we will do more than that – at our best, our nation addresses challenges and tragedy not with a negative response, but with compassion, generosity and action.”
Chief Executive Officer, Points of Light Institute
While September 11, certainly doesn’t share the festive nature of the Fourth of July, it’s difficult to think of one without recalling the other; each event forever altering the course of the United States.
This year, Chicago Cares is choosing to commemorate September 11, with a Day of Service and Remembrance. This intimate event is designed to provide corporate volunteers the opportunity to step away from their usual work day and pay tribute to the victims, heroes, and all those who rose in service in response to the terrorist attacks that changed our nation.
The 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance is a deeply community-focused event and will help meet critical needs in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. By engaging in volunteer service to our neighbors, we rekindle the spirit of unity that strengthened our nation during that dark time.
Volunteers will begin the day with an Opening Tribute at the Garfield Park Conservatory, featuring stories of remembrance as well as structured moments of silence in memory of those who lost their lives and to honor all those who continue to feel the impact of the events of 9/11.
Following the Opening Tribute, volunteers will get to know this diverse neighborhood as they walk to their project site. Working with a variety of community agencies and schools in the area, we will provide a wide array of interactive volunteer opportunities with residents of West Humboldt Park. The event will come to a close as we continue to celebrate the spirit of community with a neighborhood picnic lunch.
The 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance is a unique event, specifically designed to take volunteers on a journey from remembrance to hope as we honor the past, look forward to the future and embrace the spirit of unity that defines our nation.
If you would like to find out more about how your company can participate in the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, please contact Liz Allen at 312.780.0800 ext. 147.
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